1. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    Style Too much wordiness/telling in workshop fiction?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by DefinitelyMaybe, Oct 22, 2015.

    I find that in almost every critique I give in the workshop, I'm saying that there is too much description, often including details that aren't necessary to progress the plot. Also, I find myself saying that there is too much telling, and not enough showing.

    Would other forumites agree with me? Or, is it me that's out of sync with how modern writing should be?
     
  2. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    without seeing the actual pieces, how should we know? Description in and of itself isn't bad and it's clearly a necessary tool - it's how it's weaved into the story, if it's relevant to the scene/plot/atmosphere-building, and whether it's well-written that determine whether it needs to be reworked or cut.

    It's the same with telling. That is a powerful tool that has its place, which is often related to build-up and timing, as well as the line's beat/rhythm.

    But both tools are often badly used by newbies, causing other newbies to mistake the usage of description and/or telling as only ever a bad thing. Both would be novice mistakes.

    Hence, your question can't be accurately answered without seeing the pieces.

    Then you have to throw in personal preferences too. For example, I can't read LOTR, a recognised classic, because I don't like that level of detail. Always good to be aware when it's just how you feel as opposed to poorly-used/misplaced devices.

    ETA: other times the info could be well-written and relevant but ill-timed, making people think it should be deleted.
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2015
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  3. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with @Mckk. Of course writers need to pay attention to 'telling' and 'description,' but just automatically removing these things won't make them better writers. Each work has its own needs, and its own goals. And no work is going to appeal to everybody. I, for one, have never enjoyed reading 'pared-down' stories. I don't like Hemingway. Never did. So what might appeal to one person won't necessarily appeal to another. We all read for different reasons and at a different pace. There is no right or wrong way to write.

    My worry is that critique-givers sometimes get hold of a few 'rules' that come from how-to-write manuals, then go around applying them willy-nilly to everything that crosses their path. Remove all -ly words. Don't use adjectives. Don't use telling. Make descriptive passages as short as possible. Use dialogue rather than narrative, because narrative is boring. Don't use passive voice. Always start with action. Etc. The modern 'market' seems to favour stories that a reader can gallop through quickly. That makes sense from a marketing point of view (finish the story then go buy another one ASAP) but it doesn't necessarily make for good writing or memorable stories.

    The truth is, all writing is (or should be) as different as the individuals who write. The only criteria that really matters is 'does it work?' If it doesn't work in your estimation, then it needs improvement. If it does work, leave it alone.

    I also think many critique-givers start off criticizing sentence-by-sentence, and don't read the whole thing through first. It's important to get a feel for what the writer is doing. I don't think anybody can do this well by just reading a sentence or two, then getting dug in with the red correction pen ...unless the corrections are SPAG errors or typos. Some people will write spare prose (which is what @DefinitelyMaybe seems to enjoy.) Others will write lush prose (which is what I enjoy.) The trick to a helpful critique is to figure out what the author wants to do, then help them do it. The trick is not to try to tailor every piece to your own preferences.
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2015
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  4. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Hardly any description is necessary to progress the plot.

    "A man and a woman met. They fell in love. He had a dark secret and some bad stuff happened but they lived happily ever after in the end." I've just written everything I need to get my plot from start to finish. A novel isn't a bypass from point A to point B; it's a scenic country route. I don't need to look at the fields and hills to get from A to B, but I definitely want to.

    In some of your critiques I think you've misunderstood what showing vs telling is really about. Telling definitely has its place and there are also shades inbetween telling and showing. A whole novel of the highest-level 'showing' possible would be bloody exhausting to read!

    I think your mistake is thinking writing "should" be one way or the other. Non-fiction writing is about getting your point across in the clearest way possible (A > B direct). Fiction is about style and creativity. Critiquing isn't about saying "if I was writing this, this is the style I would choose".
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2015
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  5. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks all. I don't personally think that writing 'should' be one way or the other, except that it should be 'good'. In one of the many ways that it can be good.

    The reason why I started this in the general writing section rather than the critique section is that I wanted a discussion on the balance between showing and telling. I don't want to identify particular posts in the workshop forum, as that's rather personal. Looking through Flashfictiononline which is a professional and very competitive marketplace. One of their stories in the current issue has a story that has very large amounts of telling, and little dialogue until the end. White Elephant by Shannon Peavey. http://flashfictiononline.com/main/article/white-elephant/

    I admit that I'm influenced by 'how-to' books, but don't know how else I will improve at the moment. I don't feel that everyone should follow rules all the time, but believe that it's like music. It's easier to break rules when you know what the rules are.

    When I edit for length, things always seem to improve. When I try to show not tell, the writing usually improves. However, I have been applying that rule too rigorously. Clearly, articles can be published in competitive markets with a great deal of telling, but how does one decide the appropriate balance?

    EDIT: Thinking about this more 'how-to' books are aimed at learning writers. While it's clearly possible to write lush prose with large amounts of description (+telling) which is 'right', I think that's harder than writing lush prose that works.

    While I've been writing sparse prose recently, I think that my next workshop story will be extensive description, mostly told, not shown. To experiment with that style.
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2015
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  6. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    See, that's what's kind of got me worried here. Telling has nothing whatever to do with extensive description. Telling is simply glossing over something and telling the reader what they should think, rather than letting them figure it out for themselves. It's saying 'she felt sad' rather than something like 'tears sprang into her eyes.' I'm wondering if that's part of the problem. Telling gets the thing over quickly. So people who are striving for spare prose can sometimes think they've nailed it, because "She felt sad" employs fewer words than 'tears sprang into her eyes.' However, 'she felt sad' doesn't conjure up much of a picture. So the writing lacks life.

    However, telling also has its place. If you are leading in to something else, it's perfectly okay to set it up with a burst of telling. Because Jennifer felt felt sad, she headed over to her grandmother's. Grandma always made her feel better. Then show what actually happens when she gets to grandma's—which is the point of the next scene. Showing tears springing to her eyes and her groping for her paper handkerchief and blowing into it and throwing it away would be a waste of words at the start of this paragraph. This is where 'telling,' comes into its own. It gets you from A to B as quickly as possible. A is an important scene (whatever made her feel sad), B is an important scene (whatever makes her feel better—or worse), but the bit in between is only a transition and can be glossed over by telling.

    Telling description can be a mistake, though—and we've all seen that happen.

    The road was curved, and on one side of it there were three boring white houses and on the other side there was a new school and an ugly old church. The church was brown and the school was made of yellow brick.
    Yawn.

    Unless this scenery is filtered in some way, through a character's eyes, or with some omniscient narrator's perspective on the scene thrown in, it will be dull. Liven it up with description that is NOT telling. You want the reader to get to know the place and its people, based on what you show them. That's the benefit of 'showing,' rather than telling. The reader gets to participate and come to his/her own conclusions about what they are seeing.

    Showing: Except for the occupants' choice of lawn ornament, the three white, stone-clad houses that lined the curve in the road were identical. Each ornament rested in the centre of a flawless square lawn, but the copper bird bath, the ceramic rabbit family, and the quasi-marble Venus de Milo did suggest some diversity of taste. Telling: The white houses were all the same and the people who lived there were conventional, lacked imagination, were houseproud and probably mildly competitive.

    Showing: The brownstone church across the road had been commissioned by Squire Ramsbottom in the 18th century. It was boarded up now, surrounded by a rumpled yard full of tilted gravestones and topped by a slate roof that had grown tufts of grass along the eaves, but it still occasionally attracted tourists who would stop by the side of the road and take snapshots before moving on. These tourists never bothered to photograph the new school next door to the church, however. The school's double-glazed windows still boasted unweathered brand labels stuck onto the corners, and its history hadn't been written yet.
    Telling: Squire Ramsbottom's 18th century church was derelict, but tourists still visited to take pictures. The school next door was new, and they didn't take any pictures of it.
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2015
  7. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    I still think the issue is you don't truly understand showing vs telling, and that's why you think 'bad' stories are being published. The example you linked to (excellent story by the way, thanks) has an almost perfect balance for me. How would you improve it?

    Until you're certain enough of the rules to know how to break them, I'm not sure how you can determine if another author has broken them 'correctly' or not, let alone advise them not to do it?
     
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  8. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    "Show versus tell" and comments on description are the two most abused areas of critique in internet writing workshops, in my experience. I think it is because they're the easiest comments to give. Almost all writing is a combination of show and tell, so you can always find to some telling to point to. The level of description used is completely subjective, so any given commenter can point to some part of the story and say it's too much.

    The problem with such comments is they're worthless in a vacuum. There is great, professional-quality writing that has a lot of telling, and there is great, professional-quality writing that has a lot of description. So the mere fact of one of these things alone isn't a valid basis for criticism, and is particularly harmful to new writers because it gives them misperceptions about what may be acceptable in the development of their own style.

    In the context of evaluating whether the story works, as a whole, the comments can be useful, but the critiquer has to be able to identify the style the author is going for and work within those bounds. If someone is writing a wordy, descriptive piece, telling them to make the writin lean is less than useless. But looking at how they're using description and how they've approached that particular style and telling them what works and what doesnt within the context of that style of writing is helpful. Same for show v. tell.

    I know some good critiquers who won't critique certain types of stories because they can't get past subjective issues like this to evaluate the work. I think that's the right approach, personally. If you find highly descriptive writing so bothersome that you're always going to see it as bad writing, you probably shouldn't critique works that use that style. Or, at a minimum, you shouldn't be critiquing them on the descriptiveness/leanness aspect and confine your comments to broader issues like plot and theme. If, hypothetically, I hated Italian food and the very smell of it made me ill, I'd be the wrong person to ask to evaluate a lasagna recipe you want to use in the new Italian restaurant you're opening.
     
  9. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    I didn't say that it was bad, and I most certainly don't think that "bad" stories are being published. Quite the opposite. For the top ranked publications which I believe includes Flash Fiction Online only the very best gets through. Some of those stories are stories that don't rock my boat, but they are all well written, that I've seen. That includes the one I linked to. I do think it's "good".

    I was just pointing out that it was published in a top quality market, to show that that story is classified as "good" in some moderately objective way. It had a lot of telling, or at least detail described by the author. As I said, I'm going to be writing some of these types of stories in the future.

    Just because it is possible to write a story with a lot of telling and detail which is of high quality doesn't mean that all stories should be like that.

    I do think that it's not just me that's having difficulties with the balance. And there are problems even when lengthy exposition is the right thing to do, e.g. when the same information is given too repetitively in the same story. Hence I thought it was worthwhile starting a general thread on the topic of how much detail, and how and when it should be told instead of shown.

    Jannert's post is more useful to me, I don't know about others. Because it discusses more on when the two different styles should be used.

    A closer examination, e.g. exactly what telling is, is also useful. As per some previous discussion.

    In terms of critique, I do think it's quite difficult to critique others' work, due to personal preference and also the general level of knowledge we have. Again, I'm not sure it's just me that is finding their way in this.

    Also, I'm not sure that I would want only people whose style was similar to mine critiquing my work. (This may not apply to others.) If someone with a very different viewpoint critiques my work, then they are going to bring things to the discussion that possibly I haven't even thought of. That doesn't mean that I will rewrite it their way. But, it's likely to be more useful to me if someone critiques from a very different viewpoint. However, at the moment I'm writing short stories, sometimes very, very, short. It's easy for me to rewrite my entire story in different styles and see how I like them in those forms. Not so easy for those writing a novel.

    BTW: I even like info dumps, done well. E.g. Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. If I was famous and could write what I wanted, I'd probably be including info dumps :)
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2015
  10. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Oh, I thought your thread was asking if we agree there is too much wordiness and telling in the workshop.
     
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  11. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I think critiques from different points of view and writers of different styles are useful, but the critiquer has to be able to recognize their preferences and review the work in the style the author chose, not try to rework it in their own image. For example, @ChickenFreak doesn't like present tense works, but when present tense arises she says so and goes on to make comments in that context. Both she and the recipient of the comments know the bias is there. If you like lean prose, that doesn't mean you can't critique descriptive writing. But if you're so adamant about lean prose that your comments on a descriptive piece amount to "cut out all of this description," then the critique isn't helpful.

    Note, I'm using "you" to refer to critiquers generally, not to specific people in this thread.
     
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  12. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think part of the problem, too, is that newer writers approach writing fiction the way they're taught to write in school. Unfortunately, we don't typically learn fiction-writing in school, we learn how to write to inform, summarize, and explain. So, naturally, when we approach writing fiction, we as new writers tend to inform, summarize, and explain, since doing that gave us high marks on our English essays.

    Telling isn't bad. At all. In fact, it's completely necessary to good fiction. Because to show everything would be absolutely exhausting and pointless. @jannert explained the differences very well in her post above. Telling's best function is transitional--the space between important events.

    But it is undeniably true that new writers who don't understand showing and telling will often tell during scenes that should be shown, because they don't know that they shouldn't. We don't write English essays with character emotion as the driving force, because English essays and fiction are completely different. It takes a lot of practice and thought to adapt your writing to fiction--making the focus be from the character rather than the author, implying things and biasing the narrative instead of always being crystal-clear and objective. But I think the end result is better writing, at least in my case.

    It's very easy to spew rules around. And show don't tell is an important rule (though its title is horribly misleading). But new writers don't understand the rules right away, nor do they know when they're meant to be applied and when it makes sense to stray from them. That's what it's important to make clear when critiquing--not "don't tell because telling is bad," but rather "don't tell here because this scene would have more impact through the biases of the character."
     
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  13. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    While I agree there should be some examples I can give some advice I've been learning about artwork as I'm teaching myself to draw. The main crux isn't the small details it's about getting the message across. As long as there's enough detail presented that communicates what the focal point is and what the set dressing is you'll be good.
     
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  14. Inks
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    My drawing ability is terrible, but a strong foundation of form, space and construction has been applied to my writing for some time. Ah Inks, you must be confused? No. Writing is like drawing in many respects.

    Telling is the frame, the outline of a complex existence that defines the boundaries. Showing is the details, the suggestion and depiction of volume, the dance of shadow and the state of being. Constructing a document is no different then drawing the human figure - begin with the central element - the torso. Is it under tension, arching, twisting, stretching? The position of the head, and the tilt of the nose to show the way the weight is carried with purpose. The arms and legs to carry the emotion and state of the body, do they envelope and embrace, tuck and carry, or fly out in dramatic rapture of emotion? Showing is the drapery, telling is the adornments, the cross of lines and words depicting the grace of a ballerina or the world-weary face of an old farmer.

    Knowing your foundation gets you a mannequin of sorts, but applying constructions to develop the face and figure in a meaningful way is still required. Proper accents provide definition and bring meaning to the whole. Sometimes a writer or artist will strike upon some beauty by chance or accident, but this is not commonly repeatable without a strong background in proper constructions.

    Put another way, seeking balance and letting the words flow is much like the application of force in the body - it guides the eye and mind through, to make impactful statements in the observer. The suggestion of life need not be perfect, nor is the balance, but effective and purposeful application of techniques result in a better experience.
     
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  15. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    It should be Show & Tell instead of Show versus Tell. Because you can't really have one without the other. For me a good way of getting in a tell without a direct tell is to go about slanting the details a certain way to direct your reader into thinking or seeing things a certain way.
    i.e.
    The little dog's mean grin dared the paperboy to open the gate, c'mon in.
    The tell would be -
    The paperboy hesitated at the gate, that little dog looked like a biter.
    But both can work and in good hands neither is inferior. But what can happen is the writer hearing the 'rule' forgets to blend, to balance. The tells can go on and on. Even all show can be a bit relentless especially if there is an opaqueness to what the writer is trying to show. I've seen writers try to show someone nervous about something - without explaining the something and because of not including one small tell, I thought the character was bloody paranoid. Relying exclusively on either technique can backfire. Which is why it's essential to not rid one or the other.

    I also think it's not the description that's the problem it's the lack of good, essential description that is the problem. I opened up a self published book the other day a ya romance and the writer wasted a paragraph talking about a blue sky, hardly any clouds, a pretty meadow, a butterfly all very straightforward. But instead of evoking beauty it was boring. The writer was relying on the images the words should create and that's backwards - the combination of words create the beauty - the words as their labels - butterfly, sunset - don't. Just telling us there's a butterfly in a meadow doesn't automatically evoke the beauty of it.
     
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  16. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are more points I'd like to address. But I'll quickly post this in response to DeathandGrim's post.

    This is from the introduction to Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

    (My emphasis of course). There's a lot of description here, but it is a lot leaner than a lot of material I've read. The italicised portion is dialogue, but it's really description through the voice of a character IMHO.

    The bolded bit seems to me to be lean description. All we know of the drawing room is that it contains a bookcase and has a red moreen curtain. That to me seems to be enough description of the room. It would be over the top IMHO if we had.

    I give this example because I have been using 'telling' over-generally to describe over-detailed non-dialogue description as well. (As I have been correctly criticised for doing above.) However, even if what I have in my modified paragraph above is not telling, it still seems to me to be over-detailed and over-verbose. Bronte's paragraph reads slickly, and pulls the reader along (IMHO). Mine is over-long, and feels like I'm reading through treacle to an extent. I'm not saying that I have the answer, but I've been a bit mystified as to what it is that I'm finding when I'm reading some workshop posts, that I don't find in professionally published literature.

    This is the kind of thing, even if I wasn't naming it correctly, that I wanted to discuss in this thread.
     
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  17. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think you're describing a showing/telling issue so much as an issue of POV.

    When you write a scene, typically that scene is coming from the POV of a character within that scene or a narrator close to the scene. That's what determines what should be described and how much--description is absolutely a POV issue. Who is the POV character for the scene? What is that character noticing? Why is that character noticing it? A character isn't going to take in the entire world around him all at the same time, and he's not going to waste time describing every facet of it. What he does notice and describe will depend on the context. If he's running from a serial killer, he'll notice some subset of the scene. If he's strolling arm-in-arm with a love interest, he'll notice a different subset. Let the POV of the character determine how much of the world to expose and describe, and keep the rest hidden away. Use what you've kept hidden to your advantage.

    One of these days, just maybe, I'll write a post that doesn't have the word "POV" in it. Maybe :)
     
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  18. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Ok, I'm glad I read this bit here before quoting an earlier post of yours, but just to reiterate to anyone who didn't read the whole thread, dialogue is not the opposite of tell. Dialogue can contain both show and tell just as narrative can contain both, and to add a big whopping gobsmack to the whole thing, not everything answers to the show & tell paradigm at all. ;)

    Perhaps the difference in what you're finding in books you buy rather than in items up for critique is purpose. I'm throwing this out as a complete wild card. I often find that what I take exception to in an item I am critiquing is something that feels purposeless, be it show, tell, narrative, dialogue, exposition, whatever it may be. I say this because anything done with deliberation, with an idea for why it's being done in a story can and will work when deployed with practiced skill. Everything done without purpose will fall flat no matter if (fill in your favorite current writer) is channeling the spirit of (fill in your favorite classic writer).
     
  19. Imaginarily
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    Imaginarily Disparu en Mer Contributor

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    I'm not saying this as a person you've beaten the shit out of smacked with the "Show, don't tell" bat, but rather as a fellow writer/critiquer (your comments on my piece are, in fact, appreciated :bigwink:) : You have to turn off your ego when you critique someone. As @Steerpike says here, identify what the author is trying to do, and try to suggest ways for them to do that thing better. As @jannert said: if it works, leave it alone. It has nothing to do with how you, yourself would write the excerpt. ("You, yourself" being the critic, not necessarily you, YOU. You there.)

    Having someone with a completely different set of preferences critique your work can in fact strengthen your writing that much more, assuming they're bringing up relevant issues rather than just complaining. Yes they will notice things that you and others who prefer your style might not: perhaps you haven't mentioned a character in too long, or the scenery got lost along the way and we could use a reminder about it. Perhaps there's a long stretch of dialogue with not enough tags, and the reader can't tell whose lines are whose. Perhaps the central plot got buried under a side-plot and we forgot why we're here. Things like that.

    I would like to add, telling can also be great for when you want to be vague. Color something grey instead of hot pink, so the reader pays attention to only the details you want them to notice at that time. I do this purposefully in my work (I'm not claiming to be a pro at it, but the intent is there!), because how the hell else are you supposed to write a mysterious character without a shred of mystery. He has secrets, I tell you! Secrets! :bigeek:
     
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  20. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I actually like both the Bronte version and the one you added to. In her day, people would probably have a pretty good idea of what a drawing room was like. Modern readers might benefit from a bit more detail. I didn't have a problem with either version.

    Bronte's is good because it's the notion of her escaping something unpleasant that's important to the story, not what the room is like. However, yours gives a better notion of the room itself—which might interest a modern reader. I especially liked the mention of the cross-legged Turk in the painting, which really does nail the look and feel of that room for me. Your descriptive passage is a lot more restful than Bronte's, and might work better in a different story, or at a different point in this story. Horses for courses, really.
     
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  21. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    There's a lot to reply to here, so I won't be able to do justice to all the points raised.

    @xanadu & @Wreybies - I think it is more a case of purpose rather than POV. Sometimes when I'm reading amateur writing I'm reading things, but I'm not sure where it's all going. In the Bronte excerpt, there's a lot of description, but I'm meeting characters and learning more. There's movement, walking outside then going to the drawing room. There are family names and information about the relationships. I feel that I'm getting bang for my reading time buck.

    I think I have been reading some 'how to write' books that have given too many examples when telling has been turned into showing by using dialogue. Reading further, this isn't general, so I need to learn more about that.

    @Imaginarily - I did say in your progress thread that I'd critique your excerpt. When I read it, I did wonder what to do next and did my best. I'm quite happy if anyone wants revenge by ripping my writing to shreds, please feel free :) I think my point got lost in the inaccurate terminology I used.

    @jannert - my version of the Bronte passage uses the word 'door' three times in the first two sentences, and 'bound' three times near the end. Isn't that excessive repetition? :)

    @peachalulu - I agree that sometimes there is too much description. In your example it's a whole paragraph. But I think that sometimes the large amounts of description (which some may prefer more than others) isn't isolated like that, but can just be (e.g.) repetition within a paragraph.

    It's often said that it's useful to learn from masters. I looked up White Fang which I haven't read for a long time. The initial paragraphs are all description, but it really rolls along quickly, and I had to stop myself reading to come back to this thread.

    Three medium sized paragraphs. The first describes the land. The second adds movement. And some mystery. What is in that box? The third paragraph adds the men, but we know nothing about them. The mystery of what is in the box is solved, but additional mysteries are created. E.g. why has this person died and where are they going. We don't know what the men are wearing, what their names are, there's very little showing in the third paragraph, it's mostly telling about 'The Wild', as far as I can see. (Corrections/alternate opinions welcome). The progression of the paragraphs and the movement provides purpose. Certainly not restful.

    I hope I'm not getting too pretentious there...
     
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  22. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm confused. I don't see how this story is "large amounts of telling". I think that we have a definition issue here. By my definition, there's very little "telling" in that story, less than average.
     
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  23. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    The definition issue has been worked out in subsequent posts.
     
  24. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    OK, good. I though that you were still holding to that definition of "telling", but I see that I missed some things on the first reading of the thread.

    I think that the story that you link to is actually a very good example of non-dialogue, descriptive narration that is NOT "telling". The author shows you things and events and thoughts, and hardly ever spoon-feeds a conclusion.
     
  25. Inks
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    Inks Contributing Member

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    Every writer has a different way of communicating, each writer has their own distinct style and sense of balance which generally improves over time.

    Things are not always necessary to the immediate plot - and DefinatelyMaybe would probably want to strangle me for the tangled webs I indulge in. I loved Tolstoy's Anna Karenina and read it in the course of two weeks back in 9th grade. My teacher was in disbelief and started to ask me questions about it, even pulling me into the office to make sure I did not Cliffnotes it. I told her how I would start reading it at night - maybe a chapter or two, then before I knew it 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. had come. She could tell that I was very tired in class, but did not think of it until she realized I had been more engaged in the relationships and asked her questions until I made a blunder in Nikolei. It was an error that stayed long with me... that Nikolei, the alcoholic was dying of "consumption" and I took it to mean that he was dying as a result of his alcoholism. Logic here being the over consumption of alcoholic drinks resulting in disease and death - I did not realize it was an old name for tuberculosis and my book was full of notes for context, but this was not covered. Also... I think that is why my teacher believed me, but damn it, why did she not correct me? I ended up coming to a conclusion about leading a virtuous life being the primary take away... bleh, I missed a bunch of things in my first read through.

    While I was obviously not fully aware of the finer points at the time, Tolstoy is about as much wordiness as one can get - huge sections could be removed without impacting the basic plot. This probably has had a profound impact on me in life - if I am going to make a time commitment to characters in a novel - I want to know them and understand them. Tolstoy was one of the few writer's who ever satisfied my curiosity and indulged me in character life that only Tolkien could do in setting.
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2015
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