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October 22, 2012
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Just Tell the Fucking Story

Journal Entry: Mon Oct 22, 2012, 1:25 PM
Okay, so I saw this journal that contained a number of tips, including a detailed section on 'show don't tell,' and I had an epiphany. There was an 'Oh' and everything so you know it's legit.

For a while now I have wondered why amateur writers write the most mind-numbingly long descriptions that I could not care about even a little (yes, my attention span is short, why'd you think I put in so many GIFs? but anyway, I'm a bit atypical there). I mean, I don't want the 'flames of burning searing pain of the aching broken heart' all up in my grill. I'd genuinely prefer a 'he hated her after the break up.' That's all I need to know about that? Good. Move on.

And that's the 'oh' moment: when people tell you to show not tell, they always fail to mention 'pacing.'



Look, there are times when it's best to convey a mood. His trembling fingers reach for the full glass, her voice an angry buzz in the back of his mind--I'd consider that a reasonable establishing shot. But if you're halfway through a paragraph and he's having a conversation with the bartender and that's the real focus, could you just say that he's an ex-alcoholic? Do I need the ten hour backstory? Is this the right place to stick it?

Of course, part of this is reflective of modern trends in writing. Much as I love Vanity Fair there are whole swathes I'd love to machete away (not as many as in Pride and Prejudice, but to be honest it'd be faster to just rip out the few pages I actually liked). And I had the worst Poe-boner when I was a kid, but when I read contemporary works written in that style--my old stuff included--I just want to slap the author and go 'are you being paid by the word? ARE YOU SURE?' (Feel free to challenge me by supplying some heavily descriptive horror. Yeees. This would be best.)

But most of it goes back to pacing. The easiest example of this might be the action scene. Action scenes are a tell-fest. Punches are thrown. Breath is expelled. There's no room for shit like...there was supposed to be an example from yours truly here. I can't do this, actually, because I had a second smaller epiphany and that is that this 'show, don't tell' rule tends to apply to emotional descriptions.



Please tell (or show, if you must) me you don't break halfway through an action scene to talk about everyone's feelers. What kind of awful pacing would that be?

Okay, okay. It could be a good idea, especially if your protag's busy running away from the way cooler antagonist and you need the pace to slow down. But what if what you need is speed? Bam bam bam I ain't got no time for this feelings bullshit?

He's mad! He's really pissed off now! He's so good at making friends! (Wait, that's Naruto....) Open handed filial piety attack! Action scenes are fast and short and simple, because that's a fight.

Emotions are complicated, and there are a lot of ways to depict them.



So anyway. Before you start devoting your life to showing not telling and end up with an audience of three very determined people, read over the whole goddamn thing and make sure that each scene takes as long as it should.

Please.

A teeny tiny rant about why you shouldn't tell people 'show, don't tell' without qualifying it first.

I've been informed that the last GIF is probably from 'Dum' and thank you ~Angelic-Alchemist for recognizing the first as being from 'Aiyya' and the second from 'Pardes'.

Note: it has been pointed out to me that description does not equal showing, even though that is suggested here, so keep that in mind :) Also you can be boring as hell when you're using telling. The point is more about brevity, it's just that I see it most often when people take 'show don't tell' too far.
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:iconcastformrain:
castformrain Dec 19, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I used to think that I could measure how good of a writer was just by how many pages I could stretch out a scene to be with descriptions. XD But now I've read a variety of works, both verbose and concise, and I have to say that I like both styles of writing. 

Sometimes I actually like it when the author drabbles on for pages and pages about insignificant things: there are some books where I find that to be pleasantly entertaining, just wallowing in the wordy descriptors and details and seeing how the author plays with the language. And there are other times when I'd rather read a story with very succinct descriptions. It all depends on my mood, really. So I guess I'd have to say that I half-agree with your journal :P
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Dec 19, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Haha, yeah, and even the great longer writers don't just stretch scenes. One of my personal favorites is 'Vanity Fair.' Yes, it's not the kind of book Fitzgerald would write, but you don't read it feeling that he just wants to word-wank at you.

Here's the question for me, though, do you really need to read a story if all you want is beautiful language? Why not poetry?
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:iconforeststone:
Foreststone Jul 25, 2013  Hobbyist Writer

This is so true, though, I need to work on not telling the ten-hour background stories myself :P My older short stories on dA (a bit embarrassing, to say the least) were....too detailed, I think I could bore someone to death with the details I wrote ^^; Alas, I have no new short stories up...wait....one....it's embarrassing too :facepalm: Do you have any tips for writing a good short story?

Thanks and love the journal!
Foreststone

P.S: You had me laughing the whole way through =P

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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Jul 26, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
:giggle: I used to be a huge fan of Poe and like all the Romantics, but a) they were paid by the word and b) I had no idea what I was doing. Whoops!

Practice, practice, and read. :B I think the real key is figuring out your voice and what works best with it.

Glad to hear it!
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:iconforeststone:
Foreststone Jul 27, 2013  Hobbyist Writer

I love reading and practicing writing so that shouldn't be too hard ;P  Don't get me started on Poe....I just an 1930's book of American Literature mainly for Poe plus Thoreau and Emerson....sheesh Poe is my idol. His writing is utterly amazing.

 

ANYWAYS! I'm going to go check out your writing now :)

Nice talking to you,
Foreststone

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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Jul 27, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Woooo!

Poe used to be my bedtime reading when I was a kid :D 'Cask of Amontillado'...le sigh. So good. Haha, I'd watch out for emulating him now, though - he got paid by the word, and we're also in a society with a much shorter default attention span.

:love: The stuff in my favorites is probably better.
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:iconforeststone:
Foreststone Jul 28, 2013  Hobbyist Writer

Extremely shorter.....

 

The only reason I love Poe so much is well he was one of the first older poets/prose writers that I've ever really liked :/ and I find his writing intriguing. The way it's morbid and reeking with death but yet beautiful and alive....is just amazing. Also, the English class had a HUGE impact on my life :) so yeah I'm trying to grasp on to as much of it as possible still...

ANYWAYS, I'll check your artwork then..................................plus your favorites. I need to read some more short stories/prose anyways.....my poetry is fine ;P

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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Jul 28, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
I love the morbidity :B and yeah, it is very beautiful language! Haha, I don't think there's anything wrong with liking that stuff, just as long as you're aware that modern tastes tend to be different.

:giggle:
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:iconforeststone:
Foreststone Aug 19, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Hey, I am going to send you a note! I have a great idea, I don't want anyone else to here Giggle 
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Aug 19, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
:la:
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