Friday, October 15, 2010

Telling, Not Showing

One of the first Ten Commandments of Writing (said with appropriate thundery and bush-burney respect and affect) is this:

Thou Shalt Show, Not Tell

meaning, of course, that if you're telling the action rather than showing the action in your story, you're screwing up.I beg to differ. Sometimes, if you do it just right, telling is a lot more writerly than showing. Behold: 

We're not shown the off-screen action until the fourth panel, and even then, we only get to see the result of the action, not the action itself. The characters in the first three panels are effectively telling the action, and it's in their telling that we get a different perspective on the action, rather than just the action itself. It's effective, brilliant, and helps add a bit of variety to the overall storyline. (If you want to see more of Rocket Man and the Emperor of the Moon, just peruse Mr. Meyer's comics here. Well worth the trip, I must say.)

This is just one fina example of how we can, as writers, add variety to our narrative and bring in odd little side stories that entertain our readers as well as keep us in the "action," albeit not the straight, linear action that is most expected. Use such tricks sparingly, though, as there are few (with the exception of Tom Stoppard in "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead" who can keep the action we expect and are familiar with off the screen nearly entirely as they tell their story.

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