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Author Topic: The Show Must Go On
extrinsic
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How do you-all develop Show for scenes? What does show mean to you, and so on? You know, what is show in your writing toolkit?

I mean, show seems to challenge struggling writers' creatively. One of the more critical features of narrative, proficiency with show, seems to me a major shortcoming of many of the narratives I read. In some cases, show is underportrayed. In other cases, show is adequate but not meaningful or causal. In some cases plenty of or overabundant show doesn't work for me from a lack of connection to a scene's meaning.

I believe show is both a writing craft and a voice principle. Craft, in the sense of how to deploy show: variably, consistently, causally, timely, judiciously, and meaningfully. Voice in the sense of narrative distance.

Show depicts a viewpoint character's sensory perceptions; thus, show is part of the character's voice: how she, he, or it selectively experiences and describes noteworthy sensory stimuli, her attitude expressed toward what she experiences, what stimuli cause him to think and feel about his perceptions, and how it reacts to stimuli and thoughts and feelings as a consequence. In other words, close narrative distance, from emphasizing character perception and expression over narrator perception and expression, and portrayal from within a narrative's immediate setting rather than from the writing desk lectern of a writer.

Maybe we can discuss show and unravel some of its challenges and influences for our writing development.

[ February 09, 2013, 12:29 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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LDWriter2
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Show is something I wrestle with.

You have already included sensory perceptions.

Dean Wesley Smith says that if you add all five human senses every two pages you don't have to worry about Show.

Dave Farland--the new guy at WotF--says that the human senses are important in setting.

Show seems to be describing how the MC does something not just saying he did it.

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MattLeo
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Well, you have to filter, don't you, and pick out the details that matter, that inform, or move the story forward. Unless you want to go full-monty Flaubert and use your narrator like a camera, but even Flaubert framed his shots carefully.

I often find that when I'm blocked, it's not that I can't get words out, it's that I can't filter out extraneous detail. The camera is stuck on, riding on the POV character's shoulder.

In contrast, when my writing is going smoothly, "telling" is a matter of shading in detail until the picture looks realistic.

For me, telling stories is telling the story of character conflict, so I tend to write the bare details of the conflict. Those details become the skeleton to which I apply flesh. I tend to have plenty of dialog and character's scheming thoughts, but I fill in things like physical descriptions (lightly), and setting details (somewhat more richly) to give the narrative balance. I then pare down dialog and inner monologue as I open the character's physical perceptions.

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Grumpy old guy
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extrinsic, what interesting subjects you pick to discuss. I’m always having people throw that tag at me, “Show, don’t tell!” And, it seems, a lot of people want to kill off all narrative exposition and try and reduce a story to ‘show’ only. Unfortunately, exposition has its uses, such as getting rid of the boring bits.

I also think that there are unrealistic expectations placed on showing. For example:

Rick turned up the collar of his dark blue trench coat as the rain began to fall.

Is that showing or telling?

Perhaps this would be better:

The ice-cold raindrops were driven into Rick’s face by a wind that sprang up from nowhere and water trickled down his neck. He shook his now wet hands and lifted up the collar of his trench coat. This stinging pain stopped but water still managed to dribble down his back. He shivered.

If I showed everything the character experienced as I did in the second version, I would hazard a guess that my word count would triple, or more. I think, as you said, we need to be discerning in our use of show vs tell. And, as you also said, it all depends on the narrative distance, up close and personal, middle distance or pulled back. My question is, can you switch narrative distance? Not in the middle of a scene, but within the same chapter.

Phil.

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rcmann
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Whenever possible, I like to use character dialog to toss in casual bits of information about the situation and the world, as well as the characters. It's amazing how much background detail you can insert into a scene with a few carefully chosen remarks during a normal conversation.
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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by LDWriter2:
Show is something I wrestle with.

You have already included sensory perceptions.

Dean Wesley Smith says that if you add all five human senses every two pages you don't have to worry about Show.

Dave Farland--the new guy at WotF--says that the human senses are important in setting.

Show seems to be describing how the MC does something not just saying he did it.

Smith's advice seems on point: Visual sensations predominate for descriptions, aural sensations for dialogue, associating with visual stimuli, and accompanying dramatic action. Tactile sensations I feel are underrepresented in general. They are more than touch textures; they are the textures of other senses as well, the emotional textures of visual, aural, tactile, olfactory, or gustatory sensations. Olfactory and gustatory sensations do a lot of work with a little detail. Smells are powerful for evoking reader involvement in a setting. Though I've read smell descriptions that went too far from invoking excrement taboos. Pleasant aromas readers are familiar with, familiarity matters, have great impact. Unpleasant smell and taste associations can have more impact but are a best practice when judiciously used. Gustatory sensations are tricky when they are unfamiliar or burdensome or mere naming exposition, requiring careful and judiscious deployment.

What I know as the sixth sense for writing, emotional feeling, serves to make sensory description work magic. How does a sunset emotionally feel to a viewpoint character? Lonely? Comforting? Terrifying? For example. Adjectives and adverbs' functions are to express commentary, emotional attitude about feelings, though if a bare description suffices, the impact can be stronger as needed. Feelings and attitude about feelings interleaves context and texture within sensory descriptions. Stimuli are causal, causing reactions to perceptions, thoughts and actions, as the case may be.

David Wolverton, aka Dave Farland, has a long history with WoTF: 1987 grand finalist, contest judge from 1991 onward, editor of the anthology for several years, workshop instructor for several years, and now coordinating judge. Though the five, or six, human senses predominate in awareness, other senses add to the panoply: proprioception, awareness of bodily postition and physiological state and health and sense of gravity and atmospheric conditions, to name a few.

Setting: time, place, and situation of a dramatic action, can include the gamut of SPICED features. Setting, Plot, Idea, Character, Event, and Discourse if situation includes plot's Antagonism, Causation, and Tension, ACT, and idea's theme's context and texture, characters as more than marble statue syndrome, events as antagonistic, causal, and empathy and curiosity worthy, and discourse in the sense voice expresses emotional attitude.

"Show seems to be describing how the MC does something not just saying he did it."

Perhaps show is not solely "how" but a full, selective gamut of artfully posed answers to the W questions: who, what, when, where, why, and how a viewpoint character perceives and responds to the stimuli of an unfolding dramatic action. Though baldly saying "he did it," to me, probably will come across as artless tell, judicious use of tell might have strong impact, in dialogue for one example, or after an artful setup, a punctation expression after the context and texture of a vividly described dramatic situation.

An antithesis passage for example, He didn't cry or complain when they took his family away to the gulag. He didn't go off in the head and lash out at his tormentors. No reason to allow his family to be forgotten, no justice in foregiveness, not a whit of patience or tolerance for corruption. Though revenge is a dish best served cold, he didn't plan a long delay before he exacted his due. He did it.

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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by Grumpy old guy:

I also think that there are unrealistic expectations placed on showing. For example:

Rick turned up the collar of his dark blue trench coat as the rain began to fall.

Is that showing or telling?

It's showing. Your second example is also showing, but in more detail. Neither version is intrinsically better an the other, although in most cases the second version would be overkill (you knew that, of course).

The level of the description has to fit the needs of the story at the point where it occurs. Maybe you'd use the rococo Rick in the "dark night of the soul" part of the manuscript, where he spends a few pages being miserable before something comes along to buck him up. Or maybe the reader knows (but Rick doesn't) that Rick is about to confront something terrible, and you want to stretch out the suspense.

But the same principle of narrative usefulness applies to using "telling" in places where you might want to abridge irrelevant details. For example I recently came to a point in my current WIP where I wrote this:

quote:
(version 1) Baudwynn got back on the road the next morning after a late breakfast.
Now *that* is telling, and it represents a substantial stretch of time condensed into a point. That point can be expanded and mined for detail, if doing so serves the needs of the story. In this case, it did. The protagonist had spent most of the past year living like a tramp, and for the first time in months he has enough money to get a bed in an inn (although not a very good one):

quote:
(version 2) It was mid-morning when Baudwynn awoke. He considered spending the morning in bed, but the bed was hard, and the linens coarse and none too clean and possibly infested. He settled on a few more minutes instead.
This goes on for a hundred words or so, painting an ironic picture of how low his standards for "luxury" have dropped. In this case the detail serves the story, but in most case the simpler telling dispenses with a necessary transition but without adding irrelevant detail.

If I wanted to be stubbornly literal about the "show not tell" rule, I might write the low-detail version of Baudwynn's actions this way:

quote:
(version 3) Baudwynn awoke late, had a late breakfast, then got back on the road.
Now version 3 is "telling" and version 1 is "showing", because version 1 condenses the action into a single point whereas version 3 unpacks that time into three distinct actions arranged chronologically. But there is really nothing substantive to choose between these versions; they even have the same word count. If anything I prefer the telling in version 1 to the pointless chronological nit-picking of version 3.

"Show not tell" is, in my opinion, shorthand for "look for places where you can expand generic actions with detail that makes those actions seem concrete, specific, and credible."

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by MattLeo:
Well, you have to filter, don't you, and pick out the details that matter, that inform, or move the story forward. Unless you want to go full-monty Flaubert and use your narrator like a camera, but even Flaubert framed his shots carefully.

I often find that when I'm blocked, it's not that I can't get words out, it's that I can't filter out extraneous detail. The camera is stuck on, riding on the POV character's shoulder.

In contrast, when my writing is going smoothly, "telling" is a matter of shading in detail until the picture looks realistic.

For me, telling stories is telling the story of character conflict, so I tend to write the bare details of the conflict. Those details become the skeleton to which I apply flesh. I tend to have plenty of dialog and character's scheming thoughts, but I fill in things like physical descriptions (lightly), and setting details (somewhat more richly) to give the narrative balance. I then pare down dialog and inner monologue as I open the character's physical perceptions.

Filtering is one side of developing show, selective omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. Another side is fully representing, or imitating, settings, plot features, ideas, characters, events, and discourses. Show falls toward the tell side when show misses material context and texture. Tell's shortcomings are burdensome summarization and explanation. Show's shortcomings are incompleteness of expressively imitating a circumstance and its attitudes and meanings.

After all, a deep analysis reveals all show is tell in the sense no expression can exactly and fully imitate a circumstance's total identity. Describing a chair in show artfully tells the essential meaning details of the chair, but cannot approach a full imitation. Would the dimensions of the chair matter? Its mass? The constituent atomic particles, a molar mass calculation? How much detail is relevant is a matter of the details' importance to the dramatic action. Like if the chair is made from poplar, it's fragile and will break under minimal force. If it's made of oak, that's another matter. Is it loose or bolted to the deck? Worn out or brand-new name-brand status marker? Like it's a Regeny Revival Windsor arrow back made by a celebrity artisan, if the chair's mythology matters to the dramatic action.

For me, show is imitatively depicting from a character's perspective and voice in the moment, location, and circumstances of a dramatic action. Tell is from a narrator or writer's perspective and voice outside of the moment, etc., of a dramatic action.

However, MattLeo, your writing aesthetic favors narrator attitude as the strongest attitude. To varying degrees, you also favor expressing writer attitude directly to readers. While Monsieur Flaubert reflects those preferences, his authorial presence is on the remote side compared to yours, and William Thackeray Makepeace's presence in Vanity Fair, not that the writer-narrator voice is artlessly expressed, but as an exemplary example of a strong writer voice backing up a strong narrator and voice attitude enhancing the narrative.

Having sampled your writing and your expressed aesthetic preferences, I can't find a shortcoming, per se, with that decision. That voice is one of the objective reporter with a subjective slant. The voice can report as an after-action debriefing when all salient details are known, including character thoughts, from multiple viewpoints, and selective portrayals in the nature of classical journalism's objective reporting. I do, however, feel that your writing doesn't quite settle into a consistent voice pattern pertinent and exigent to circumstances. Your character, narrator, and writer attitudes and voices weigh in awkwardly in the middle of each other's attitude expressions and at times the strength of one voice or another is at odds with the meanings and attitudes I perceive you intend. A close study of Vanity Fair I believe would offer avenues and strategies and methods for strengthening and enhancing your writing voices and discourse skills.

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MAP
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Show to me is how deep you go into a POV. It is about description and using the five senses, but it's more than that. It is describing through the eyes of the character letting their personality and frame of mind color the description. The deeper the POV, the more the reader can understand and relate to the character and the more likely they are to feel for that character.

Of course showing everything would be tiresome and bring the story to a crawl so you have to pick and choose the moments for show and the level of showing. Scenes that are very important and need to evoke an emotional response need to be slowed down and shown in more detail than others. Unimportant moments should be glossed over or told.

I also think that every story has different needs in the level of showing and telling. A romance needs a lot of showing because the reader needs to see and feel and believe that the two characters are falling in love. Whereas a thriller needs a fast pace to keep the reader on the edge of their seats, so the extent of showing needs to be pared down or used more efficiently to keep up the pace.

So really the show don't tell rule is finding the balance between show and tell, in getting the reader emotionally involved while maintaining an appropriate pace. I think that each writer has to find the right balance that works for them and the story they are trying to tell.

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Grumpy old guy:
extrinsic, what interesting subjects you pick to discuss. I’m always having people throw that tag at me, “Show, don’t tell!” And, it seems, a lot of people want to kill off all narrative exposition and try and reduce a story to ‘show’ only. Unfortunately, exposition has its uses, such as getting rid of the boring bits.

I also think that there are unrealistic expectations placed on showing. For example:

Rick turned up the collar of his dark blue trench coat as the rain began to fall.

Is that showing or telling?

Perhaps this would be better:

The ice-cold raindrops were driven into Rick’s face by a wind that sprang up from nowhere and water trickled down his neck. He shook his now wet hands and lifted up the collar of his trench coat. This stinging pain stopped but water still managed to dribble down his back. He shivered.

If I showed everything the character experienced as I did in the second version, I would hazard a guess that my word count would triple, or more. I think, as you said, we need to be discerning in our use of show vs tell. And, as you also said, it all depends on the narrative distance, up close and personal, middle distance or pulled back. My question is, can you switch narrative distance? Not in the middle of a scene, but within the same chapter.

Phil.

Cool, Grumpy old guy, show to me is an interesting topic too.

I believe your first example in an artful context could be show, in dialgogue for example. Or if it were a viewpoint character's perception, thought, so to speak, about a circumstance a viewpoint character observes about another.

An issue I have with the sentence, though, is it appears to be an ad hoc fallacy. Ad hoc; ergo, propter hoc: to this; therefore, because of this. Ad or to meaning illogically attached. "Rick turned up the collar of his dark blue trench coat as the rain began to fall."

The conjunction "as" is the ad hoc culprit, linking a subsequent cause to a preceding effect. Rick logically turns up the collar because rain fell--after, not before. The events don't logically occur in that sequence nor concurrently. Many readers will gloss over ad hoc fallacies when they occur in close proximity. But they tend to become cumulative temporal disjunctions that subconsciously unsettle readers from the antichrony. Another type of ad hoc fallacy lillogically connects noncausal events.

The second example more strongly portrays the events, and logically. Closer narrative distance and stronger show. The voice is stonger too and almost accomplishes a de re: of the thing, estrangement of the narrator's voice in favor of character voice. The first sentence's conjunction clause "and water trickled down his neck" states an interjection or understated exclamation that estranges to a degree the narrator. A stronger character attitude in that clause and the whole for that matter would estrange the narrator altogether.

However, the first three sentences have exactly the same syntax: two compound sentences composed as independent clauses conjoined with conjunctions. Varying syntax would strengthen the voice.

Further, the second example begins a bare-bones character sketch. Adding context and texture would also strengthen the voice. Why does Rick stand in the rain? What's his purpose; in other words, what's his dramatic complication that he intends to address? Where is he in time, location, and circumstances? Is it a bleak setting or an uptown culture attraction? Also, further developing his character identity through status markers would strengthen the scene and the voice. Does Rick wear an immaculate Brooks Brothers camel hair trench coat or a worn, drab green military surplus coat? Also, lighting conditions, temperature, and a sense of Rick's awareness of the space's other occupants would round out what could be a strong scene and character sketch.

Yes, word count would multiply, maybe double, but a judicious word or two here and there could work scene and show magic.

[ February 09, 2013, 10:48 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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FWIW, my approach to show vs tell is along the same lines as what MAP said.

Things that are important to the story and/or important to the POV character need more words and more words signal to the reader that the thing being talked about (shown) IS important.

Things that are not so important can be summarized (told).

If you tell/summarize/gloss over something (and don't spend very many words on it), you are telling your readers that it isn't that important to the story or the POV character. If, later in the manuscript, it turns out to be important, your reader is going to say, "What?! Where did that come from?"

When you hear "show, don't tell," IMO, you are being told that you have glossed over something your reader believed was important, and you, at the very least, need to rethink how you presented that particular aspect of the story.

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rcmann
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:


An issue I have with the sentence, though, is it appears to be an ad hoc fallacy. Ad hoc; ergo, propter hoc: to this; therefore, because of this. Ad or to meaning illogically attached. "Rick turned up the collar of his dark blue trench coat as the rain began to fall."

The conjunction "as" is the ad hoc culprit, linking a subsequent cause to a preceding effect. Rick logically turns up the collar because rain fell--after, not before. The events don't logically occur in that sequence nor concurrently. Many readers will gloss over ad hoc fallacies when they occur in close proximity. But they tend to become cummulative temporal disjunctions that subconsciously unsettle readers from the antichrony. Another type of ad hoc fallacy lillogically connects noncausal events.

The second example more strongly portrays the events, and logically. Closer narrative distance and stronger show. The voice is stonger too and almost accomplishes a de re: of the thing, estrangement of the narrator's voice in favor of character voice. The first sentence's conjunction clause "and water trickled down his neck" states an interjection or understated exclamation that estranges to a degree the narrator. A stronger character attitude in that clause and the whole for that matter would estrange the narrator altogether.

However, the first three sentences have exactly the same syntax: two compound sentences composed as independent clauses conjoined with conjunctions. Varying syntax would strengthen the voice.

Further, the second example begins a bare-bones character sketch. Adding context and texture would also strengthen the voice. Why does Rick stand in the rain? What's his purpose; in other words, what's his dramatic complication that he intends to address? Where is he in time, location, and circumstances? Is it a bleak setting or an uptown culture attraction? Also, further developing his character identity through status markers would strengthen the scene and the voice. Does Rick wear an immaculate Brooks Brothers camel hair trench coat or a worn, drab green military surplus coat? Also, lighting conditions, temperature, and a sense of Rick's awareness of the space's other occupants would round out what could be a strong scene and character sketch.

Yes, word count would multiply, maybe double, but a judicious word or two here and there could work scene and show magic. [/QB]

extrinsic- While technical specificity is certainly valuable in terms of analysis, one must remember that the ultimate purpose of fiction is entertainment. Most laymen who read fiction for entertainment tend not to be overly intent on the structural minutea of a paragraph. It is also possible to overlook the obvious in favor of the technical.

There is nothing inherently wrong with use of the conjunction 'as' in the sentence, "Rick turned up the collar of his dark blue trench coat as the rain began to fall." One must keep in mind that rain is not an event, it is an environmental condition. Rain does not arrive like a meteorite and then be completed. To be in the rain is a condition, a state of being. It is entirely reasonable to turn up one's collar just as the rain begins. The sentence in question omits the word 'just', but the sense of the matter is the same in terms of everyday communication.

As far as issues with syntax and sentence structure, I decline to offer a comment on what is most likely a first draft. This is based on my own habit of re-structuring and re-arranging my sentences during editing.

I'm really puzzled about your comment regarding the lack of detail in the character sketch. It's almost impossible (for me at least) to cram a full character sketch into only two or three paragraphs. maybe I am too simplisticly minded to spot what you are getting at.

[ February 09, 2013, 08:19 PM: Message edited by: rcmann ]

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genevive42
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MAP and Kathleen have it right.

My two cents: The biggest thing to remember in showing is to infuse it with the character's personality. If your character sees a hot car parked on the street are they thinking about the engine and tranny, how fast it goes or do they like it because it's pretty? Write through character-colored glasses. The things that are significant to the character are the things to show.

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by rcmann:
Whenever possible, I like to use character dialog to toss in casual bits of information about the situation and the world, as well as the characters. It's amazing how much background detail you can insert into a scene with a few carefully chosen remarks during a normal conversation.

Yes, dialogue used to convey information essential for reader understanding is a time-honored and effective method, stepping into a scene's setting in order to reveal information, a degree closer narrative distance than a narrator or writer tell so long as the "tell" is artful, dramatic, meaningful, timely, and judicious and not burdensome. The extended politcial lectures characters give in Upton Sinclair's The Jungle and Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged come to mind. They aren't "bits" no matter how well-chosen if injudicous those soliloquys are.
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extrinsic
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MAP, Ms. Dalton Woodbury, and genevive42's sense of show accord closely with mine. I wonder though what's next for you-all or current on the struggles of a poet's journey. Audience accesibility and appeal in my estimation comes after craft development and after voice development.

Audience is a cruel, fickle, and demanding master. My studies of audience have led me down a productive path. I need an incentivized appreciation for acquiring and adapting, adopting writing principles. Audience does appreciate craft and voice, but a reading with a function, with meaning and significance for an audience looms large. Like coping with fears, a need to feel safe in a world full of misery, mayhem, and danger, or fulifilling a want to believe in a mystical or spiritual world more exciting and enlivening than the everyday, routine alpha world, or a sense of belonging to a community that's larger and more meaningful and comforting than the self's cold solitude.

[ February 09, 2013, 10:10 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by rcmann:
extrinsic- While technical specificity is certainly valuable in terms of analysis, one must remember that the ultimate purpose of fiction is entertainment. Most laymen who read fiction for entertainment tend not to be overly intent on the structural minutea of a paragraph. It is also possible to overlook the obvious in favor of the technical.

There is nothing inherently wrong with use of the conjunction 'as' in the sentence, "Rick turned up the collar of his dark blue trench coat as the rain began to fall." One must keep in mind that rain is not an event, it is an environmental condition. Rain does not arrive like a meteorite and then be completed. To be in the rain is a condition, a state of being. It is entirely reasonable to turn up one's collar just as the rain begins. The sentence in question omits the word 'just', but the sense of the matter is the same in terms of everyday communication.

As far as issues with syntax and sentence structure, I decline to offer a comment on what is most likely a first draft. This is based on my own habit of re-structuring and re-arranging my sentences during editing.

I'm really puzzled about your comment regarding the lack of detail in the character sketch. It's almost impossible (for me at least) to cram a full character sketch into only two or three paragraphs. maybe I am too simplisticly minded to spot what you are getting at.

I adamantly believe entertainment is one of many functions fiction fulfills. Another is participating in a social conversation, among many, though the conversation that writing and reading are takes place to more remote degrees than everyday, in-person or even telephonic conversations. The Larger-than-life principle expresses how a narrative's characters and events and such may represent readers' shared wants and problems wanting satisfaction. In other words, readers also read for social education purposes, as entertaining as they may be, instead of learning from gruelling lectures and academic studies and terrifying real-world experiences.

Use of terms like "right" or "wrong" convey a sense of possession of greater knowledge when used. I'm right; you're wrong. Possession meaning an usurpation of a creative property's ownership, too, by at least imposing one's creative vision onto another's.

Creative writing loosely follows a pattern of principles, many prescriptively, many discretionarily. The first principle prevails: facilitate reading and comprehension ease. If that means an ad hoc fallacy, it ought best be artful, meaningful, and rhetorically peruasive.

I stated my concern with why Grumpy old guy's first example doesn't work for me. An opinion. And about an area I dare say will also give savvy readers pause. Savvy readers like screening readers, if they're savvy and not all are.

Ad hoc fallacies don't work for me. Maybe an occasional one will pass my muster, more than one in close succession will not. Several in a paragraph set my reader mentality aside. Consecutive paragraphs riddled with them turn me from reader mode to editor mode, speed bumping me out of a narrative's meaning space.

Arguing against an opinion, and about everything anyone has ever written or spoken about writing are opinions, is impossible. Argument doesn't persuade me to change my mind, more often than not, argument solidifies my confidence in my position.

Cramming a full character sketch into a few paragraphs is challenging and might not be as difficult as many writers make it. As MAP, Ms. Dalton Woodbury, and genevive42 have expressed, what's important and relevant at the moment is all that matters. Character development isn't artful when it's a once and done and over with, never to be revisited again passage. When character development goes hand in hand with setting, plot, idea, event, and discourse development, it unfolds over time, is ever evolving and changing toward an outcome finalization.

From the opening of a narrative until a bitter end, circumstances transform characters, until a final transformation outcome unequivocally, irrevocably fulfills a dramatic action. A character sketch, the dramatic form, not a draft exercise, is an artful part of a whole when it forwards a dramatic action.

[ February 09, 2013, 10:37 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
However, MattLeo, your writing aesthetic favors narrator attitude as the strongest attitude.

Yes, well spotted. Specifically, I like to narrate in a third person limited mode that feels very close to first person. So the narrator attitude is really that of the scene's POV character, although that would not be apparent from the short samples of my writing you've seen.

That said, I don't consider that style the best, or a model for anyone else to copy. I feel it suits the kind of writing I do. I read and enjoy writers who employ very different narrative styles. What I *would* consider prescriptive is to make the narrative voice something the readers enjoy spending time with.

quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
To varying degrees, you also favor expressing writer attitude directly to readers.

This I would strongly disagree with. I almost *never* want my opinions to be obvious to the reader, although I don't mind if readers assume that the narrator's opinions are mine. I hope that's a sign that the narrator's voice sounds credible, but that's never *my* voice. I'm a satirist. I *always* write in the character of a persona, usually one that is calculated to be sympathetic, but a little ridiculous. My narrators, speaking for the scene POV character, are unabashed in speaking and advocating that character's opinions, but I try to put in hints that the reader shouldn't take the narrator's statements at face value.

quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
Having sampled your writing and your expressed aesthetic preferences, I can't find a shortcoming, per se, with that decision. That voice is one of the objective reporter with a subjective slant.

Well, what I'm usually aiming for is a highly biased reporter who is utterly misguided in his certainty that he's totally and unquestionably objective. People who are unsure of themselves just aren't funny.

quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
I do, however, feel that your writing doesn't quite settle into a consistent voice pattern pertinent and exigent to circumstances. Your character, narrator, and writer attitudes and voices weigh in awkwardly in the middle of each other's attitude expressions and at times the strength of one voice or another is at odds with the meanings and attitudes I perceive you intend. A close study of Vanity Fair I believe would offer avenues and strategies and methods for strengthening and enhancing your writing voices and discourse skills.

Well, I can't take issue with your critique of my writing shortcomings, because I trust nobody feels them quite so keenly as I. So I thank you for it, and for commending Vanity Fair to me, which I have not yet read. I will certainly add it to my study list.

I'm afraid that I've strayed from the show/tell topic, so let me try to contribute something there. Show/tell isn't the only narrative axis there is. There's also the inform/judge axis as well. As a satirist, the events of the story per se aren't enough for my work; the attitudes and opinions of characters toward events are vital. These can be both shown (e.g. when one character snubs another) and told (through dialog, or through inner monologue), or often both, with ironic contrast.

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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:

The conjunction "as" is the ad hoc culprit, linking a subsequent cause to a preceding effect. Rick logically turns up the collar because rain fell--after, not before.

I'm with extrinsic on this one, although I don't think it's a serious fault in a MS if it's confined to just a few examples here and there. Most neurotypical people are accustomed to a certain amount of logical sloppiness in language. They take it in stride, reassembling cause and effect in their proper order without much if any conscious effort.

However the cumulative effect of this slight imprecision if carried on consistently through the manuscript could interfere with some readers following the story as effortlessly as possible -- readers of a highly logical bent especially. It's the kind of thing I'd be tough on in line editing, but I wouldn't lose any sleep if a few stray examples slipped through. All other things being equal, a more perfect manuscript is preferable; but no MS is ever perfect, even the great ones.

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by MattLeo:
quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
To varying degrees, you also favor expressing writer attitude directly to readers.

This I would strongly disagree with. I almost *never* want my opinions to be obvious to the reader, although I don't mind if readers assume that the narrator's opinions are mine. I hope that's a sign that the narrator's voice sounds credible, but that's never *my* voice. I'm a satirist. I *always* write in the character of a persona, usually one that is calculated to be sympathetic, but a little ridiculous. My narrators, speaking for the scene POV character, are unabashed in speaking and advocating that character's opinions, but I try to put in hints that the reader shouldn't take the narrator's statements at face value.
Admitedly, I've only sampled your work; however, from what I've read of it, I feel a strong writer presence. This is in large part I feel because, though you strive for narrator voice transference with character voice, your narrators' identities as characters don't as clearly shine through as I believe you intend. Consequently, I default to an awareness of the writer's hand on the tiller. Kurt Vonnegut's writing does that, in controvention of the admonishment against it, to great artistic effect.

[ February 10, 2013, 05:08 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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LDWriter2
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Okay, I used short hand I should have said Dave is the new coordinating judge, I keep forgetting his official title.

And I should have added that Tell is okay to use at times. But usually all tell isn't good, nor I would suspect is it good half the time.

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Grumpy old guy
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extrinsic and rcmann, both examples that I wrote were straight off the cuff; made up on the spur of the moment. I thank you both for the discussion of the technicalities of the sentence structure in the first example, I read and learn.

As for the second example, the added detail and close POV I would use in a scene that does, as extrinsic said, set-up the character. The vision in my mind as I wrote it was of Rick standing under a lamp post, late at night, watching the silhouette of a woman projected onto a drawn blind on the second floor of an apartment building. Then it started to rain.

But, I'd still like to ask if this was the beginning scene in the opening chapter, could I then lengthen the POV in a subsequent scene within that same chapter.

Phil.

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Grumpy old guy:
extrinsic and rcmann, both examples that I wrote were straight off the cuff; made up on the spur of the moment. I thank you both for the discussion of the technicalities of the sentence structure in the first example, I read and learn.

As for the second example, the added detail and close POV I would use in a scene that does, as extrinsic said, set-up the character. The vision in my mind as I wrote it was of Rick standing under a lamp post, late at night, watching the silhouette of a woman projected onto a drawn blind on the second floor of an apartment building. Then it started to rain.

But, I'd still like to ask if this was the beginning scene in the opening chapter, could I then lengthen the POV in a subsequent scene within that same chapter.

Phil.

I recognized the examples were off the cuff. And that they were also great examples for discussion purposes.

If the second example were an opening scene, a subsequent scene could further develop the character, the plot, the setting and other settings, the ideas, the events, and the discourses. Actually, I'd say subsequent scenes should further develop the narrative and add meaning to the opening scene.

By "lengthen the POV" if you mean draw out into another scene the Rick in the rain watching a woman's silhoette scene, yes, so long as the first scene is a complete dramatic unit. A complete dramatic unit has at least one cause and one effect, and one discovery and one reversal, which the latter is a dramatic turn or plot pivot or plot point, depending on your writing vernacular. Scenes being smaller units than chapters, their dramatic contributions individually being comparatively minor, initial scenes should portray minor causation and dramatic turns and build cumulatively into major causation and dramatic turns as a chapter and a whole progress.

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Grumpy old guy
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Thanks, extrinsic.

Phil.

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Reziac
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What MAP and KDW said.

My personal pet peeve is when someone does a perfectly good "show", *then* adds a superfulous "tell", apparently not believing [trusting] the reader will "get it" otherwise. Frex:

Rain dripped down Rick's neck. He shivered and pulled up his collar.

vs

Rain dripped down Rick's neck. He shivered and pulled up his collar. The rain was making him cold.

Well, that's a dreadful example, but you get the idea.

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Reziac:
What MAP and KDW said.

My personal pet peeve is when someone does a perfectly good "show", *then* adds a superfulous "tell", apparently not believing [trusting] the reader will "get it" otherwise. Frex:

Rain dripped down Rick's neck. He shivered and pulled up his collar.

vs

Rain dripped down Rick's neck. He shivered and pulled up his collar. The rain was making him cold.

Well, that's a dreadful example, but you get the idea.

Dreadfully perfect, I'd say, for demonstration. I'd suggest showing how the rain made Rick cold. Raise goosebumps? Raise hackles along the neck and spine? A feel of cold steel or an icicle drawn down the cervical spine? Cold damp soaking of an undergarment? Sensory descriptions that close narrative distance into Rick's voice.

To be auxilliary verbs linked to gerund verbs, "was making," signal tattletale tells, a term from my confidential writing lexicon, for my use only, never to be addressed to or about another writer's writing, and of a sort never to be used in my writing either.

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Reziac
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
To be auxilliary verbs linked to gerund verbs, "was making," signal tattletale tells, a term from my confidential writing lexicon, for my use only, never to be addressed to or about another writer's writing, and of a sort never to be used in my writing either.

Generally so. But the "was making" construction is useful to distinguish important from not so important:

John was making a mess in the kitchen. (No one cares what kind of mess, it's just noted in passing; in fact it's probably off-camera.)

John flung dirty laundry into the fridge and dumped moldy beans into the sink. (Something's going on with this that we need to pay attention to, in fact we're stomping around the kitchen with John.)

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