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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Managing Show and Tell Mischiefs (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Managing Show and Tell Mischiefs
extrinsic
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How about that? Want a few pointers on managing show and tell? I spent a few years learning to distinguish show from tell and when tell or show is a best practice and how and why and such. Before I got a handle on show and tell, I remember having vague feelings something wan't working how I wanted it to and, not knowing, feeling frustrated.

Managing show and tell turned out to be more complex than the principle seemed. Distinguishing show from tell is challenging because all written word is, in a close analysis, tell. But show has an elusive quality that, when you feel as a writer you have a grasp on it, it slips away. Show and tell is part of narrative voice, an attribute of the writing elemental discourse. Also part of and perhaps a prime attribute of voice is narrative distance and its influence on show and tell. Adding challenges, the same exact text string in narration might be an artless tell, yet in dialogue might be an artful show.

The latter, that verbatim words can be either show or tell, is one of the trail markers I found for understanding and artfully applying show and tell.

For example: Joel sat on the bench.

Pure tell, and static voice, I might add. Grammatically proper sentence syntax; no mechanical style impropieties there. Yet a shortcoming of the sentence that makes it a tell is it vaguely summarizes and explains an action that is not clearly significant. Significant in the sense of signal and signaling of time. "Sat" is a past tense verb that signals an action has to a degree been completed. In truly completed action, hence a perfect tense verb, the sentence would read, Joel had sat on the bench. Joel clearly is no longer sitting on the bench.

The vagueness of "sat" is it doesn't signal whether Joel just this moment sat down on the bench or whether Joel sitting on the bench is an ongoing action that began some time in the past. A helper word or phrase is indicated. Like "Joel sat down on the bench." "Down" modifies "sat," the adverb "down" signaling the action was just this moment completed and the action of sitting on the bench continues until Joel changes his body posture.

As a spoken statement, the sentence might be show, at least, and the least reason because portraying spoken word depicts an aural sensation shown in the moment of the speech. The spoken sentence becomes both a visual description summarizing Joel sitting down and an aural one imitating Miranda speaking.

The speech is spoken in the moment of the speaking action. Narrative distance is close to the moment of the speaking action, from Miranda's voice. Miranda is the person speaking about Joel's action. To a degree, where the speech took place is given: from Miranda. Though where she spoke is not. Additional context and texture development, like setting, would develop where, when, what, why, and how Miranda speaking matters to the dramatic action. Additionl persons or a person who hears Miranda speaking would portray additional who context of the setting. Who, when, and where are largely context; what, why, and how are largely texture. They overlap and blend, though, every-which-a-way.

"Joel sat on the bench," Miranda said.

Perhaps signaling more meaning is indicated in order to transcend the stale yet not quite static significance of Miranda's speech. Emotional attitude will serve most. Say Miranda is disgusted by Joel's action. Why? Maybe the bench was recently painted.

"Silly Joel," Miranda said, "he sat in wet paint on the bench."

"Silly" clearly expresses Miranda's emotional attitude toward Joel sitting in wet paint.

One sentence, who development of persons: Miranda and Joel; where and somewhat when setting development: a bench sat on and wet paint sat in, past tense verbs signaling when and pending further clarification of an absolute when Joel sat; emotional attitude: "silly"; and sensation: aural sensation of speech spoken in the now moment of the setting. "Silly" and "wet paint," the "telling detail" descriptions that distinguish Joel and the bench somewhat for a time from all other Joels and benches and speaks to an antagonism, a causation, and a tension moment, albeit comparatively minor tension.

Sitting in paint, a problem, hence antagonism, that causes Miranda to react, the reaction thinking Joel is silly, and tension, perhaps empathy for Joel sitting in wet paint, and arousing curiosity about at least why Joel sitting in paint matters.

That's the five principal qualities of showing a scene: description, action both physical and dramatic, conversation, emotion, and sensation. This is show's mischief for developing a scene.

Loooking back to before when I didn't understand show and tell, I remember my confusion and frustration. I remember that working it out was an onerous chore. I remember that no amount of advice or suggestion or anyone telling me or showing me how to use show and tell did more than give me a few hints. I remember the intense satisfaction of figuring it out. I remember that, looking back, overcoming show and tell's mischiefs was passing through an ephemeral curtain that is yet an impenetrable wall. I see now I can look back through the curtain but can't go back through the wall.

[ April 07, 2013, 12:04 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Grumpy old guy
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An interesting post. In showing rather than telling, I tend to use action/movement or dialogue. When using dialogue however, it is essential to be artful in how it is done. In one story I'm writing I want to get out some information about a particular culture. I managed this, without using exposition, through the dialogue and interaction of two characters over an entire chapter.

However, it's also important to set up such disguised info-dumps. I set up the interaction between the two characters and the topic of conversation in the previous chapter.

I have seen others use dialogue as a badly disguised info-dump where their characters sprout out great slabs of speech that is clearly the author indulging in exposition.

Like everything else in writing, thought and preparation beforehand is essential. As is being mindful of your reader's sensibilities. Abuse them at your peril.

Phil.

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extrinsic
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I'm intimately familiar with forms of artless dialogue, one of which is explanation and summary blocks. Weekly television crime tragedies, situation farces, medical tragedies and farces, and made for television movies especially exhibit this and that types of expanations and summaries that could be more artfully shown than given as dialogue tells.

One signal that an artless dialogue explanation or summary block is coming begins with an As you know, Bob, setup. "As you know, Bob, the number seven is a number that a human mind uses to express elaboration or exaggeration: seven feet tall, seven samurai, seven deadly sins, seven leagues." "Uh-huh, Dave, and a number of instances or things, you know, that a human mind can grasp, barely, unlike, say eleven."

Disguised dialogue As you know, Bobs, try to hide explanation or summary blocks using colloquy, echo, non sequitur, and squabble conversation, four fundamental, otherwise dynamic dialogue methods. "Where did you find the murder weapon, Detective?" "I didn't, Mr. Reporter." "Who did?" "Citizen Dumpster Diver did." "Was the weapon a knife, Detective, as Madam Medical Examiner said in the autopsy report?" "Knife-like, I suppose, Reporter. It was one blade of a sewing scissors."

A signal of a disguised As you know, Bob, conversation in written word is portraying lengthy and quick back-and-forth exchanges lacking or expressing limited dramatic context and texture, like showing other descriptions, sensations, actions, and emotions, as not given above in the second example.

A treatment for As you know, Bob, dialogue is to show and fully develop the circumstances in the moment and location of their discovery. Instead of a Dumpster diver finding the knife off scene, the detective would be present and maybe the reporter when the Dumpster diver found the scissor blade. If the reporter is the viewpoint character, direct description of the action shows the scissor's discovery from the reporter's perspective. An investigative unit searches the alley outside the murder scene's building. Patrol officers corral street people for interrogation. Blood on one's clothing results in him or her revealing the scissor blade, and so on, in scene.

On the other hand, for the sake of pacing, when a more fully developed scene and perhaps limited dramatic situation slows down the action, when the circumstances are transitional toward a more dramatic impact scene, or when a dramatic irony emerges, for examples, sometimes a brief explanation and summary block will serve.

Managing "exposition" and "info-dump" mischiefs, for me, was a matter of unraveling their meanings for a writer. Exposition meant introductions before the term became a shorthand word for dull summary and explanation. Giving backstory that first introduced circumstances before developing a narrative's dramatic influences led to how the term exposition is now used.

The ancients first gave the pedigree, their backstory, of the personas of a drama as exposition introductions, the begats from the first issue of the gods forward. Not giving the agonistes' (characters) lineage first might draw the audience's ire and hurled stones for the blaspheme. Yet long and drawn out summaries of pedigrees bored audiences, so they arrived fashionably late. So dramatists strove to encourage audiences to arrive early so they didn't disturb the performance mid scene. Dramatists ever more cleverly dramatized exposition openings, until sometime mid nineteenth century, experimental dramas began to dispense with them altogether, instead, artfully interleaving introduction details while the action unfolds.

"Info-dump" arose as a term from workshop critique, again, a shorthand term, for commenting on long, dull summary and explanation blocks. Other devices came into being that more artfully give essential information. False document interludes is one artful example. Epigraph excerpts from fictional documents, a fictional encyclopedia, for example, open the Dune saga's novel chapters.

If introducing a villain or the early formative events of a protagonist in an opening is critical to setting up the action, a brief dramatic prelude chapter or section in scene will serve instead of a backstory summation and explanation or "info-dump."

[ April 07, 2013, 03:16 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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History
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Thank you, extrinsic.
All great stuff as usual.
I don't see any 1st 13 by you anywhere and would love to read one of your stories. Of course if you are a pro and "slumming it" [Wink] perhaps I have, but you've provided no examples here.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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Grumpy old guy
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Yes, I've experienced the, 'As you know, Bob' explanation in a lot of beginning writer's work and always tried and point out its shortcomings. It's almost, if not worse than, the deus ex machina contrivances I've seen used. In fact, I used such a device in the second story I wrote and as the story reached its climax the inconsistencies caused by such a device in the plot made me realise I would have to re-evaluate the story.

Showing is easy once you think about whose POV you are writing in. That character is the person who sees and feels what's going on. It's okay to tell that POV character information they may not have witnessed, but if they're in a position to 'see' the scene unfolding, then showing that scene through their eyes and sensations is the only option.

I think far too many people do not anchor themselves sufficiently in the POV character's frame of reference, and so, loose sight of what must be shown and what can be told.

Phil.

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rcmann
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quote:
Originally posted by Grumpy old guy:

Showing is easy once you think about whose POV you are writing in. That character is the person who sees and feels what's going on. It's okay to tell that POV character information they may not have witnessed, but if they're in a position to 'see' the scene unfolding, then showing that scene through their eyes and sensations is the only option.

I think far too many people do not anchor themselves sufficiently in the POV character's frame of reference, and so, loose sight of what must be shown and what can be told.

Phil.

Yes! Exactly!
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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by History:
Thank you, extrinsic.
All great stuff as usual.
I don't see any 1st 13 by you anywhere and would love to read one of your stories. Of course if you are a pro and "slumming it" [Wink] perhaps I have, but you've provided no examples here.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

You're welcome, History.

A few years back I posted a couple unpolished thirteen lines excerpts. My diction and organization and content and writing skills at the time didn't suit the form nor the audience. Subsequent revised drafts of those completed narratives tried on other audiences fared well.

I'm considering drafting and posting a purpose-written excerpt that fits the thirteen-lines format and audience. In the interim, I'm busy finishing up galley proofs for a short story collection that will publish later this spring. The collection will publish online under my real name. Privacy and other concerns prevent me from posting a link to the collection here.

I strongly believe the hard bright line between artful self-promotion and unseemly gloating runs where singing my own praises aloud robs an audience of doing so. I will know I'm successful when audiences generate word-of-mouth buzz about my work without prompting from me. Res ipsa loquitor, the thing speaks for itself.

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Grumpy old guy:
Showing is easy once you think about whose POV you are writing in. That character is the person who sees and feels what's going on. It's okay to tell that POV character information they may not have witnessed, but if they're in a position to 'see' the scene unfolding, then showing that scene through their eyes and sensations is the only option.

Phil.

What about recasting preliminary draft scenes so the viewpoint character is present for dramatic events? C.J. Cherryh labels this principle K.I.T., for Keep In Touch with a viewpoint character, not per se a protagonist, but definitely a subjective character who a narrator or objective character observes like a camera's objective or lens.

Subjective character: character observed; objective character: observing character; and third, influence character: character who influences subjective character. A first-person narrator theoretically may be all four personas to degrees and often is in character-emphasis narratives.

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MattLeo
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I think "show not tell" is a poor framing of the issue. I think mainly the point is to engage both the reader's inductive and deductive reasoning.

For example, I could *tell* you that Mrs. Smith is a self-centered, or I could illustrate that with the following exchange:

quote:
Mrs. Smith intercepted the asparagus plate, cut the tips off and dumped them onto her plate.

I couldn't believe my eyes. "What are you doing?" I demanded.

"Oh, don't you know dear?" she said. "Those are the best part."

When you read "Mrs. Smith was self-centered," your deductive faculties set up certain expectations which hopefully are met by subsequent events; but while that statement gets a certain expectation-setting job done, it's very limited. C.S. Lewis once defined literary value is the property of rewarding repeated readings, and if you read "Mrs. Smith was self-centered" fifty times in a row you'd get exactly the same thing out of it. Chances are different people get more or less the same thing out of it; and if they don't, that won't necessarily come out unless action (showing) in the rest of the story brings out their differences in interpretation.

The illustrative incident, on the other hand, is open-ended. Readers get more from the writer's unconscious picture of Mrs. Smith than what he intends (to illustrate her self-centeredness); some readers might focus instead on her social obliviousness. An illustrative incident usually carries greater implicit possibilities, and readers will surprise you with observations that as the writer you immediately know are true, but which never occurred to you.

One thing that occurs to me is that this dichotomy between setting expectations and creating impressions can be exploited, for example to establish an unreliable narrator:

quote:
Mrs. Smith is so self-centered.

Just the other day she came up to me and hit me up for money. "Can I count on you for a donation this year to the Children's Relief Fund?" she asked.

Every year she shakes me down for that charity of hers, even though she knows I'm always short fo cash. This year I'm saving up for a larger motor for my cigarette boat.

Here, thought the narrator is *telling* you things, he's revealing more than he intends -- that *shows* you what he is really like. It's telling on one level and showing on another.
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extrinsic
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"Show, don't tell" is a noble writing principle, misused as a shorthand expression for when a scene's dramatic import is underrealized. Realizing a scene's full drama easily is challenging. However, the best practice term is show and tell, like in grade school student classroom presentations. Much is taught and learned in grammar school for writers' benefits. After all, fiction writing is advanced make believe.

Those examples of "Mrs. Smith is so self-centered" also illustrate how a tell in one scenario might be a show in another. While the sentence tell directly states to readers a perhaps narrator viewpoint, the show sentence might be the objective character's viewpoint thought about Mrs. Smith, hence closer narrative distance in the moment, location, and circumstances of the dramatic action, the thought anyway.

Closer yet narrative distance and stronger show would portray the exchange between Mrs. Smith and the objective character in the moment, location, and circumstances of the event, rather than a few days after the event as a recollection.

I was just about to pose an explication of the principles for showing and narrative distance using the previous "Joel sat on the bench" example. This Mrs. Smith example demonstrates the principles to a degree.

I may yet, showing how I would expand on the Joel, sat, bench so it transcends its insignificance, meaning neither Joel nor the bench are significant, signal nothing special, and "sat" also being insignificant from vaguely expressing time. Who is Joel? Where is the bench; is anything special about the bench? When did Joel sit on the bench? What does Joel sitting on the bench mean dramatically? Why? How?

As part of the explication, I might go into explaining what drama is. As Gustav Freytag explains (tells) and shows at length in Techniques of the Drama's chapter "What is Drama," summarized, a passionate competition, a clash of wills, contending forces in opposition, be they internal or external or both.

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LDWriter2
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Since I seem to have this problem more than most I should have responded before now.

Nice discussion here and helpful too.

Now I'm trying to get in every five human senses every two pages. Dean Wesley Smith says that is how he takes care of the Show problem. He advised me to do it that way.

Sometimes when I do try for Show I think I end up somewhere half and half. I change a sentence with all Tell and it still seems to be too much Tell even I see it as a lot closer than the original.

David says that we do need some Tell, I believe that has been covered already, so not to try to make it all Tell.

I think the Masters were more narrative or had more Tell in their writings which might be part of my problem since I read many of them as a kid.

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rcmann
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quote:
Originally posted by LDWriter2:
Since I seem to have this problem more than most I should have responded before now.

Nice discussion here and helpful too.

Now I'm trying to get in every five human senses every two pages. Dean Wesley Smith says that is how he takes care of the Show problem. He advised me to do it that way.

Sometimes when I do try for Show I think I end up somewhere half and half. I change a sentence with all Tell and it still seems to be too much Tell even I see it as a lot closer than the original.

David says that we do need some Tell, I believe that has been covered already, so not to try to make it all Tell.

I think the Masters were more narrative or had more Tell in their writings which might be part of my problem since I read many of them as a kid.

With respect, just because DWS, or some other writer does it a particular way doesn't mean it's the proper way for you. As you finished your post by mentioning, fashions change. There is no such thing as a right way or a wrong way to tell a story. There is only effective and ineffective.

ALL writing is telling. What we need to do is TELL the story in such as way as to grip the reader's interest. Sometimes that means invoking an emotional reaction, sometimes it means just ramming in a piece of necessary information and going on with our story, and sometimes it means including a piece of narrative description.

There is no wrong way. Certainly the old masters were not wrong when they spent time on extended descriptions. Remember Treasure Island? Recall the description that RLS made of the lagoon, and a how it looked to the boy when he was in the crow's nest? Could any photograph be clearer?

It's all telling. Sometimes you tell it in First Person, sometimes in Second, sometimes in Third. Sometimes in all knowing god mode, sometimes in confused child whimpering in the dark mode. But you are telling, any way you approach it.

BTW, I certainly respect Mr. Smith's established record as a successful writer in terms of making money. But honestly? I don't enjoy his stories very much. Just my personal opinion.

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Brendan
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extrinsic said:
quote:
I strongly believe the hard bright line between artful self-promotion and unseemly gloating runs where singing my own praises aloud robs an audience of doing so. I will know I'm successful when audiences generate word-of-mouth buzz about my work without prompting from me. Res ipsa loquitor, the thing speaks for itself.
I think History was politely requesting you to show your mastery of technique rather than tell us. Using your own examples within a discourse such as above may not be the most appropriate forum, as you point out above. But there is an appropriate forum to demonstrate any such mastery - the challenges.

The primary purposes of the challenge forum is to practise, particularly around the constraints set by particular challenges, and then to learn what did and didn't work for a range of people - more than would usually give feedback on F&F. But a secondary purpose is to spar with fellow practitioners, and by doing so earn their respect, whether that be as a master of technique and/or as a learner of technique. As you would not doubt know, respect of an analyst is very different to the respect of a practitioner, but being respected as a practitioner will enhance the respect received for the ability to analyse. Counter-wise, the avoidance of testing oneself against one's peers only adds to the feeling that one is being lectured at by someone who believes themself superior when they are simply being analytical. (Now, I have read enough of your posts that I genuinely believe that superiority is NOT your motivation, and so wish that you continue to avoid that perception.)

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extrinsic
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Brendan,

I understand what History wrote. I feel I responded sufficiently and clearly to his questions and added a reason why my work will not be untimely nor injudiciously promoted or publicized by me.

I don't think you understood my post, nor appreciate private reasons why I don't participate as you suggest. One of many of which, I'm finishing up a formal and grueling course of study that's taken ten years to complete and has consumed a great deal of my time and creative energies during that time.

Mission accomplished, in one more month, a mission I set out upon half a century ago, with numerous detours delaying the way, and knuckled down to twenty years ago, and really, really got serious about ten years ago. Next month, then I'm gone on to another leg of my Poet's Journey. I'm gonna knock some hardballs into the infield, maybe some into the outfield, might even be a few over the fence, and if I'm really on my game, into orbit.

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Grumpy old guy
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I understand your reasons, extrinsic, and I do appreciate the time you devote to 'instructing' some of us in the finer points of the craft of writing.

As I have said before, after chewing over your posts a few times, I have learned a great deal about craft and mechanical style. The trick now, of course, is can I put it into practice?

Btw, I'm blatantly self-promoting just in case I decide to go the self-publish route. I'm so blatant I sicken myself; and yet I'm as shy as a church mouse compared to some self-promotion I've seen.

Phil.

PS. I solemnly promised myself not to emulate Faust.

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Grumpy old guy
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LD, why place limitations on your own writing. While DWS may be a successfully published author, that doesn't mean he knows anything about writing, just marketing.

Having a mantra like, "I must include all 5 senses in every two pages." focuses your mind on a mechanical task and not on a creative one. If you had a character in a situation where they're hiding and terrified, and all they can hear is the beating of their own heart, and the tension is rising; would you pause to add the sense of smell, breaking the suspense?

Adding 'colour and movement' to prose is an exercise best done in draft twelve, not the first--or even second.

Just my take on it.

Phil.

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Brendan
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Careful Grumpy. While I agree with your sentiments on focusing on the creative task, I think it goes too far to state that DWS's success "doesn't mean he knows anything about writing". Apart from public success, he has won a Writers of the Future Award and been nominated for the Bram Stoker award and the Nebula Award throughout his career - these last two being peer based awards. And he is rapidly gaining a reputation as being one of the best teachers of writing (and writing marketing). These suggest that he knows a lot about writing.
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Grumpy old guy
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Brendan, one man's sage is another man's fool. I am not disparaging DWS, simply stating a truism. His style of writing may not be my style of writing and nominations for peer based awards are meaningless. I've read Bram Stoker and Nebular award winning authors stories. Some are above par, most are mediocre.

I prefer to think for myself, not follow the mob. And again, I will reiterate, being published and successful, does not impart wisdom, simply hard earned cash. It would seem that you are arguing that because he is published and acclaimed by his peers, he is the font of all wisdom. If that were true, Barbara Cartland would be the type of writer we should all aspire to be.

I have read numerous posts on DWS's blog and find most to be self-serving and full of trite platitudes. I have chosen to eschew his advice and look elsewhere for information with more depth and veritas.

I'm afraid we must agree to disagree.

Phil.

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extrinsic
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LDwriter2,

Writing the five senses is sensation context and texture: visual, aural, olfactory, tactile, and gustatory. The sixth sense of writing is emotional feeling. I feel that feeling is the most important of the senses. The sight of a sunset may feel soothing or terrifying, for example. Putting feeling into words is a challenge.

I don't limit my writing of content and organization of senses to every two pages; I limit it to each scene, any one of which could be ten or fewer words or four thousand or more. I also don't limit a scene's content and organization to senses; preferring to include credible, logical, and artful flow as indicated of Description, Introspection Action, Narration, Emotion, Sensation, Summarization, Exposition, Conversation, Recollection, Explanation, Transition; Setting, Plot, Idea, Character, Event, Discourse; Antagonism, Causation, and Tension: DIANE'S SECRET SPICED ACT.

No one writing voice suits every story, reader, writer, or literary era. The old masters did, indeed, write in a strong narrator voice. The strongest model they had from which to emulate and by decree of censors and moral auditors was scriptures, which are written in almost pure narrator voice and tell. Mid nineteenth century, the prescriptive blinders came off, though. Early twentieth century technological and social innovations put literature within reach of everyone. Consequently, the varieties of topics and subjects and voices expanded exponentially.

One important to me feature for appealing to an audience I learned from stories I've recently written is suiting audience comfort zones demands a degree of accessible narrator voice; in other words, a degree of open narrative distance. Because many if not all have read some of the old masters and scriptures, reading ease and comprehension is aided by a degree of narrator voice.

Variety is the SPICE-D, especially D for discourse, of writing, in all things, as well as life. Varying narrative distance from strong narrator voice to strong character voice and any and all blends between suits audiences' sensibilities and sentiments and comfort zones. And not the least worthy of consideration, short prose demands a greater degree of narrator voice, summarization and explanantion, and tell, than long prose. The old printer's adage and recent filmmaking adage, Cut to the chase, speaks to why readers want some summarization and explanation telling, because reading time budgets may be brief: two thousand words, fifteen minutes; four thousand words, thirty minutes; sixty thousand words, six hours.

[ April 08, 2013, 10:56 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Grumpy old guy:
As I have said before, after chewing over your posts a few times, I have learned a great deal about craft and mechanical style. The trick now, of course, is can I put it into practice?

Btw, I'm blatantly self-promoting just in case I decide to go the self-publish route. I'm so blatant I sicken myself; and yet I'm as shy as a church mouse compared to some self-promotion I've seen.

Phil.

PS. I solemnly promised myself not to emulate Faust.

I believe you can and will put what you learn into practice, whether you learn from others or me, or every source you can bring to bear. The learning process begins with desire or a want wanting satisfaction, yes, a dramatic complication, spreads into an exploration at the limits of reach, turns back on the journey into trial and error processes of application practice, not the least of which is intution empowered by what's been learned the hard way, that becomes a fully developed and realized product and products' outcomes. Gosh, sounds like a plot. You have shared that that's your process.

Ulitmately, I believe your success will rely on what you learn from yourself though. You will pick up a few pointers here and there, but in order to stand up from the fray, you'll learn on your own what works for you that also appeals to your audiences.

On reason I don't need to vigorously self-promote is I have both a stong understanding of marketing principles and publishing culture and a demanding product expectation.

[ April 08, 2013, 11:07 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Brendan:
And he [Dean Wesley Smith] is rapidly gaining a reputation as being one of the best teachers of writing (and writing marketing). These suggest that he knows a lot about writing.

The best teacher of writing is the student teaching the self. The best teacher of writing of all time is the first one, the first one a writer experiences, probably Mom. My best writing mentor is Aristotle. Though I've read hundreds of writers writing about writing and been mentored by hundreds and thousands of in-person and writers and other language arts writers on writing. Limiting oneself to one guru is a disciple following a well-worn path. If that's your schtick, that's your schtick. It's not mine. I disagree on at least a few points with every one of the poetics rhetorics I've studied.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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The old saying that goes something like, "those who can, do; those who can't, teach" ignores the very real possibility that "those who can" may not be able to teach because they don't really know how they "do" and because teaching requires a very different skill set from doing.

Learn from whomever you can, and apply what you learn as it fits with how you "do." Share what you learn, and you may actually become better at understanding how you "do." That is one of the basic premises of how this workshop is intended to work.

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MattLeo
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I think there is no reason to challenge anyone who is making a positive contribution. And remember Confucius, who said, "Do not impose upon others what you do not wish for yourself." Personally, I do pretty well with novel openings -- my shortcomings as a writer crop up later in the story. But even so, I wouldn't want to be judged on a thirteen line sample of an opening I'd submitted for *feedback*

If someone submits a sample for feedback, it is wisest to confine oneself to giving feedback. Avoid passing judgment on the writer unless he asks for that. Even then I'd take care, in fact I'd probably keep my trap shut.

Now as for usefulness, I think this is one of the most interesting discussions we've had here in a long time. "Show not tell" is probably the most widely accepted piece of advice given to writers. Everyone treats the rule's meaning as self-evident, but I don't think it is. Inquiry into the meaning of the apparently self-evident always leads to esoteric-sounding territory. Try proving 1 + 1 = 2 to someone who doesn't like abstract math.

The temptation is to shy away from the issue, to adopt a simple concrete proxy rule like "use all five senses every two pages." That happens to be a wise rule of thumb, but wise for reasons utterly distinct from "show not tell." Some readers need stimulation of their sensory imagination, and most readers find a story of unremitting dialog or monologue to be wearying. At best such a rule might jog you out of writing autopilot mode and remind you you've got other narrative matters to attend to.

"Show not tell" is about how you get a point across.

Let's say you're writing an space epic about an explorer. He's brave and intelligent, but sometimes a bit hasty. He has a tragic past. Now: how does the five senses rule, useful though it may be, help you get those points across? It's beside the point we're discussing here. Telling is simply handing a reader facts, like this: "Captain Smith was a brave and intelligent space explorer, although sometimes a bit hasty. He had a tragic past."

Showing is leading a reader to a conclusion rather than handing it to him. You show Captain Smith in action, and eventually a thought like this passes through the reader's mind "Hey, this Captain Smith is sure brave and resourceful, but he seems to jump the gun in certain situations. I wonder that's because of some kind of terrible thing that happened to him that affects his judgment in those situations?"

Think back to your school days. What was more rewarding, being told a fact to memorize, or discovering it for yourself?

Even if you tell a reader a certain fact, you still ought to present evidence supporting it. Suppose you say "Captain Smith was young, but audacious and brilliant." Find, but pretty soon you'd better show Smith doing something audacious and brilliant, otherwise a reader may choose to form his own own opinions (e.g. "this writer is lazy and boring.")

Now, as extrinsic pointed out right at the very top of this discussion, all "showing" is done by "telling". It's an apples vs. oranges comparison. Telling is the act of putting facts on a page. Showing is an effect created by clever choosing of those facts, so that the reader's imagination takes the bit and runs where you want it to go.

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Brendan
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MattLeo said:
quote:
I think there is no reason to challenge anyone who is making a positive contribution.
I have three points to make about this – one that is about the generality of this statement, and a couple about the specifics that led to this statement.

Firstly, I respectfully disagree – I think there are valid reasons to challenge even those people that make positive contributions. On this forum there is the criterion that it has to be done civilly, which I personally think is critical towards making the conversations here so interesting and in-depth. I think that it is entirely valid to ask even a significant contributor “Do you practice what you preach? Is there a way that we can validate that?”

Secondly, please do not think that History and I were ganging up on extrinsic. Dr. Bob’s motivation was entirely curiosity. I was the one to put the “challenge” layer over the discussion. Here is why.

I interpreted the following from extrinsic’s reply to History. “I (extrinsic) tried this years ago but came to the conclusion that the audience here doesn’t suit my stories. I may be willing to draft some purpose-written examples, but believe that edges into the territory of self-promotion for which I have some strong beliefs about. Privacy is important to me and I do not want to lose my anonymity. Therefore I won’t be able to comply to your request.” (Extrinsic, is this a reasonable summary?)

Now each of these do have some merit. But each of these are also arguable in their merit. (For example, the audience has changed over the years, so who is to know that the audience won’t suite without trial?) I have few qualms about him holding these concerns. But I also saw that this didn’t cover all options available to extrinsic if he wanted to address the question of practising what is preached. The challenge forum was a potential way through this dilemma because (a) it provides a forum that can validate the ability to practise what is preached, in part because it is a forum purposed for practise, (b) the anonymity issues are the same as posting to this forum, (c) the audience that gives feedback is generally larger than F&F, so there is a greater chance that least one is on the same wavelength, and (d) the constraints tend to force people outside their comfort zone and that is understood by the audience (thus my point about “respect as a learner of technique”), so there is no real loss of face involved with trying something different. This last point even goes some way towards addressing sensitivity to criticism as the underlying reason, but this was not identified by extrinsic as an issue.

The issue that this doesn’t fully address is the idea that entering a challenge is a form of self-promotion. Well, I suppose it is. In the same way that writing a post in this forum is a form of self-promotion, only in this forum such a post is promoting one’s ability to write analysis rather than practise the artform of writing. It is not as direct as, say, referencing one’s own experience and formal training, but it is still a demonstration that may be construed as self-promoting. However, it can also be argued that the anonymity available, which extrinsic holds dear, counters this in both forums as there is no direct link back to his real name.

Which brings me to my third point. The ability to do is different to the ability to analyse. As KDW pointed out, one can “do” without being able to analyse what one “does”. And visa versa, one can analyse and understand theory without being able to put it into practise. However, respect held for someone that can do both is typically higher than toward one that can only do one or the other. Especially if one, an amazing ability for analysis, puts the person in the position of a teacher, which implies a difference in power and a potential default position of superiority (whether intended or not). Therefore, it is entirely reasonable to be curious about how, or even whether, one can practise what one preaches.
So yes, in a sense I did propose a challenge, prompted from my own and other’s curiosity, that extrinsic seems to have declined. But I also made it clear that avoidance of meeting that challenge comes with a risk of being perceived as having a superior attitude, even if that attitude doesn’t really exist. Extrinsic is still well within his rights to decline the challenge, just as I am able, within the spirit of the forum, to extend (and now defend) the challenge. If he does decline, I simply conclude that his ability to practise what has been preached is unvalidated, which is different from being invalid. But it will color how I read his posts, simply by recognising they are limited to his obvious strength in analysis.

PS: Please do not take this as a request to stop analysing and posting here, extrinsic. You have an audience, myself included, that does appreciate what you analyse.

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LDWriter2
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quote:
Originally posted by Grumpy old guy:
LD, why place limitations on your own writing. While DWS may be a successfully published author, that doesn't mean he knows anything about writing, just marketing.

Having a mantra like, "I must include all 5 senses in every two pages." focuses your mind on a mechanical task and not on a creative one. If you had a character in a situation where they're hiding and terrified, and all they can hear is the beating of their own heart, and the tension is rising; would you pause to add the sense of smell, breaking the suspense?

Adding 'colour and movement' to prose is an exercise best done in draft twelve, not the first--or even second.

Just my take on it.

Phil.

Obviously he doesn't know everything...I doubt Isaac Asimov knew everything and when he was alive he was considered the Top tier of SF writing. Since then he seems to have slipped a couple of levels but still I would read what he would say if he had said anything about the how-tos of writing.

But Dean has the same problem I have, Show. He beat it with the five senses every two pages thing. Working on Show wasn't getting me very far so I asked him about it. He told me. But I try to do both, which might be my problem, so I still work on Show yet also work on getting the five senses in. I'm not sure if it's every two pages, I usually don't count but it's close.

BTW Dean does three revisions, two deal with copy editing not story revisions. His wife does the same I believe with revisions and the senses. And she could very well be a better write than he is. In fact she has a segment on writing in WotF 28 where she explains some of this.

And to answer your question about the guy hiding. I may not put smell in that moment but maybe just before they hid or were trying to find a place to hide. But smell can be used to raise the tension.

Something like "What? Oh...No! That rotting flesh stench, I thought I lost that zombie but he's coming....

So bad-he's just outside my tiny briar...No!"

I've read stories where smell is used like that.

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Brendan
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Grumpy:
quote:
And again, I will reiterate, being published and successful, does not impart wisdom, simply hard earned cash. It would seem that you are arguing that because he is published and acclaimed by his peers, he is the font of all wisdom.
extrinsic:
quote:
Limiting oneself to one guru is a disciple following a well-worn path. If that's your schtick, that's your schtick. It's not mine.
Both of these are in posts that reference my post above. I feel a bit strawmanned by this.

My argument was against throwing out the perspective of a successful writer simply because he is successful. To be successful as a writer, one needs to write sufficiently well to get past a stringent set of gatekeepers, something that only a small percentage actually achieve. To be successful as a teacher of writing, one needs to understand both people and the writing process enough to help other people through that same set of gatekeepers. These measures are meaningful, regardless of ones opinion on the quality of DWS's stories.

My argument did NOT go to the opposite extreme and suggest he was "the font of all knowledge" or my "guru". I didn't get close to implying that. Further, I wouldn't even consider him to be anywhere near the most influential person in my journey in learning to write - some here on this forum have been far more influential. But he is one I am open to learning more from.

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LDWriter2
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Some of this has probably been stated by others first but I wanted to say it too.

quote:
Originally posted by rcmann:
With respect, just because DWS, or some other writer does it a particular way doesn't mean it's the proper way for you. As you finished your post by mentioning, fashions change. There is no such thing as a right way or a wrong way to tell a story. There is only effective and ineffective.

ALL writing is telling. What we need to do is TELL the story in such as way as to grip the reader's interest. Sometimes that means invoking an emotional reaction, sometimes it means just ramming in a piece of necessary information and going on with our story, and sometimes it means including a piece of narrative description.

There is no wrong way. Certainly the old masters were not wrong when they spent time on extended descriptions. Remember Treasure Island? Recall the description that RLS made of the lagoon, and a how it looked to the boy when he was in the crow's nest? Could any photograph be clearer?

It's all telling. Sometimes you tell it in First Person, sometimes in Second, sometimes in Third. Sometimes in all knowing god mode, sometimes in confused child whimpering in the dark mode. But you are telling, any way you approach it.

BTW, I certainly respect Mr. Smith's established record as a successful writer in terms of making money. But honestly? I don't enjoy his stories very much. Just my personal opinion. [/QB]

I have partially responded to this already. But it seems to me and other writers like David Farland support the need to use sensory description, that it does add to the tale. It tends to draw the reader in better. But yeah, you don't need every sense in every scene. Dean's idea is every two pages not every scene. Some scenes are much longer than two pages but not all go that long.


BTW I believe he got that from someone else but I forget who.

And of course some narrativity is okay. David deals with that too. Not every scene needs to be described completely, that is part of learning to write.

And we all need to learn our way of writing but experimenting with what works for many writers is one way we learn.

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rcmann
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I didn't mean to sound like a know it all. Just blathering my opinion.
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LDWriter2
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quote:
Originally posted by Grumpy old guy:
Y
Showing is easy once you think about whose POV you are writing in. That character is the person who sees and feels what's going on. It's okay to tell that POV character information they may not have witnessed, but if they're in a position to 'see' the scene unfolding, then showing that scene through their eyes and sensations is the only option.

Phil.

Going way back to this but I never responded to it.

I think that is what the five sense thing is all about. With sight you have to put in how the MC sees something. Just not what is there the reader needs to know about.

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MattLeo
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quote:
But I also made it clear that avoidance of meeting that challenge comes with a risk of being perceived as having a superior attitude, even if that attitude doesn’t really exist.
Which is why I think it best not to issue such a challenge, and in the unfortunate event that one is issued that it is best to forget about it quickly.

I should perhaps amend my statement to this: I see little good coming from issuing a challenge to someone to prove his skill *here*, and much potential for mischief if such a challenge is accepted.

The principle difficulty is that your curiosity can't reasonably be answered by a 13 line excerpt. This is not to say that the 13 line test isn't useful; it's often remarkably revealing; but one thing it can't tell you is whether an author is any good. For that you have to read the entire work.

One thing I try to do is test common beliefs about writing against my personal library. Going through my personal library, there are many great books, but in very few cases is the greatness of a book apparent in the first thirteen lines. The value of the thirteen line exercise is that it shows certain habitual weaknesses. It seldom tells you about strengths, and even then only gives an incomplete picture. Good writing isn't just about avoiding technical mistakes.

It's sensible, in my opinion, to decline a challenge that comes with unreasonable expectations. If you want to know whether somebody here is any good, you'll have to do the work and offer to do a critique of an entire work. And you're not entitled to form an opinion (in my opinion) about that writer because he declines. You have no right to demand anyone show you his unpublished work.

So where does that leave you with respect to opinions about writing expressed here? Same as with *any advice: you have to take it with a grain of salt. Compare advice from established writers and you'll quickly see that they contradict each other. Take the issue of rewriting. Dean Wesley Smith and Robert Heinlein advise against it. Earnest Hemingway and Madeleine L'Engle advise doing lots of it. Which side is right?

Both sides are right, because good advice isn't about stating universal and eternal truths. Good advice is about stating what the person listening needs to hear. How many times have we seen authors endlessly reworking a manuscript with little or no improvement? That person needs to listen to DWS. How many times have you seen a writer turn out one sloppy story after another with little or no improvement? That writer needs to listen to Papa Hemingway.

I think Jane Austen said it best (although she may have cribbed it from Milton): Everything nourishes what is strong already. Take what is useful from what people say here and refrain from reading too much into it.

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Grumpy old guy
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Brendan, I didn't mean to make some snide suggestion that you considered him the font of all wisdom, it was simply a turn of phrase. If I offended you, I apologise.

I have looked into DWS's advice, blog posts etc and decided early on that his style and suggestions were not something I'd agree with enough to actively think about them, let alone incorporate them.

One thing that I have learned recently, and it supports MattLeo's thoughts above somewhat, is that I need to find out what works for me as a writer. Not someone else's idea of how it should be done, I've tried that and it doesn't work for me. However, it may work for you.

Phil.

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extrinsic
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Ethos is the rhetorical appeal on point as to whether any given writer writing about writing ought to be ignored or followed or selectively sampled. Ethos is appeals to and from credibility, along with logos: logic; pathos: emotion; kairos; the opportune moment; and decorum: suiting one's words to the subject matter, to each other, the occasion, and the audience, these are rhetorical appeals.

Dean Wesley Smith, David Farland, Orson Scot Card, C.J. Cherryh, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Anne McCaffrey, Ray Bradbury, Donald Maass, Dwight Swain, Noah Lukeman, Jack Bickham, Jerome Sterne, John Gardner, Robin Lakoff, Percy Lubbock, Seymour Chatman, Ernest Hemingway, Anton Chekhov, Stephen Toulmin, Harold Pinter, Edgar Allen Poe, Herman Melville, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Gustav Freytag, Virgil, Aristotle, Sophocles, Plato, Socrates, some fiction writers, some agents, some dramatists, some critics, some poets, some philosophers, some rhetoricians, some linguists, each has written about writing and tens of thousands more have as well. Their credibility as rhetoricians emerged because of what they wrote about writing and that their writing about writing expressed new knowledge from close analysis of their own and others' creative writing. Res ipsa loquitor in either case. Not who they are, but that their words spoke for themselves. They joined the conversation that writing is and contributed meaningfully. Their creative writing, in the cases of those who did, established a different credibility from their rhetoric writing. Though their prose rhetoric and linguistic rhetoric overlap, the differences are night and day.

To hold anyone to a lesser standard as somehow unworthy of sharing what he or she has learned for the greater good of all is to deny that that individual can learn, can learn by sharing, and is some way a lesser being than any other participant in the human conversation by dint of expressing an opinion from a supposed inferior position.

Very little I've posted on these forums is new knowledge. I will recast what I've learned from others, more than paraphrase: reimagine what I learn in order to strengthen my understanding of the principles I write about.

When I do, and I have, develop new knowledge, sharing it, I'm trying it out before a usually discerning peer review group, developing the principle's finer points through discussion, and sharing so that others may make it their own in their own unique way, as I do with both others' and mine own material.

Whether my ethos carries an assertion or proposal over objections, disagreement, or emotional reactions matters little to me in a final analysis, because differences of opinion are at least causes for reconsideration and strengthening my claims; because they are rejections of ancient, tried and true, noble principles valid before and still valid today and for the foreseeable future and as widely accepted, if sometimes misunderstood, as they were when whoever first explicated them. Rejecting them diminishes their noble contributors' contributions to the conversation and everyone's since who has enhanced the principles' understanding and reaffirmed these principles' validity and credibility.

Frankly, I delight when my knowledge is tested, because I might learn more, because I can feel comfortable that what's uniquely mine will remain so, and because I appreciate that variety is the spice of life. Too spicey at times for my liking, but spicey nonetheless.

Modernity: a belief that everything old is worthless and everyting new is valuable, is a many edged sword. We writers today stand on the shoulders of ancestor giants who came before us but were at one time early in their journeys less than us from not having as many giant shoulders to stand upon.

[ April 09, 2013, 03:49 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Brendan
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quote:

But I also made it clear that avoidance of meeting that challenge comes with a risk of being perceived as having a superior attitude, even if that attitude doesn’t really exist.

MattLeo:
quote:
Which is why I think it best not to issue such a challenge, and in the unfortunate event that one is issued that it is best to forget about it quickly.
Except that I already said:
quote:
an amazing ability for analysis, puts the person in the position of a teacher, which implies a difference in power and a potential default position of superiority (whether intended or not).
In other words, the risk is already apparent, and declining a challenge only exacerbates the risk. Accepting the challenge offers a way (by not means guaranteed) of diminishing that risk.

"Forgetting about it quickly" is only sweeping the issue of perception under the carpet, and someone else, someday, will bring it up again. And they are unlikely to be as polite about it as this. It has happened before. In that day, no-one will be able to say "Look over here. I like this. End of story." The element of doubt will remain.

The points about the 13 being insufficient to show greatness, or even good story writing skill, are valid. But that is not the purpose of the challenge. The purpose of accepting a challenge is to be comrades-in-arms, accepting and giving criticism, operating under the artificial limits of the individual challenges, equally and humbly with others, and thus demonstrating a non-superior attitude. That, much more than any "great skill", undermines any accusation of superiority. That, along with the willingness to experiment and learn from mistakes, earns the "respect as a learner of technique". It is of secondary value that it will prove (or otherwise) the ability to apply some of these techniques, but that is of reduced importance within the context of a "learner" model.

I do not "demand" that he show us his work, though I do ask. But I also have pointed out risks which he will need to consider - they carry no threat, veiled or otherwise, from me, personally. If you perceive that, I apologize, I have great respect of extrinsic's knowledge and persistence on this forum.

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Brendan
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Phil, thanks, I appreciate your comment. I was in an argumentative mood, almost belligerent, when I wrote it. I think I reveal more of my heart in the post above this one - but that is on a different topic.
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extrinsic
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Studying folkloristics, I came across the concept of peer pressure as a social method of cautioning, instructing, correcting, and controlling culture group behaviors. I was suprised that folkloristics takes a different approach to the topic than sociology and other social and mental health sciences. Rather than determining whether peer pressue is a social ill or a social strength or its intents are, folkloristics analyzes and interprets peer pressure's motifs, expressions, functions, and meanings.

Fundamentally, peer pressure's social function is to enforce in-group identity conformance. No one individual may stand out above, below, behind, or laterally from the group and remain a member of the group. However, the group's emotional and social healths are enhanced by deviations.

I understand these risks. I also understand peer pressure has historically given rise to tragic outcomes from dangerous precedents. Further, conformance, to a degree, is socially necessary for social beings' social health. However, conformance is the anathema of creativity. Actually, folkloristics has identified that deviance from normative behavior is a direct though cognitively indirect consequence of enforced isolation and alienation from a social group, as is creativity as a means for reconnecting and reintegrating with a social group.

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Grumpy old guy
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No problems, Brendan. We all have our moments of raging against that long dark night of creative angst.

extrinsic, not sure I understand your last post. I'm a non-conformist by nature; we have traffic laws in Australia, but I regard them as advisory only. In over 40 years on them thar roads, I've received two tickets. It's a game I play; catch me if you can, but if I do the crime (usually) I'm happy to pay the fine.

I think the biggest bludgeon peer-groups have is that those on the outside, or being pushed to the outside, feel they a missing out on some 'secret' wisdom. It's a powerful allure and a deterrent. The truth is that a peer-group is a collection of individuals who have forgotten that co-operative association is preferable to coercive, emotional blackmail.

I know what I know, I think what I think and I'm as close to God as I want to be. However, tomorrow any of that may change; in fact it definitely will. We either learn and evolve or we become static and extinct.

Phil.

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Brendan
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It is probably true that conformity to social norms and creativity are difficult bed partners. Many societies have shown that. However, there are some interesting exceptions. England, whose stratified class system, one would expect to have had a low creativity, actually has very high creativity which helped it (ironically) create some leading egalitarian nations around the world (USA, Canada, Australia etc). De Bono believes that the power of one word - eccentric - enabled the generation of creativity without simultaneously creating a threat to the social order. On the other hand, Japan created very different mechanisms, and is both an extremely conformist society and an extremely creative society.

So while conformity is in essence stopping creativity, by the very definition of the word conformity, collaborative creativity not only exists, but can be a stronger and more efficient model towards creative outcomes. (Can be, not always, because of this tug of war between the goals of stability and creative change inherent in any social system.) An interesting podcast on collaborative creativity can be seen here. This is by John Seely Brown, onetime head of PARC, and self confessed "Head of Confusion". (For those that don't know about PARC, if it weren't for PARC, there would unlikely have been a computer revolution - at least, not as we know it. They developed the original proof of concept for such applications like laser printing, windows software and GUI's, micro computers, networked computers, bitmap screens, LCDs, laser discs plus numerous other applications.)

So too in writing, the many different forms of collaboration (from co-writing, to critiquing, to community novels etc.) can result in mediocrity or incredible thrusts of creativity. It all depends on how they manage the interactions.

[ April 09, 2013, 09:31 AM: Message edited by: Brendan ]

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redux
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quote:
His style of writing may not be my style of writing and nominations for peer based awards are meaningless.
I doubt they are meaningless. I am sure nominations are quite flattering to those in the position to receive them.
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MattLeo
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Well, it seems this thread about "show not tell" has gone off the rails, and we're unlikely to make further progress on that topic. But I'll weigh in on a few of the side issues raised.

Advice: I think even the best advice should be taken a starting point for your own personal experiment. It's important to explore the useful scope of that advice before you make it a hard and fast rule for yourself.

Five Senses Rule: My initial reaction to this rule was that it was probably a good idea, but not really about "show not tell". After reflection I think it may have more bearing on "showing" for writers whose stories are more action-oriented than mine.

Dean Wesley Smith: DWS's way of giving writing advice reminds me a bit of Strunk and White's *Elements of Style*, whose popularity is largely due to the reassuring way it has of proposing rules with a breezy air of conviction.

DWS is controversial because of his career choices. This makes people question his advice, which is a case of doing the right thing for the wrong reason. DWS is no doubt worth listening to, but nobody's advice should be believed implicitly.

By the way, I can't ever recall reading a DWS novel, although I probably have at some point. Any suggestions for his best work? I may do a Writer's Book Report on it.

Conduct Online That Might be Construed as Confrontational: George Bernard Shaw once remarked that academic politics was so vicious because the stakes are so low. Imagine what he'd say about blogging. It's so easy for technical discussions to devolve into personal struggles. I think the best policy is to restrict challenges to *on-topic* challenges.

For example note my first post above, in which I give my view on the matter of "showing" vs. "telling". Note how I illustrate that position with several examples. Had I not done so, it would have been reasonable to demand that I back up my assertions with some concrete examples. What would *not* have been reasonable would be to ask me to prove to you I'm a good enough writer to command your respect. That challenge is off-topic.

As to the impressions posters may leave here, it is certainly wise to consider that when posting, but in the end any reaction you have to a post belongs to you. Your feelings are soley your own responsibility. They have to be in a forum like this.

I think cultivating an ability to step back and question your initial reactions is of great value to a writer. Real people talk past each other as much as they talk with each other; until you can get beyond the false certainty of an emotional reaction you won't be able to create believable characters and conflicts.

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Grumpy old guy:
extrinsic, not sure I understand your last post.
Phil.

One meaning I intend is that writing is a folk group: Hatrack is a folk group, with attendant functions, processes, roles, and expressions unique to the group's shared identity as writers, including centrifugal and centripetal forces and esoteric and exoteric influences. In terms of show and tell, folk groups engage in a wide and deep variety of show and tell presentations that enhance and enforce group identity.

How show and tell any given writer uses is unique to an individual writer; however, we writers use the term as one of many motifs, albeit shorthand, for expressing our shared writer identity. The same could be said of a Renaissance scholars' folk group using terms like alterity, mendicant art and architecture, or modernity, for examples.

I can tell you-all I'm a successful writer (editor, publisher, critic, reader too), but showing I'm a successful writer is what you-all deeply desire. Protecting my privacy at this time means more to me than exposing my publishing successes. My ethos is not to me dependent at this time on my kleos, another lesser-known rhetorical appeal related to pedigree, genetic and social standing, and how one's reputation and prestige are perceived publicly therefrom, which, my kleos, is also on point.

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MAP
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
I can tell you-all I'm a successful writer (editor, publisher, critic, reader too), but showing I'm a successful writer is what you-all deeply desire. Protecting my privacy at this time means more to me than exposing my publishing successes. My ethos is not to me dependent at this time on my kleos, another lesser-known rhetorical appeal related to pedigree, genetic and social standing, and how one's reputation and prestige are perceived publicly therefrom, which, my kleos, is also on point.

No offense, but not all of us deeply desire this. Some of us don't care one way or the other. [Smile]

Personally, I don't need any qualifications from anyone here. You either make a good point or you don't, and I don't care if you're Stephen King or have barely squeaked out five sentences in your first story, I give each of your posts equal weight.

If I wanted writing advice from professionals, I would read their blogs or their books on writing (and I have). If I wanted to be lectured to by an academic, I'd take a course on creative writing at the local University, but I don't come here for those things.

I've always seen Hatrack as a study group not a lecture hall. Where we all are on relatively equal footing, and everyone has the right to express their opinions freely. Honestly, I've learned the most here because of that, because this always felt like a safe place for me to express my ideas and philosophies about writing, and getting others' feedback on them has helped me reshape and rebuild those ideas. That to me has always been the value of this forum.

Lately, I've seen the same people posting over and over again, and while many of the discussions have been interesting and sometimes insightful, I wonder why more members aren't apart of the conversation. I think that newer writers may feel intimidated or that they haven't the experience or the credentials to join in. And, no offense Brendan, but your challenge to extrinsic only seems to suggest this, that extrinsic has to prove that he is a good writer before we will take his posts seriously. Maybe that isn't what you meant, but that is how I read it.

I just want to say that no one has to prove anything to me, and I think others here agree with that. If this is your first time here, and you feel intimidated because others seem to have more experience or education or writing skills than you, don't let that hold you back. Feel free to enter the conversation and give your opinion or ask a question and get involved. I believe it will make you a stronger writer. It certainly has helped me.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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What MAP said.

If you don't feel ready to give your opinion, then ask questions.

RULE #1 for questions: There is no such thing as a stupid question.

(There may be questions for which some consider the answer to be obvious, and if that is the case, those who do are invited to ignore the question.)

But, please, don't hesitate to ask a question that you really don't know the answer to.

People around here love to answer questions.

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Foste
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Yeah, what MAP said. One should always strive to improve no matter how good we think we are.

And by and large I am comfortable being me. I like myself. Except on those days when I break out crying in front of the mirror. And eat a lot of ice cream.

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History
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I'm reminded of the father who bought his sons their first bicycles--not just any bicycles, but super Schwinn 5000s: tiger-painted argon welded steel frames, 10-speed gearing, stainless steel chains, spring-enforced leather saddle, with a kickstand, side mirror, carrier, and bell. He took all the pieces out of their cardboard boxes and expounded on the bikes' features over the course of hours while he built them. When he finished, he turned around and discovered the boys were gone. In the distance he heard children laughing. Walking behind his house, he discovered the boys and their friends joyfully riding the cardboard boxes down the hill.
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Reziac
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quote:
Originally posted by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury:

People around here love to answer questions.

The short definition of "writer". [Big Grin]

Hmm... here's a concept, generated by Ex's first post (I haven't read the whole thread yet) and KDW's:

Show is generating questions.
Tell is answering them.

Which causes more interaction?? of and with the reader, writer, character, setting, and plot??

Discuss.

My brain hurts.

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LDWriter2
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quote:
Originally posted by MattLeo:

DWS is controversial because of his career choices. This makes people question his advice, which is a case of doing the right thing for the wrong reason. DWS is no doubt worth listening to, but nobody's advice should be believed implicitly.

By the way, I can't ever recall reading a DWS novel, although I probably have at some point. Any suggestions for his best work? I may do a Writer's Book Report on it.


Two things here.

You could very well have a point with DWS's advice but also he is controversial because he goes against the mainstream at times. Or as he puts it he targets Sacred Cows when it comes to writing and publishing. People don't like it when you go up against their cherish beliefs.

Second: the first book that comes to mind is his Star Trek "Hard Rain". I like it. It's almost two stories at once. Of course there's the Tenth planet series by him and his wife.

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LDWriter2
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:

I can tell you-all I'm a successful writer (editor, publisher, critic, reader too), but showing I'm a successful writer is what you-all deeply desire. Protecting my privacy at this time means more to me than exposing my publishing successes. [/QB]

That is understandable but every time you say something along those lines I get curious.

Wish there some way to research it. [Wink]

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Reziac
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quote:
Originally posted by LDWriter2:

Wish there some way to research it.

There is, and I have, but you'll have to find it for yourself. [Big Grin]
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History
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quote:
Originally posted by LDWriter2:
quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:

I can tell you-all I'm a successful writer (editor, publisher, critic, reader too), but showing I'm a successful writer is what you-all deeply desire. Protecting my privacy at this time means more to me than exposing my publishing successes.

That is understandable but every time you say something along those lines I get curious.

Wish there some way to research it. [Wink] [/QB]

Yes, LD. But extrinsic is stating his concern for privacy (maybe he's Salinger back from the dead! [Wink] )exceeds his concern (or lack thereof) of being seen as the emperor who has no clothes. What we think of him personally he cares not.

It is about "the writing."

His participation on the Forum permits him to share with those of us in the trenches, what knowledge he has gained in his study of the art and craft of writing. His interest in writing, at least as a Hatrack Member, is academic, in contrast to most of our Membership whose interest is to share samples of our work to obtain direct feedback and, in cameraderie, provide it in return. Extrinsic post's on writing are mostly objective, and the rest of us provide mostly subjective critiques.

Whether Extrinsic's knowledge has or has not born fruit and resulted in his ability to write well, be published, and/or receive acclaim as a writer is information he insists he will not share.

Perhaps this is best.

One can then focus merely on the knowledge of the art he shares and judge it solely on any intrinsic value it may possess to help in one's own writing.

Or one can chose not to and follow one's own path, one's own joy.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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History
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quote:
Originally posted by Reziac:
quote:
Originally posted by LDWriter2:

Wish there some way to research it.

There is, and I have, but you'll have to find it for yourself. [Big Grin]
Now that's just being cruel, Reziac. [Wink]
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