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Author Topic: Proscribed, Prescribed, or Described?
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Writing tips from across the culture abound, many dictate methods, some advise, tells in both cases, some "show," more or less, describe techniques. Writers are no more amenable to being told how to write -- behave, feel, think, believe, yada -- than any other identity category, probably much less so overall.

Dave Farland's latest guest blog writing tip, "The Problem of the 'Told' Story," is more so the proscriptive type, parts are prescriptive, some descriptive, yet the essay in general "tells" not to tell a story and suggests some stories or story sections might be told if those have an artful purpose for "telling." Farland notes that emotional distance is one such function of the "told" narrative whole or parts. Another "show, don't tell" proscription, though, and short on focus and long on mixed and overlapped methodologies without crucial craft distinctions.

Management of emotional distance through narrative method falls more so in aesthetic distance criteria, less so in whether narrative expression "tells"; that is, narrator summarizes, explains, or both; or "shows"; that is, viewpoint persona received reality imitated. Also, novels, long prose generally, more so favor a type of telling that Farland deprecates; that is, narrator narrated narrative, usually third person, though, of late, first person has caught up numerically though not qualitatively to third person. Together, those two features, grammatical person and emotional distance, make for close, remote, or any degree between extremes narrative distance.

Damon Knight's Creating Short Fiction notes that an emotionally detached narrator is the most remote and, by default, first person narrator is the closest emotional distance, when artfully managed and often is not. Farland's essay focuses, as it were, on that emotionally detached narrator type, though, admittedly, Farland's point goes to short fiction for the WotF contest's 17,000 word limitation -- not novels, novellas, or novelettes, where narrator narrated narratives are more common due to multiple viewpoint perspectives: the selective omniscient narrator type. First person, for example, can vary from viewpoint persona's reflected reception's close emotional distance to external narration's remote emotional distance, when the persona explains or summarizes in asides addressed directly to implied or real readers. Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games, for example. Science fiction's overall preference, though, is third person omniscient, close aesthetic distance, limited to one persona, not the narrator.

Narrator identity development is a crucial feature for "narrated" type prose. First person of late and for most of its opus does little narrator identity development, let alone character development, mostly flat and static central characters who are problematized by external forces which they overcome to no great personal growth transformation outcome. Those are by and large victimism tableaus with eventual external proactivism actions.

The "nonnarrated" type prose, per Seymour Chatman, transcends remote distance through selective omniscient attention that develops reader close association to a focal viewpoint persona and selected forays into the received perspectives of auxiliary personas not present with the focal persona.

Actually, that latter, selective omniscient, is the more common and more desired narrative type for long fiction, less common yet still most desired for short fiction of word counts greater than, say, a thousand words or so. Part why that type is less common and more desired, is it is the most challenge to compose, therefore, rarer, which rarity determines appeal, maybe value, too, plus, the appeals of exclusivity -- not exclusion, per se: rareness as exclusivity's distinctions from the mediocrity fray. Whether "told" or "shown," or artful melds of both, then becomes irrelevant, and reader emotional distance becomes close irrespective of narrative method.

How? Describe sensory stimuli without extra lens filters, in the bare essence of those; that is, as a merger -- simultaneous, contemporaneous, or sequential -- of external and internal sensations: visual, aural, tactile, olfactoral, gustatoral, and emotional, especially emotional, plus, perhaps, other sensory perceptions, nociceptional, for one -- pain sensation, any viewpoint persona sensation suited and apt to the action perception and -- and -- response.

Sensation response, then, best practice logic, is timely and natural and necessary reaction to causal stimuli of a magnitude that elicits, provokes, incites either conscious or nonconscious, or both, actually, equal and opposite actions. And of a unity, through an as well intangible moral crisis, suited to a single, complete tangible complication crisis satisfaction action!


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Disgruntled Peony
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Other blog posts Dave has written on the topic seem to agree with your conclusions. I've found this quartet of links to be particularly useful. The first is actually the most recent, but I feel like it leads into the other three rather well.


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