Show, Don’t Tell

It’s really too bad I’m not a writer from the last century or so. I read a lot of older books and learned how to write from them, so I’m not aware of the new ‘rules’. For instance, it’s very popular to write from a point of view (first person, I think, though I always get them mixed up) which I find exceptionally uncomfortable, both to write and read. I know, in order to get anything published, I might have to compromise my preferences, but in that case I really don’t look forward to it, and rather, I hope to be the odd person out that writes in the other point of view.

But one of the ‘rules’ of more recent writing is to show someone’s emotion rather than simply say what that emotion is. (instead of: “He was furious” you say: “His face was contorted into a grimace similar to a gargoyle”)

I can certainly understand this rule. Interestingly enough I think I write both showing and telling. Sometimes I find that saying the emotion can give depth to a sentence, especially a sentence where the emphasis is somewhere else and the emotion is only a reaction. I always imagined it as a way of saying what that person was thinking, not as what his thoughts did to his physical appearance. However, as I said, I can understand this rule, and the reasons behind it. Showing an emotion rather than saying what it is might keep the reader in the mood, whereas saying it would be like a wobbly wall, a kind of irritating reminder that you’re only experiencing fiction.

Anyway, I’ve given it a try with a practically random paragraph from my Hadrell’s Region. I’ll go ahead and try it with a few other paragraphs. As I said earlier, I tend to do a bit of both showing and telling an emotion, but I found it surprisingly difficult to rearrange this paragraph. Here it is:

The Original: “The man, without paying attention to this sarcastic remark, pulled out a picture from the file in his hand and gave it to him. Arend looked at the picture without interest, only recognizing the Woman that he’d already seen twice before. The Woman he’d labelled in his mind as Danger.”

Reprised: “The man, without paying attention to this sarcastic remark, pulled out a picture from the file in his hand and gave it to him. The picture was of the Woman, whom he had seen twice before and only knew her as Danger. Arend merely glanced at it and handed it back.”

Okay, so that was actually a very small change, but it was the first in my attempt to write my story with these rules. From what I’ve heard there are a lot of other strange rules. I guess we’ll see what happens.


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