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Author Topic: "Show don't tell". Always good advice?  (Read 9501 times)
Anarkey
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« Reply #40 on: March 05, 2007, 10:47:43 AM »

He was in my Oort Cloud (nice way of putting it); I read some; I'm not so keen to read any more.  I can see what other people see in him and he seems to be a really good influence on other writers, but his magic doesn't work on me.

Thank you, Roney, you make me feel less alone in the universe. 

I read his book Light, because I kept seeing people rave about him and rave about that book in particular (not least of the ravers was Neil Gaiman) and man, I found it totally ehhhh.  And, like you, I could see the flashy tricks at work, but by and large they left me cold.  I couldn't connect.

Thought it was totally just me.

Huzzah, a partner in disdain.
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Rachel Swirsky
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« Reply #41 on: March 05, 2007, 02:53:06 PM »

Quote
I could see the flashy tricks at work, but by and large they left me cold.  I couldn't connect.

Ha, that's how I feel about Gaiman.
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Startrekwiki
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« Reply #42 on: March 06, 2007, 02:33:57 PM »

Quote
I could see the flashy tricks at work, but by and large they left me cold.  I couldn't connect.

Ha, that's how I feel about Gaiman.

Me too. He's confusing.
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Rachel Swirsky
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« Reply #43 on: March 06, 2007, 03:14:53 PM »

I don't find him confusing, personally. I'm just not particularly interested in his variety of angst, or the comic book-in-novel form thing.

I may have been spoiled for Gaiman, on accounta having heard what a genius he was for too long before picking up his books. Smiley I've also been told I picked up the worng ones.
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Mfitz
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« Reply #44 on: March 06, 2007, 04:07:37 PM »

I think he writes well enough, but I just don't find the stories he tells all the interesting, or fresh.  I think other people do urban fantasy better.  But, I've not read any of his comic or graphic novel stuff so maybe if I did I'd think otherwise.
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SFEley
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« Reply #45 on: March 06, 2007, 04:19:50 PM »

I don't find him confusing, personally. I'm just not particularly interested in his variety of angst, or the comic book-in-novel form thing.

Interesting.  I'd never thought his novels were distinctively comic-bookish.  His comic books definitely are -- the Sandman series isn't consistent in quality, but at its high points I think it has some of the best storytelling I've encountered in any medium.  There are moments in The Kindly Ones  that still give me chills.  But yes, it is a very angsty series.  Dream's not a very upbeat fella.


Quote
I may have been spoiled for Gaiman, on accounta having heard what a genius he was for too long before picking up his books. Smiley I've also been told I picked up the worng ones.

Have you tried Stardust?  Not angsty at all.  It's a fairy tale, one that doesn't try to be anything else.  Of his prose work it's far and away my favorite, with Coraline, that creepy children's horror novel, coming in second.

(If you need to calibrate my taste, I'm the odd one out, the Gaiman fan who didn't like American Gods.  To me it was like a really loud school bus on a field trip that wasn't going anywhere fun.  I'm slightly annoyed that it's considered his "breakout" novel.  I did like Anansi Boys, because it was funnier.)
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Rachel Swirsky
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« Reply #46 on: March 06, 2007, 04:29:45 PM »

LOL, American Gods is indeed my pet peeve.

Coraline was okay. It didn't stand out to me, particularly, but there were some interesting images. I read it on a plane flight coming home from Australia. It kept me entertained.

I'll add _Stardust_ to the list of things I really ought to read. Smiley
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DKT
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« Reply #47 on: March 06, 2007, 04:37:20 PM »

Just wanted to add that Stardust is a super quick read. 

I'm bumping into several fantasy people lately who hated American Gods. I liked it a lot but my personal favorite is Neverwhere, flaws and all.
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Anarkey
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« Reply #48 on: March 06, 2007, 05:19:23 PM »

LOL, American Gods is indeed my pet peeve.

I have a friend who says, of American Gods, that he "liked it better when it was Sandman."  I have some sympathy for that viewpoint, because even though I enjoyed American Gods, I did feel like we were retreading some of the same territory that Sandman explored.

Have you tried Stardust?  Not angsty at all.  It's a fairy tale, one that doesn't try to be anything else.  Of his prose work it's far and away my favorite, with Coraline, that creepy children's horror novel, coming in second.

(If you need to calibrate my taste, I'm the odd one out, the Gaiman fan who didn't like American Gods.  To me it was like a really loud school bus on a field trip that wasn't going anywhere fun.  I'm slightly annoyed that it's considered his "breakout" novel.  I did like Anansi Boys, because it was funnier.)

Actually, I'll be odd with you.  I liked American Gods, but I never recommend it to anyone I'm trying to pimp Gaiman to, and I don't think it's anywhere near Gaiman's best work.  It's kind of lumpy in places.  Anansi Boys is much, much better and yes, largely because of the humor.  Also, love love loved Coraline, but it was pretty much written to order to hit all my favorite story kinks, so my love is probably deeply subjective.  I also like quite a few of the short stories, particularly the one about the goldfish from Smoke and Mirrors, whose title is escaping me at the moment.  I revisit that one, mentally, a lot.  But honestly, my favorites are "The Wolves in the Walls" and "The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish" and you can read both of those standing in the aisle of your favorite bookstore in about ten minutes.

I need, maybe, to re-read Stardust.  I don't remember anything at all about it. 
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GoodDamon
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« Reply #49 on: March 06, 2007, 06:54:17 PM »

Wow, take a forced sabbatical from these forums, and each thread grows by two to three pages...

Someone asked "Do you have a specific audience in mind when you're writing/telling stories?"

I'd have to say it depends on the story. I'm always part of the audience, because I don't like to write what I don't like to read. But beyond that, who it's targeted at -- if anyone -- varies wildly based on what prompted me to write it. Some stories just show up in my head full-formed, and have to be written in a particular way that has nothing to do with who I'll market it to. My more literary or slipstream efforts tend to fall into that category, and when they're finished I have to do market research.

At other times, I'll get inspired by a particular market -- for instance, the Machine of Death anthology (see http://machineofdeath.net) handed me an idea on a platter, specifically designed for that market. I have no idea where else I'd submit it if they reject it.

Still other times, I make a conscious decision to write a good old-fashioned, rip-snortin', yee-haw, hard sci-fi yarn, full of space ships, explosions and flawed heroes overcoming the odds and themselves to save the day... Yeah, these you can market just about anywhere. You'd be surprised how hard it is to write a solid, hard sci-fi piece, and they're the milk and meat for the large markets like Analog and Asimov's.
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Mfitz
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« Reply #50 on: March 07, 2007, 10:13:48 AM »

[[(If you need to calibrate my taste, I'm the odd one out, the Gaiman fan who didn't like American Gods.  To me it was like a really loud school bus on a field trip that wasn't going anywhere fun.  I'm slightly annoyed that it's considered his "breakout" novel.  I did like Anansi Boys, because it was funnier.)

Actually, I'll be odd with you.  I liked American Gods, but I never recommend it to anyone I'm trying to pimp Gaiman to, and I don't think it's anywhere near Gaiman's best work.  It's kind of lumpy in places.  Anansi Boys is much, much better and yes, largely because of the humor.. 
[/quote]

Has anyone read Changer by Jane Lindskold?

http://www.amazon.com/Changer-Jane-Lindskold/dp/0380788497/ref=pd_bbs_1/002-7893562-5485629?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1173280029&sr=8-1

It covers much of the same ideas and territory of American Gods, and I think it's a much better book, but maybe that's just because I read it first a few years before American God's came out.

I also agree Anansi Boys is a far better book than American Gods, but I though Stardust was a complete bore.
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Rachel Swirsky
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« Reply #51 on: March 07, 2007, 12:28:19 PM »

I'll agree that for me American Gods was not new territory. I don't think it's just cuz I read it really late (though I could be deluding myself). It seems to me that I had encountered many/most of the ideas in other people's fictions. Plus, Shadow drove me nuts, felt very cliched to me. And I got really annoyed at what I felt was a habbit of stopping the text to describe what the comic book page should look like before we got back into the dialogue, and I didn't think the plot revelations were particularly satisfying.

You know, really it was entertaining and fine. It just didn't move me at all.

I tend to prefer more experimental/literary stuff, but not exclusively. I thought Scalzi's Old Man's War was very entertaining and smart and funny. The last book that really bowled me over was Hopkinson's Salt Roads (which I also got to late). I found it engrossing and detailed and rich.
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ClintMemo
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« Reply #52 on: March 07, 2007, 04:01:35 PM »

The last time I went to a con was Boskone a few years ago. Gaiman was one of the guest writers.  There was a group of probably a hundred "groupies" that followed him around everywhere like a rockstar.  It's the only time I've ever seen anyone treated that way at a con.

The other guest of honor was George R.R. Martin.  He had a lot of fans there as well, but didn't get the same treatment.

In retrospect, the most interesting "guest" I met was a woman who runs her own movie review site.
http://flickfilosopher.com

I don't always agree with her reviews but her review of "Tomb Raider" is fabulous.
http://www.flickfilosopher.com/blog/2001/06/tomb_raider_review.html

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JaredAxelrod
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« Reply #53 on: March 21, 2007, 10:29:49 AM »

Actually, I'll be odd with you.  I liked American Gods, but I never recommend it to anyone I'm trying to pimp Gaiman to, and I don't think it's anywhere near Gaiman's best work.

I agree.  I like American Gods, too.  But it's really for folks who want Gaiman to write more Sandman. Which I didn't know I did, until I read it.  Gaiman's short stories are his best stuff, really.  Stardust is great, but his short work is nigh perfect.
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Roney
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« Reply #54 on: March 24, 2007, 04:21:44 PM »

[snip]dissing M John Harrison[/snip]

Thank you, Roney, you make me feel less alone in the universe. 

I read his book Light,[snip] couldn't connect.

I wouldn't like anyone to get the impression that M John Harrison isn't good.  I am never going to stand in a room with China MiĆ©ville, Michael Marshall Smith and Iain Banks and disagree with them.

Light did annoy me, though, because I read it after finishing a short story anthology from MJH that I rather enjoyed.  (Yes, I bought two of his books without vetting because he'd been so warmly recommended.)  It tended towards magic realism, which is fine as far as I'm concerned: there are many more markets for fantasy in the UK if you can pretend that it's not.  Some of the stories are excellent.  I really like his work in the short form.

But.

Reading Light there were at first turns of phrase that seemed familiar, then there were sentences, then there were entire paragraphs that I'd read before.  I had thought that the words very neatly defined a character, then the same lines were suddenly applied to someone completely different.

I don't always agree with her reviews but her review of "Tomb Raider" is fabulous.
http://www.flickfilosopher.com/blog/2001/06/tomb_raider_review.html

That was much more enjoyable than the film.  Smiley
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clichekiller
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« Reply #55 on: April 19, 2007, 02:27:18 PM »

...
I think you're right as a generality.  But there are exceptions to everything.  I'm reminded of Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, which usually had plenty going on but every so often would stop completely and devote a chapter to, say, charting the mathematical function of a character's horniness, or the erotic story involving antique furniture on some minor character's laptop.  Stephenson has always gone wild on infodump digressions, but here he took it so far it became a spectacle.

Of course, a lot of people disliked Cryptonomicon for exactly these reasons.  But I was amused.
I loved some of Stephenson's works.  Diamond Age and Snow Crash in particular are two of my favorites.  I read Cryptonomicon and felt elated at the end to have read such a massive and dense work but not much else.  The story was interesting, if not a little too convoluted, but I found the humorous segments to be the best parts.  His Quicksilver opus was too much for me.  I bought the first tome anxiously awaiting a new Stephenson's tale and was greatly disappointed.  I've never finished it or read any of the other parts. 

Ultimately I put Stephenson in the Verbose category of writers and find his science fiction works in a world wholly his own to be his best works. 

Another author I lump in this category is George R.R. Martin, though I think he lost his way in writing book 4 as it just didn't have the same connection to me as his other works.  Or perhaps it was his nearly 4 year delay in writing it that ruined it for me. 

Which brings up a question about series, etcetera, how do you prefer to read them.  Personally I prefer to wait for all of a tale to be published and to read it book by book cover to cover.  This isn't always possible but it is my preferred method. 
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ClintMemo
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« Reply #56 on: April 19, 2007, 02:52:17 PM »


Which brings up a question about series, etcetera, how do you prefer to read them.  Personally I prefer to wait for all of a tale to be published and to read it book by book cover to cover.  This isn't always possible but it is my preferred method. 

I always tried to wait until all the books are out. I made that decision after reading the first Wheel of Time book (which at this point I barely remember).  There were only three or four of them out at the time and I heard he was going to write ten.  The only conscious exception I have made to that are the Harry Potter books, since they are such a cultural event and since the last book is due out in a couple of months.

Lately, I've been thinking about abandoning this strategy.  It's hard to know when and if a series is finally over.  Didn't Tolkein die about 30 years ago? Tongue
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Jonathan C. Gillespie
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« Reply #57 on: April 19, 2007, 07:57:04 PM »

Just wanted to jump in here.  Some telling is expected out there in the markets.  The most frustrating rejection I ever got was thus:

"I felt you were showing, and not telling enough".

(That story did go on to be published elsewhere)
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DKT
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« Reply #58 on: April 19, 2007, 11:28:06 PM »

Just wanted to jump in here.  Some telling is expected out there in the markets.  The most frustrating rejection I ever got was thus:

"I felt you were showing, and not telling enough".

(That story did go on to be published elsewhere)

 Shocked I have never heard of that rejection line before...
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Rachel Swirsky
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« Reply #59 on: April 20, 2007, 01:46:20 AM »

I don't think it's an unreasonable rejection. Michael Swanwick told us at CW that he thinks there's a real trick in knowing what information to just lay out flat. If your character's a time traveling lesbian vampire (as was the case in the story we were discussing), just say it in the first sentence. If you have to waste 10 pages expositing that, that's ten pages the action doesn't happen.
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