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Author Topic: "Show don't tell". Always good advice?  (Read 21994 times)

Mfitz

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Reply #50 on: March 07, 2007, 03:13:48 PM
[[(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.



Rachel Swirsky

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Reply #51 on: March 07, 2007, 05:28:19 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.



ClintMemo

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Reply #52 on: March 07, 2007, 09:01:35 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


Life is a multiple choice test. Unfortunately, the answers are not provided.  You have to go and find them before picking the best one.


JaredAxelrod

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Reply #53 on: March 21, 2007, 03:29:49 PM
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.



Roney

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Reply #54 on: March 24, 2007, 09:21:44 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.  :)



clichekiller

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Reply #55 on: April 19, 2007, 07:27:18 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. 



ClintMemo

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Reply #56 on: April 19, 2007, 07:52:17 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? :P

Life is a multiple choice test. Unfortunately, the answers are not provided.  You have to go and find them before picking the best one.


Jonathan C. Gillespie

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Reply #57 on: April 20, 2007, 12:57:04 AM
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)

Published genre fiction author with stories in print and upcoming.

Official site: http://jonathancg.net/ | Twitter: JCGAuthor | Facebook


DKT

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Reply #58 on: April 20, 2007, 04:28:06 AM
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)

 :o I have never heard of that rejection line before...


Rachel Swirsky

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Reply #59 on: April 20, 2007, 06:46:20 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.



DKT

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Reply #60 on: April 20, 2007, 04:31:19 PM
Oh yeah, I get what you're saying about wasting time -- you need to be efficient.  I've got no problem with info-dumps and world building (apologies to M. John Harrison), as long as it's done well.  It's just the "I felt like you were showing, and not telling enough" comment was a new one for a rejection.  Usually, it's the other way around.


SFEley

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Reply #61 on: April 20, 2007, 07:14:03 PM
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.

Depends.  If it's a ten-page vampire lesbian sex scene in the Roman baths, perhaps that's exactly when you want to show and not tell.  >8->

(If you are writing that sort of story.  I am sure it's possible to write a non-erotic time traveling lesbian vampire story...but why?)

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Rachel Swirsky

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Reply #62 on: April 20, 2007, 07:21:22 PM
http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Sisters-Lesbian-Vampire-Tales/dp/1555838839

(The story I wrote for the anthology -- which was not about time travel, I fear -- was declined. It's in Cthulhu Sex 13.)



SFEley

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Reply #63 on: April 20, 2007, 08:43:21 PM
http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Sisters-Lesbian-Vampire-Tales/dp/1555838839
(The story I wrote for the anthology -- which was not about time travel, I fear -- was declined. It's in Cthulhu Sex 13.)

Clearly you just need to rewrite it with some time travel, then go back to 2005 and get it accepted.  >8->

...
...

(Jots down sudden fully-formed story idea)

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BlairHippo

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Reply #64 on: April 27, 2007, 06:50:03 PM
Ah, nothing like the urge to answer a question two months after it was asked....

While "Show, Don't Tell" can be carried too far, I think it gets bandied about so much because it's the antidote to a bad habit a lot of writers, particularly beginners, seem to fall into.  Either extreme can and will bring your story to a grinding halt, but I've seen an excess of Tell a lot more than I've seen an excess of Show.



JaredAxelrod

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Reply #65 on: May 02, 2007, 07:06:42 PM
While "Show, Don't Tell" can be carried too far, I think it gets bandied about so much because it's the antidote to a bad habit a lot of writers, particularly beginners, seem to fall into.  Either extreme can and will bring your story to a grinding halt, but I've seen an excess of Tell a lot more than I've seen an excess of Show.

Good point; I don't think I've ever read a book and thought, "Y'know, this writer "shows" too much, I'm bored."
« Last Edit: May 02, 2007, 07:09:43 PM by JaredAxelrod »