Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Show, don't Tell

I value my one and only critique group and the information that flows between members. Recently I discovered that though I thought a hand raised, palm out, was universal body language for stop, go no further, it seems it is not so. I have seen footage of wildlife conservationists using it to stop grizzly bears coming closer in both Alaska and Russia, but now I know it that among humans, it does not always convey the signal I thought it did.

Here in the UK, and I think in Europe in general though I can't be certain, a palm pressed against one's own chest or bosom would indicate one's own fear or trepidation. Be still my beating heart, as they say. Now I am in doubt about that, too.

There are so many myths that spread around the Internet about writing styles and techniques, and the most prevalent among them is the succinct instruction Show, don't Tell. I'm sure you've all been told this at some point.
I must confess I grow tired of trying to describe emotions (otherwise known as Showing) which are so common as to be universally understood when words such as frightened or surprised are employed. We have the words because we all know the body language for fear, fright and so on. So why keep on re-explaining it to a reader who also, unless they are an idiot, know the signs as well?
Sometimes it may be appropriate to show the display of facial /bodily emotions, but not always. There must be more interesting things to write about than raised brows and wide eyes!

Nevertheless, I value the crits that come my way. I welcome them and always consider what the writer has to say before I decide to stick with what I have, or use the suggestion. Sometimers (quite often, actually) a comment spurs me on to scrap what I had and do something new. The re-write is always an improvement. Yet without those critiques, I wouldn't have considereed making the change, so thank you one and all - my critique partners - I salute you.
The Market Cross (aka The Butter Market) in Barnard Castle was built in the late 1700s to shelter ladies who came to town to sell their produce and proves something of an obstacle to current day traffic. Sitting in the tea room looking out, I thought a similar vehicle was about to crash through the window and take me for a ride.
(Needless to say, it didn't.)

6 comments:

Kale said...
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