« Nap Attack | Main | How Hard Can It Be to Write a Letter? »

July 19, 2010

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Terri Osburn

I've been trying to wrap my brain around this concept and only recently gotten a handle on it. I've taken workshops on this very topic that weren't nearly as good as this blog. And I'm the same way, I HAVE to have examples.

That looks sounds like a mixture of aroused and hopeful. LOL! Not sure what the word for that would be. Optimistic?

Leslee

Was the emotion tantalizing? (Haven't seen it, and can't quite picture Richard E. Grant as a swoon-worthy hero, so maybe I'll have to check it out...)

Donna Cummings

Terri, this blog post came about PRECISELY because I needed to wrap my brain around the concept! I hope that with practice it will become more second nature -- it feels like more effort is required, but it does make the reading experience a richer one.

I think I'm going to drive all of us crazy with The Emotion That Cannot Be Named. LOL It's a scene where he's pretending to be somebody else, and it's quite dangerous to do so, but he's thrilled when somebody enters the room that could give him away. Maybe it's a series of emotions, one right after the other. Mmmm.

Donna Cummings

Leslee, I totally agree with him not seeming swoon-worthy -- in fact, I didn't watch this particular miniseries for the longest time, for that very reason. But he's one of those whose face is transformed with his expressions. . .well, I could TELL you, but it would be better if I could SHOW you. LOL Get thee to Netflix!

Donna Cummings

Leslee -- P.S. It's filmed in Prague, so you HAVE to see it now!

Maureen

Great topic! Not sure I want to look at my MS now. Scared. Very scared. Have a big gaping pit in the center of my body and a screaming mini-me running around it in total fear and denial.

I think I'm just going to keep working on passive vs active and ignore everything you said.

For now.

Donna Cummings

Maureen, I understand entirely. Whenever I have revisions, I pretty much circle around them for a couple days, and then my brain rolls up its sleeves and is ready to attack it. If you try to do it before you're ready. . .it is painful.

BUTTTTT -- if you're working on passive v. active, then you already ARE working on showing v. telling. Showing is considered active, while telling is passive.

So here you thought you were in denial, and you're not!

Maureen

Am, too!

Terri Osburn

She's in denial about not being in denial.

Maureen

Yeah! Uh...maybe...

I need a nap.

Donna Cummings

You guys are too funny! Denial is so powerful, it'll make you deny that you're in denial. I like that! A nap is always good too. :)

Melissa

What a fantastic and thoughtful/thought provoking blog. :) So many interesting things! I want to try that with watching a movie and writing down the emotions. Great idea! I think that will eliminate a lot of adverbs. I also want to figure out The Emotion That Cannot Be Named. LOL

I wonder if showing vs. telling is different for first and third person POV? It seems there is more of a natural tendency for telling in first person because the commentator is sharing what is personal. But, on the other hand, I think in first person it's not as natural to slip into adverbs as third person. I stop myself from saying, "I don't care," I said angrily. That doesn't feel right. For some reason I would feel like saying.

"I don't care." Now he'd made me angry.

Still telling, but it feels like I needed to tell, like I'm confiding. I guess I could eliminate the 'now he'd made me angry' with an action showing anger, but, unlike third person, 'now he'd made her angry' it doesn't seem like as much as a no-no. To me anyway! LOL

Donna Cummings

Melissa, I'm glad you found this useful. (And I hope when everyone sees The Emotion That Cannot Be Named they don't look at me and say, "You couldn't figure THAT out?" LOL)

I was wondering the same thing about 1st POV versus 3rd POV, but I didn't have a chance to explore it when I was writing my post. So I'm glad you brought it up.

You're right--it feels like confiding, because we're right there with the narrator's thoughts. I liked your example of "Now he'd made me angry". It's almost like more dialogue in that situation, so it doesn't FEEL like telling.

And I don't think you can't ever have telling. The most important rule of writing, as far as I'm concerned, is making sure you communicate your story so the reader has a wonderful experience. When you do that, rules don't really matter anymore. :)

Clarissa Southwick

Great job explaining a hard concept. A friend was just asking about this. I'll be referring her to this post.

Donna Cummings

Thanks, Clarissa! I actually had to come up with this explanation for ME. LOL It helped me figure out what I wanted to do with some recent revisions. I hope your friend finds it helpful. :)

Terri Osburn

I'm going to buck Melissa's idea on the first person. I feel like writing in first person, I'd be more likely to say how something makes me feel, which is really the showing.

"I don't care." I struggled to slow my breathing and barely noticed my nails digging into my palms.

I think telling works the same in 1st or 3rd, you go with the feelings. The "effect" of whatever is happening. When I'm angry, I might feel hot or out of control or violent. Focusing on the details is the only way I've figured out how to do this, and still I can't always find the words.

This weekend I wanted to explain that the heroine was wringing her hands. That thing where you sort of tug on one finger with your other hand. Could not figure out how to say it even though I could picture it in my mind clear as could be. So I totally get the emotion that cannot be named. Or described. :)

Donna Cummings

Terri, I struggle sometimes with those explanations -- and it makes it feel like I'm putting too many words into something that isn't really that important! LOL

I like your 1st POV example, and I think it focuses on the actions, while Melissa's example focuses on internal dialogue. They both FEEL like showing to me, but I may be confusing myself. LOL

But you're exactly right -- focusing on the details that the character would feel and notice -- that's what gives the reader the emotional experience.

Melissa

It gets tricky doesn't it? LOL Actually, I didn't feel my example felt like showing. It's telling, but I'm trying to excuse it. :) I like how you get that it’s internal dialogue continued from the spoken. I like Terry's too. I think it would be okay to actually combine the two.

"I don't care." Now he'd made me angry. I struggled to to slow my breathing and barely noticed my nails digging into my palms.

Hey, we could have a scene in a minute. LOL

Melissa

It gets tricky doesn't it? LOL Actually, I didn't feel my example felt like showing. It's telling, but I'm trying to excuse it. :) I like how you get that it’s internal dialogue continued from the spoken. I like Terry's too. I think it would be okay to actually combine the two.

"I don't care." Now he'd made me angry. I struggled to to slow my breathing and barely noticed my nails digging into my palms.

Hey, we could have a scene in a minute. LOL

Donna Cummings

Melissa, my blog seems to be making up for gobbling up your other comments by sending this one twice! Either that, or it was worth READING twice. :)

I like combining both, actually. Of course, I am particularly fond of internal dialogue. :) And having the body parts DOING things gives the scene a sense of action -- it's less static, which is also a reason to show, not tell.

Anita Clenney

Great post! This was a great explanation of something that's such a problem for us writers. It's so easy to slip into telling. I tweeted it, hope you don't mind.

Donna Cummings

I'm glad you liked it, Anita. It became a lot clearer to me after this recent round of revisions I was working on.

And I'm thrilled that you tweeted it -- thanks for doing that. :)

Terri Osburn

Those two are better combined. So, Melissa, I sense a partnership brewing here. LOL! Imagine who much faster we could write with TWO of us working on the same thing.

Terri Osburn

That should be HOW much faster. LOL! That's what I get for typing in a hurry.

Donna Cummings

*claps hands* I feel like a matchmaker! When you do your book tour, you'll have to say you got together HERE. LOL

ClubPenguinCheats

This was a great explanation of something that's such a problem for us writers.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Additional Places to Purchase

The Romance Review
The Romance Reviews