Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Writing { and reading and publishing } ~

Words or Deeds ~ Which One Tells You More About A Person?


Most writers have heard the maxim, “Show Don’t Tell”.  And, even though action in a book can keep most readers turning pages, I find it oh, so ironic that those actions are being conveyed with words :-)

Language is strange! And strange means “foreign”. And, a blog written by someone who’s first language isn’t English prompted me to write this post.

Before I talk about that, I want to explore this Words/Deeds issue.

I’ll leave the strange situation of writing’s challenge of expressing deeds with words for a possible future post. Here, I’ll ask a number of questions:

Which do you feel more comfortable using to convey your heart-felt principles: words or deeds?

Even though many Holy Texts hold deeds above words, do you find certain situations demanding words more than deeds?

Can deeds “say” things better than words?

What do you do when you find a person’s deeds saying something different than their words?

Which can you trust more: deeds or words?

As I write this post, I’m performing a deed. I have to use words to create the result of the deed (this post). The affect of the result of my deed is different for different people. Some folks will respond to the result with other words in the comments. That’s the result of one of their deeds…

Are you starting to feel a bit of the bedeviling wonder I’m experiencing as I explore the interrelationship of words and deeds?

“But, he said he loves me!”

“Right, honey, but look at what he’s doing.”

“I know… But I love him…”

“Just watch yourself, baby.”

So, I started writing this post because someone started following me on Twitter and I checked the link they had in their profile and it led to their blog. It became obvious they weren’t very familiar with expressing themselves in English. I noticed they were from Indonesia but much of what they said let me know that, when it came to their daily deeds, they engaged in things nearly identical to people who grow up speaking English.

I have to say that a person “misusing” English is not reason enough for me to ignore what their trying to say. I have a friend from Lithuania. His art says way more than his words but even his words—crafted more from the structuring of his native language than from English—his words are deeply artistic and actually can say more to me than many who write “good” English…

One day, it’s likely our world will have one language that everyone learns, along with their native tongue, from their earliest years. [It won’t necessarily be English.] Everyone will be fluent in two languages—one that can create challenges of understanding for others and one that will unite our entire human family in the never-boring task of exploring the relative worth of Words and Deeds.
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12 responses to “Words or Deeds ~ Which One Tells You More About A Person?

  1. cmmarcum January 21, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    The very act of clicking on the comment button and typing some letters from the alphabet is a deed, no matter which words I choose. For how many people read your blog–or mine, for that matter–have thoughts, and do not respond?

    As far as language goes, I find it interesting that no matter where you go in the world: a tear is a tear, a smile is a smile. I once read that birds sing with the same sixteen notes that humans use. Does this not make music the voice of every creature? I once saw a fisherman land a red snapper and lay it out on the wharf. The snapper was clearly begging for his life; although I did not know his language, I understood, and I almost reached down to push his over the edge. Sometimes, I still wish I had been brave enough to answer his prayers. (How hard it is to turn away, once you understand.)

    As far as ‘Show Don’t Tell’ goes, anything can be taken too far.

    Like

    • Alexander M Zoltai January 21, 2011 at 5:10 pm

      As far as the folks who read a post and don’t respond, I can handle the idea that they found nothing moving enough to respond to, or that the whole post bored them, or that they’re a bit shy, or even that they have some fear about online interaction; but, the ones who read, respond at depth, and don’t comment, perhaps I can now think of them as treating me like that snapper :-) ?

      Birds? Wow! I once sat in a Florida dusk with a friend. A mocking bird landed on a branch above us. My friend whistled a few notes. The bird whistled the same notes and added a few. She copied the bird and extended it. It went on till she couldn’t keep up with the bird’s abilities :-)

      Taking Show Don’t Tell too far, eh? Hmmm… There might be a really good short story in that idea……………………………………………..

      Like

    • Once January 26, 2011 at 2:19 am

      This is a fantastic line:

      “I once saw a fisherman land a red snapper and lay it out on the wharf. The snapper was clearly begging for his life; although I did not know his language, I understood, and I almost reached down to push his over the edge. Sometimes, I still wish I had been brave enough to answer his prayers.”

      I sometimes “hear” what some dog is saying while being walked, and it isn’t always complimentary to its owner; as a matter of fact, at times, I can almost hear an unfortunate pooch on a very short leash saying, “…if it weren’t for what’s in the bowl every day, I’d be out of here in a flash!…and leave an adequate tip behind as an appropriate token of my appreciation….”

      Like

      • Alexander M Zoltai January 26, 2011 at 2:33 am

        Great to see you here!!

        Also, great follow-up to the fish story :-)

        I assume you found Simone’s blog since that quote isn’t in this post.

        I treasure her daily humor :-)

        Like

  2. Karla Telega January 21, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    We’ve all heard the adage, actions speak louder than words. I’ve never questioned that. Unfortunately, people can be obtuse and not even notice the actions. Language is generally more direct and focused.

    It may be inexperience, but I have a hard time differentiating between showing and telling in my writing. Sometimes it jumps out at me during editing: She couldn’t see to the bottom of the pit; as opposed to, “Could you hand me a flashlight, darling. I can’t see a thing down there.” I know which one I’d rather read.

    Like

    • Alexander M Zoltai January 21, 2011 at 10:24 pm

      “…people can be obtuse and not even notice the actions.”

      Excellent point!

      My WIP “demands” that I do a lot of “telling”. I want to show more but the overall form and thrust would be damaged if I did. Luckily, the follow-up book (in the same universe) will have stories that shamelessly show themselves off :-)

      Like

  3. Tomas January 21, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    The Words/Deeds issue touched me to the heart. That was my current ‘persecutor’ ( the question Pictures/Art critics?) So I have read your post with great interest. That helped me to visualize my problems better. So to speak, your article as if puts into words what is between the lines in my digital painting Garden of Possibilities on Tomas’ sketchbook
    I see your Words/Deeds as what is beyond the picture. That looks like the question “Do we love or talk about the love?”
    personal approach ….th direct response will differ in each concrete situation : the painter and his musings on art or art critic and his visual sketches will always differ in quality but raise the same question. The answer is beauty of life.

    Like

    • Alexander M Zoltai January 21, 2011 at 10:27 pm

      “Do we love or talk about the love?”

      Exactly, Tomas…

      I put a link to garden of possibilities on Facebook and Twitter :-)

      Like

  4. cmmarcum January 22, 2011 at 12:39 am

    Just for you, I wrote a new short that is mostly telling and not showing, called ‘A Good Plan,’ under Animal Tails on my blog. (Yes, I know it’s suppose to be Tales.) Perhaps, you can tell me if the art of telling a story is dead.

    Also, somewhere around my house is a magazine with an article called, ‘The Great Lie of Show Don’t Tell.’ I’ll try to dig it up and send it to you or at least find a site online. But basically it says that everything can not be showing. Certainly, a writer should show, most of time. But telling is still a legitimate element of every story.

    Like

    • Alexander M Zoltai January 22, 2011 at 12:50 am

      You wrote A Good Plan just for me?

      Nay!

      It is for any soul who loves a good tale, well-told :-)

      Bravo!!!

      Like

  5. HaleyWhitehall January 23, 2011 at 12:48 am

    I’m taking a momentary break from writing and editing to connect with the WordPress community :) Thanks for supporting me. I’ve added you to my blogroll.

    Very interesting article. Your posts always make me think. You have an amazing ability to play with words so that I can see things in a different light. I’ve never given much thought to the Words vs. Deeds issue till now. I hope you write that future post of the writing’s challenge of expressing deeds with words. I would love to read it.

    Like

    • Alexander M Zoltai January 23, 2011 at 1:15 am

      Glad you’re making time to take breaks but happier that your writing heat is at Max :-)

      Your encouraging comments about my posts together with your hope that I explore showing deeds with words has galvanized me to promise that my Monday morning post will be an exploration of that very topic {{ Whoot }}

      Like

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