One of my blogging-buddies and fellow writer, Haley Whitehall wrote, in response to the recent post, Words or Deeds ~ Which One Tells You More About A Person?, “I hope you write that future post of writing’s challenge of expressing deeds with words. I would love to read it.”
Now, I surely can’t promise I’ll write every post a reader wants but this one was sitting in my mind/heart and bubbling with anticipation to be written. Haley’s gentle nudge felt like a clarion call :-)
So, is it one of writing’s inexplicable mysteries that the attempt to show action instead of just telling the reader it happened is “doomed” to depend on words? Movies just Show. Writing is located in that special realm of Words Only.
In response to a comment in the post, How Can You Write About Things You Can’t See?, I referenced a site which said: “One of the most difficult and most crucial elements in story-telling is knowing when to give play-by-play action and when to back off and summarize.”
Still, giving play-by-play action depends on words…
Are writers really magicians because they can conjure actions in our minds and feelings in our hearts by using words on paper?
I think the easiest explanation of this phenomenon is to just say that words are born in our minds and hearts, spring from the more spiritual aspects of our beings and, hence, have the requisite power to create vivid action in our minds and poignant feelings in our hearts.
I could go on and on with my faux-philosophical meanderings but two examples from my favorite author should work to more effect.
I’m drawing my examples from C. J. Cherryh’s, Fortress of Dragons.
The first excerpt is “technically” Telling but notice how she still pulls off a bit of Showing:
A slow procession passed by night, little disturbing the sleep of Henas’amef. Tristen on bay Petelly, two ladies on horses the lords of Ivanor had lent them, with Captain Uwen Lewen’s-son and Tristen’s bodyguard attending, all climbed the hill in a lazy fall of fat lumps of snow.
That families were asleep and shutters were drawn and latched up and down the streets lent welcome anonymity to their passage … for by day the sight of the duke of Amefel riding in company with the red-haired former duchess and her sister would have alarmed the town.
The next example is “technically” Showing and it needs to be mentioned that this showing is “…within the gray space wizards used.”:
“With child, no less”, Emuln said, and turned a fierce and forbidding question toward Tarien Aswydd. “Whose, woman?”
It was harshly, even brutally demanded, so uncharacteristically forceful that Tristen flinched. In the same instant Orien flung an arm about her sister, who shied from answering and winked out of the gray space like a candle in the wind.
Orien’s was a swift, defiant retreat.
The very best writers can Show while Telling and Tell while Showing.
Plus, “Show Don’t Tell.”, is just a rule and rules are guidelines for those of us who have yet to master the art…
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