Who needs showing when you can tell well?

March 18, 2020

Hopefully you've been spending a lot of time washing your hands and staying at home, so to make that sequestered time a little more fun, I thought I'd do a literary showcase on one of my favorite stories: The Year of Silence.

 

I have a detailed breakout of tips and stuff below, but if you're going to write a story that has more TELLING and less SHOWING, here are a few tips that might help you still make it a page-turner:

  • Details - The more concrete the things you describe in your "telling" the more your telling will still evoke scene and place and tone.

  • Talk with style - Use a vivid voice during your summary / telling. Let the character doing the telling (or even the narrator) describe things with style and sass.

  • Lists are your friend - Using lists of details and examples of a phenomenon can make your telling feel like a scene, but it'll only take a paragraph rather than ten pages.

  • Zoom into scene like moments - When giving examples of whatever you're telling (I.E. the events of the journey across the desert), start with a few short examples like "we went to three caravan stops" and then zoom into more detailed moment "we stopped at the Kahla Oasis at two in the afternoon and dove beneath the cool waters..."

Those are the big highlights, if you'd like to pass some time during your quarantine, the full video of our edit is here:

 

And here are the line-by-line notes I took during the reading:

 

The Year of Silence Notes / Observations

P1 - The writer makes a sense of reported EVENT by a very explicit use of time - Apr X
P1 - Extreme concrete details in the opening - and its all related to sound
P1 - if you're doing a plural pov having a voice to the narrator / plural is still necessary - a voice is a set of tone, colloquialism, and style
P1 - the trasition to 3 feels a little bumpy . - a quick jump to summary from heavy tactile detail
P2 - I like that we're back in the details but the balance between summary and detailed examples feels bumpy
P2 - So we're only a few hundred words in and the author is already ratcheting up the situation - building the momentum
P2 - We have variance of sentence structure - one really long sentence pulling a question out, then followed by two quick questions
P2 - Launching into interiority from scene is a good way to access thoughts etc.
P3 - Using examples - this is a powerful way to make summary feel real and like scene
P3 - Starting a paragraph with long sentences and making them progressively shorter can build a sense of tension and meaning within a paragraph, making the final word pack an extra punch.
P4 - Summary / telling is OKAY - but do it well, try a "highlight reel technique" and still work to have emotion evoked through it. Another tool is concrete lists of things / events in the city.
P4 - note the smooth transition from Summary to a individual moment that has emotional impact and mystery
P5 - Section 8 I'm not in complete love with, it feels like verbal doubling - repeating a sentiment we already know
P5 - When you're doing a speculative concept this piece shows the benefit of thinking through all the angles.
P5-6 - the lion roar to prey animals frames the relationship of noise to danger / risk / hunting.
P6 - Now that we have the goal, this "inexcusable" line is free indirect discourse into the we narrator - shows that there's a PRIDE and PERFECTIONISM  behind this goal.
P6 - we've zoomed in from the country to the city - narrowing the "we" down to a smaller group.
P7 - by making his initial "inventions" setup as plausible, the more off  the wall innovations he's bringing in, we don't question.
P7 - using lists of events to eventually build into a longer scene - People--to-- a great many --to-- one boy...
P8 - It's always difficult to zoom out into very abstract concepts from a story that's been in the concerete - these transition are the make or break.
P8 - When using concrete details in a narrative summary list, the things you juxtapose can add an enormous amount of context to it. IE We went about our routines, filing tax returns, skydiving, ninja fighting...
P9 - Using a list of concrete details can quickly establish a vivid scene with minimal length requirements.
P9 - When you ARE going to use metaphor or simile, give us a comparison or image we haven't seen before. Don't rely on the same tried images. "The sound of footsteps... was like a horde or crickets scraping their wings together in an empty room."
P9 - The way something is describe by the narrator or otherwise gives the quality of its nature and even can communicate irony.
P9 - We're repeating the "news event" date / time structure to show that a moments change is incoming.
P10 - The transition into telling feels a little too clunky here.
P10 - The use of fragments to describe these commotion sounds makes the noise of the story much more disruptive.

 

 

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