Welcome back to another blog hop, with #OpenBook. Here’s this week’s prompt.
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Does ‘show don’t tell’ ever run up against your personal prohibitions?
I think that there’s room in the narrative for both. The trick is not to do too much of either. Personally, I’m a big fan of showing and telling at the same time, wherever you can.
Basically, if I have information to impart, whether it’s description or back-story, I like to get one of my characters to tell you all about it, rather than regurgitate a few pages of a narrator’s omnipotent prose in its own chapter.
Huge information dumps do bad things to my enthusiasm when it comes to reading more of the book. They sort of remind me of school and being forced to read textbooks, which gave me no enjoyment at all. And if they have that effect on me, imagine what pages of facts will have (in the midst of what is supposed to be a novel) on your average reader.
It’s supposed to be something you read for pleasure. Any information you impart should add to that experience, give the reader just enough to let their minds wander. That way, they will build their own version of the stories world in their heads.
The trouble is, you need to get the information across somehow. And make it stick as well as ensuring that the reader enjoys the process.
There are various ways you can get around this problem.
You can drip-feed it here and there, as it’s required. This is a valid world-building technique, it also makes plotting easier as you only need to invent or justify something when the plot needs it. Even then you don’t need it all, as I’ve said before, hints allow readers to use their own imagination to fill in the blanks.
You can have a conversation between characters, either in a quiet moment or in the midst of some action. This is my favourite way of imparting backstory and is very true to what might happen in a real-life situation. A good sidekick is useful at this point, as a place to unload or share conversation.
You could have an internal dialogue in your characters head, caused by an event in his present, that makes him remember his past.
There might be some confession that our character needs to make, to clear his conscience, ingratiate himself with a new ally or simply to get out of trouble.
All of these devices allow you to show by telling.
As you can see the possibilities are limitless, there is no need to restrict your showing (or telling) to one method. Mix it up and readers will love you for it.
Until next week.
Let me know what you think about this week’s subject.
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