Telling VS Showing – Differences in Style #5

“Show don’t tell” is squawked from pretty much every writerly parapet. I’ve even seen it used as a criticism in descriptive paragraphs or simply when a character thinks “I don’t like pickles” for example- which seems like an odd criticism, cos, believe it or not there are times when stating a fact is a-okay and long-winded ways of saying “I don’t like pickles” are not. Now fortunately there are some people finally waking up and realising that sometimes you need to tell and sometimes you need to show (hello Jenna Moreci). Yet since it’s such a hot topic, I thought it would be fun to address for my style series!

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Showing vs Telling Defined

Well, I thought about all the ways I could explain it and realised I could demonstrate both techniques in just two sentences from one of my favourite authors, Laini Taylor:

“Zuzana arched an eyebrow. She was a master of the eyebrow arch, and Karou envied her for it.”

The first sentence is showing, the latter is telling. What’s magnificent about this is you have a visual image to latch onto and at the same time get an emotional response. It also demonstrates a fantastic use of contrast from one sentence to the next. But if you want an even better example of showing, you’ll have to read on…

Showing Pros and Cons

Pros: showing can create some beautiful, descriptive language. It’s a fantastic method to transport the reader, allows for some emotional insight for the reader and creates tangible relationships within the story. Without any showing, the story quickly becomes very flat. With it, writing comes alive. I mean, again, look at Taylor’s description of Prague:

daughter of smoke and bone“Fairy-tale city. From the air, red rooftops hug a kink in a dark river, and by night the forested hills appear as spans of black nothing against the dazzle of the lit castle, the spiking Gothic towers, the domes great and small. The river captures all the lights and teases them out, long and wavering, and the side-slashing rain blurs it all to a dream”

Cons: still, it can be unnecessary. I’m pretty sure we’ve all read those melodramatic passages that were wayyy OTT! One piece of advice when it comes to any art form is know when to stop. I know how tempting it can be to add that one last brushstroke but step away from the canvass a moment, leave it to dry, and maybe consider you might be done.

Telling Pros and Cons

Pros: It can be used to create a very strong narrative voice and can be an interesting technique for authorial intrusion- but since this is such a contentious issue, I’ve decided to show you some classic examples:

northanger abbeyAusten: “The anxiety, which in this state of their attachment must be the portion of Henry and Catherine, and of all who loved either, as to its final event, can hardly extend, I fear, to the bosom of my readers, who will see in the tell-tale compression of the pages before them, that we are all hastening together to perfect felicity”- this is used for humour at the end of Northanger Abbey  and shows self-awareness of the novel’s construct, poking fun at the fact that you can expect a happy ending and actually breaking the fourth wall to tell the reader this.

jane eyreCharlotte Bronte: “Reader I married him”- I mean, do I even have to tell you why this is good? It’s a statement as romantic and striking as “I love you”- there’s no need to leave it up to ambiguity, especially after all the torment that has gone before.

 

eastofedenSteinbeck: “I believe there are monsters born in the world to human parents. Some you can see, misshapen and horrible, with huge heads or tiny bodies. . . . And just as there are physical monsters, can there not be mental or psychic monsters born? The face and body may be perfect, but if a twisted gene or a malformed egg can produce physical monsters, may not the same process produce a malformed soul?”- Steinbeck, in my opinion, is one of the masters of authorial intrusion. This moment is the introduction of his villain Cathy in East of Eden and provides a brilliantly stark moment of characterisation and ruminates over what it means. The author’s own struggle to find common ground with this character and actually by confessing this confusion shows the reader just how bad she is.

And there are many more reasons to use telling, such as dropping a *bombshell* and even introducing a moral. To my mind, the absolutism of the rule “show don’t tell” is pretty ludicrous when you think how well this technique can be employed. That said, there are obvious reasons to curb this impulse at times.

Cons: Obviously this can get dull if overused. And if you’re using it for shock value, *newsflash*, this will lose its power very quickly. There’s a reason it should be used sparingly.

Accounting for Differences in Taste

As always I want to draw attention to the fact there are lots of styles and techniques. Like I said earlier, the most important thing is to know when to stop, because, there are times when any technique can be too much. But the reason why I was eager to do this post is that, frankly, whenever I see one of these blanket rules, it grates on me a little. Especially if there’s plenty of evidence that this can work.

Other posts in this series:

Pared down vs Purple prose – Differences in Style #1

The art of Intertextuality vs Innovation – Differences in Style #2

*ALL the Viewpoints – Differences in Style #3

Coherence Vs Incoherence

My only preference for this is “everything in moderation”- but I wonder, what do you think? Are you a stickler for the “show don’t tell” rule? Or do you prefer telling? Let me know in the comments!

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Night Film Could Have Done With More *Action*

night filmAt first, the lights came down, there was a hush and I was tucked up with my popcorn… well, minus the popcorn. Point is, I was captivated by the opening to this book. I loved the way it was done and the slow build of several mysteries had me intrigued. I was shivery with anticipation and found my old squeamishness had returned as dread built. And then… the story began to lag. I was turning page after page after bored page. It did eventually pick up again, but the damage was done. A book has to justify its length and this really didn’t do that- it just felt needlessly long.

One of the biggest causes of this dull interlude was how unnecessary the tag-along characters felt. Their connections to the case felt far too tenuous and even with hints that there was more to it, I couldn’t bring myself to care for them. Least of all for the mc’s love interest which, to coin Lucinda’s phrase, may as well have been a “sexy lamp” for all the impact she had. All the characters seemed superfluous- written in and out of the story as if they were nothing more than extras or there merely to change the scene. I just couldn’t connect with any of them.

I also didn’t like being told what a genius Cordova was- over and over again. And maybe it’s unavoidable in a book about another artistic medium to have to tell how brilliant someone’s art is- but frankly it didn’t feel that way for Ash, the prodigy in the book. I simply felt her mastery flying from the page like notes gliding from a piano. I actually was far more invested in Ash- with her wonderful stage name “Ashes from the ruins”- than I ever was in anyone else. She had the command of her audience from beyond the grave.

The *fade to black* ending was somewhat enigmatic- which can work- yet in this case only served to leave me less than satisfied. I frequently felt like the book was trying to convince me how oh-so-clever it was, but actually this led to it falling flat and feeling like a waste of my time. All those spooky hints had gone nowhere and the greatness it reached for was untapped. It felt like all I’d caught were red herrings.

And what was more disappointing than anything else was how the multimedia aspects weren’t what they were cracked up to be. Having read other books with this sort of style now, I felt like these additions had to mean something. And yet, it turned out I could have skipped them and I wouldn’t have missed anything from the story. Frankly, that was a bit of a piss-take. While initially this felt like peering behind the curtain, adding to the creep-factor, eventually I realised that there really was no wizard hiding out there and the bloke pulling the levers didn’t even have the power to transport me home. I’d followed the yellow brick lane to nowhere special.

Ultimately I was letdown by this book, but for the strong start, I’m giving it:

Rating: 2½/5 bananas

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Have you read this? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments!

Scythe was cutting edge!

scytheWell, start with an amazing concept, add some awesome characters and an intriguing plot, and you’ll have yourself an interesting read. Scythe certainly ticked a lot of boxes for me. What was truly remarkable about it was how unique the premise felt: in a world where no one can die, the unpleasant job of population control falls to the Scythes.

I feel like this is one of those rare books where the world building lends itself directly to the premise- and boy was that aspect well done. Everything felt so well thought out, from the fact that the years are named after animals (I was happy to see the Year of the Ocelot in one diary entry!), the euphemism “gleaning” for killing was a sharp idea and the fact that a group of scythes was called an elegy (like a murder of crows, an unkindness of ravens etc- get it? Anyway, I thought it was cool). I also really liked the way the Commandments for Scythes were worked out, starting with Thou Shalt Kill.

It was also cool how the book turns its blade on our own society, indicting the fact that no one reads, they just watching cat holograms (or in our case videos). And of course there was a great deal of logic to the idea that immortality would make humanity inhuman. I did like a lot of the philosophy overall. There were a few things that I thought were more questionable, such as the fact that if the Thunderhead is basically a God, and is entirely good, is this an argument for a benevolent dictator? That sort of idea makes my rebellious spirit squirm- but I guess for an answer to that, I’ll have to wait for the next book.

The characterisation was effective and done quickly. I found Citra had more hard edges, but I softened to her as the story went on. Rowan appealed to me more, especially his cleverness, and I found myself empathising with him more as he got deeper and deeper into trouble (no spoilers). The other characters were quite interesting- but the one that struck me the most was Goddard- who made an excellent villain.

I did spend a lot of time wondering where on earth the plot was going- but that’s not a bad thing, because I really didn’t see a lot of it coming. I did think that some ideas were presented and then taken away too quickly, which meant the pacing could be all over the place. And that was one of the main sticking points I had with this novel. And then of course there was the unavoidable issue with the whole premise: sometimes it feels like the stakes are very low because everyone is basically immortal. It’s a bit of a catch 22- because I really do like the concept- but I can’t deny the issue I had with it. This was offset a little by highlight for spoiler having the threat of their having to glean each other hanging over them- but for some reason I never quite felt like they were fighting to the death.

Overall though, I thought it was a great book:

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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So have you read this? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

The Social Media Tag

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Since I’m away at the moment, I wanted to give you some friendly hints of who can check out- and that’s why I’m so happy that I was tagged by my lovely friend Kat the Queen of TV, the really sweet blogger extraordinaire Beth, and the wonderful Shay who posts a lot of varied content! (who *psst* you need to check them all out) to do the Social Media Tag! I loved this the second that I saw it, although I did realise what a dilemma I was going to have narrowing it down! I also wanted to copy *so many* of Kat’s and Beth’s answers, but I thought it would be best to draw attention to some of the bloggers who hadn’t done this tag. So let’s get to it!

Instagram: A blog with a design you love

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Kelly @Another Book in the Wall– I simply love Kelly’s clean, fresh design- it’s one of those blogs that I always look at and think how gorgeous it is! I love how cohesive it is and *it’s just so pretty*!! And if you go and check her out, you’ll find that she also does such interesting discussions and thorough book reviews- I am always in love with her content!

Facebook: A blog with a friendly blogger

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Nel @Reactionary Tales– Nel is one of my favourite people online because she’s so friendly! I think she’s on maternity leave at the moment, but she’s always been fantastic at replying to comments and getting around the blogosphere. If you want to make a true friend online, Nel is who I’d push you towards! She’s so encouraging and just a lovely person, who runs a diverse and varied blog- what more could you want? Plus, she’s also a friend of all sorts of animals (not just orangutans 😉 ) and does *inspiring* and informative posts on endangered species- which I highly recommend!

Twitter: A blogger who could just write 140 characters and you would still love them

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Nicole @Thoughts on Fantasy– whatever Nicole puts out, I’m there for it. It’s always top quality and intelligent. I learn so much about fantasy when I go on her blog and she brings up topics I literally never thought of before. Honestly, if Nicole did tweets or posted pictures, I bet it would be just as magnificent!

YouTube: A blog that keeps you entertained

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Danielle @Books, Vertigo and Tea– I swear, whatever Danielle puts out, I am guaranteed to love it! Whether it’s her brilliantly done reviews, her thoughts on blogging or her Friday favourites, I’m always finding something fun to read on her site! She’s also super friendly and lovely to chat to (I swear I had such a struggle putting each of these bloggers into just one category!) so I can’t speak more highly of her!

Snapchat: A blogger who’s updates you can’t wait for

 

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Briana and Krysta @Pages Unbound– they are the kinds of bloggers who I just *have to* read every single post. And that’s because Brienne and Krysta always make TOP QUALITY content. Their discussions are always thought provoking, their reviews insightful and they have so much besides that! If you want to constantly read *THE BEST* content, then you should really hop over there and see for yourself how brilliant it is!

Tumblr: A blog which is very diverse and has variety

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Zezee @Zezee with Books– Zezee always seems to read so many different types of books and post all sorts of content, from reviews, to memes to tags- one thing’s for certain, you will never be bored by any of it! Her take is so interesting and gives me plenty to think about. She’s also brilliant at collating lots of articles and other things you should check out- I swear I always think “I’ll pop over there for ten minutes” and can easily spend so much time looking into everything she talks about! So yeah, if you want to hear about more different and diverse books, definitely go to Zezee!

Pinterest: A blog which is full of creativity and inspiration

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Dani @Perspective of a Writer– I really could have picked Dani for *any* of these questions- which is why she has to take this spot. She has *so many* different sorts of content and I am always entertained whenever I pop over there! Plus, not only is Dani’s content always AMAZING, but her aesthetic is *swoon-worthy*! I love how she’s always pushing out the boundaries, trying new things and is constantly pushing out fresh content. I am in *awe*!!

I’m also going to tag everyone I mentioned here though of course no pressure to do it! 

So do you know these bloggers? Do you agree? And do let me know if you’re gonna check them out!

Relaxing Reads!

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Recently I’ve felt the need for some serious down time. And obviously being a bookworm, I ALWAYS turn to books in my hour of need. I thought I’d share some of the book series I turn to when the going gets tough! Here’s a quick list:

Discworld– this is my go to whenever I just need to chill and have fun. These eccentric, witty and hilarious books never fail to put me in a good mood!

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Howl’s moving castle– another wacky writer that I consider every time I’m looking for some fun has to be Diana Wynne Jones. And while I grew up more on the Crestomanci series, I’ve been trying more of the Howl’s Moving Castle series later. Honestly, if you need a break from anything heavy, I recommend either of these.

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Song of the Lioness– this is one of the few series on the list I haven’t been reading lately, but I used to take these on holiday, because they are such a fun read. They’re often described as “gateway to fantasy” books and I think that title’s pretty apt. If you’re looking for fantasy, but don’t want to read anything dark, grim or grimdark, this could do the trick!

Percy Jackson and the Olympians– this one is fairly new to me. Surprisingly (and despite recommendations *for years*) I didn’t start this till about a year ago. I thought it was too young for me so didn’t continue until recently when I realised how much I missed out on this as a teen- and how great it is when you just need to chill!

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Harry Potter– Good ol’ HP has been there for me through virtually every stage of my life. It’s like turning to a good friend in my hour of need. I know many of the kinks and turns in the story, and yet, like all the best friends, it never fails to surprise me.

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Anna and the French Kiss– I certainly appreciate a good contemporary companion novel series and this one really works for me- especially the last one in the series Isla and the Happily Ever After– which… well, swoon!

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Summers of the Sisterhood– since I’m talking contemporary, let’s be honest, it’s pretty hard to go wrong with The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants. As a contemporary series, it deals with a lot of issues like family, friendship and love- all with a charming deftness that will leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside (well, except for the last one- it’s my favourite, but it’s quite the change of tone- maybe save the last one for a different kind of mood!)

And that’s all for now- do you have any go-to books when you’re looking to relax? Let me know in the comment! I’d greatly appreciate all the recommendations!

The Obligatory I’m Taking Time Off Post…

…where I basically say I can’t bear to leave and you can’t get rid of me that easily!

Well this is it, the big *I’m on hiatus* post. As I said about a week and a half ago, I’m going to be away for the next few months, so I’m not sure what my blogging schedule will be like. I should have some posts scheduled and hopefully I’ll be able to get back to bloghopping sooner rather than later. But for now, this is a quick TTFN! Because as of this moment, this is me…

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Okay, this is completely wish fulfilment and not an accurate depiction BUT you may as well picture me like this anyway, because right now I’m probably something closer to this…

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I was going for stressed monkey, but I think it came out a little like I’m having a tantrum. I swear I’m not that much of a basket case, though my friend tells me she’s calling the men in white coats to see me now 😉 Best be off before they get here!

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Mid Year Freak Out Tag

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So I’ve just realised it’s June and we’re coming up to the middle of the year now… AND HOW THE HELL HAS THAT HAPPENED?!!? Be prepared for lots of exclamation marks and CAPITALISATION because I am having a *freak out*!!!

I kind of wanted to do this post before I went away (#priorities), but didn’t think I’d been tagged… until I checked and saw that I was tagged last year and didn’t do it *coughs awkwardly*. So belated thanks to the wonderful Calliope the Book Goddess for tagging me!

BEST BOOK YOU’VE READ YET IN 2018

I’ll admit, I cheated by doing the whole post first and then seeing what I’d left out- because THIS IS TOO HARD A QUESTION!!! Basically any book I talk about as the “best” in this post has a good chance of taking the title at the end of the year (unless I read even better books– which I’d hardly complain about). And even after this preamble, I want to put two books in this category- one fiction and one non-fiction:

 

BEST SEQUEL YOU’VE READ SO FAR IN 2016

Again- choosing one is too difficult- so I’m going with two:

I read and LOVED Girl in the Tower earlier in the year and recently finished Grey Sister (review coming soon) which I liked EVEN MORE than the first one.

NEW RELEASE YOU HAVEN’T READ YET BUT WANT TO

Oh gosh, there are so many, I’m not exactly on top of new releases. But given it’s floating about the blogosphere a lot at the moment and I liked the author’s other book, I’m particularly eager to read Circe

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MOST ANTICIPATED RELEASE FOR THE SECOND HALF OF THE YEAR

I actually have an answer memorised for this: Muse of Nightmares- obviously after reading Strange the Dreamer I cannot frickin wait for the sequel!!

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BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

Ah I desperately wanted to like Lonely Hearts Hotelbut it ended up really not being for me. I was recently asked if I read it knowing I wouldn’t like it- the answer to that is obviously not– I don’t go looking for books to dislike. I just think this is really miss-marketed as similar to the Night Circus when it has very different content and reminded me more of Lolita.

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BIGGEST SURPRISE

I’ll admit it- I judged The Hating Game very harshly before I read it, but ended up LOVING it!

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FAVOURITE NEW AUTHOR

One author that I’ve read a lot of this year, that’s kinda new to me is Rick Riordan. I’ve whizzed through the rest of the Percy Jackson series and can’t wait for more!

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NEWEST FICTIONAL CRUSH

That’s gotta be Lazlo Strange from Strange the Dreamer! He’s exactly the kind of character I always get a soft spot for.

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NEWEST FAVOURITE CHARACTER

Lira has to be one of my favourite kickass characters of all time- plus it was her voice that called to me and made me fall in love with To Kill a Kingdom!

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BOOK THAT MADE YOU CRY

I don’t think I’ve cried over a book as much as Words in Deep Blue EVER before- I basically wept buckets the whole way through the book. If you want to have your heartstrings tugged, man, this is the book for you!

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BOOK THAT MADE YOU HAPPY

I laughed so hard at My Lady Jane– I think it’s by far one of the funniest books I’ve ever read!

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FAVOURITE BOOK TO FILM ADAPTATION

Ermm I haven’t seen any… in fact I haven’t seen any new releases this year. BUT I did fall in love with the Last Kingdom (which is technically a TV show, but whatever, still counts) even if I read the books after watching it.

FAVOURITE POST YOU HAVE DONE THIS YEAR

One of the scariest posts I’ve ever done was on my complicated relationship with Harry Potter– I was so terrified that I posted it and ran away from the computer once I’d done it… but you know what, it turned out to be one of the most satisfying posts I’ve ever written!

MOST BEAUTIFUL BOOK YOU’VE BOUGHT THIS YEAR

Well, I had this given to me as a gift, but it still counts:

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WHAT BOOKS DO YOU NEED TO READ BY THE END OF THE YEAR

I have a few, but the two books on my bedside table, that I don’t have time to read and am now packing to take away, are my top priority:

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Oh and of course my kindle is sitting on top, with a gazillion other books in it that I need to read 😉

COOLIOS! I TAG:

Cynic on Wings, Kat, Marie, Dani, Danielle, Beth, Kelly, Ally, Books of Magic and Sam

That was so fun looking back on a lot of the great reads I’ve had so far this year! So I want to ask you, what’s your favourite of 2018 so far? Let me know in the comments!