Advice

S

everal blogs I read give advice on nearly everything writing.

I just read “Bad Advice Boogie: Show, Don’t Tell” by Jeff Somers author of Writing Without Rules and other books. Just enter the title in your search engine to see what he had to say about show, don’t tell.


One important point he makes is in the example, “Mary felt tired, and longed for a nap.” Somers continues, “Or, you could spend 500 words on Mary’s physical and mental state of being, slowly shading in the fact that she’s utterly exhausted and having her think dreamily of her bed at home, the soft pillows, the sense of peace. You could expound on weariness as a human state of existence, research sleep and skillfully edge those statistics and myth-busting into the prose, and before you know it you’ve written an entire chapter about how sleepy Mary is without ever saying it explicitly! Unfortunately, your reader also fell asleep some pages back and likely won’t return.”


For me, the best advice in the piece is, “The more subtle you become as a writer, the more gray areas you’ll encounter, and trying to apply a ‛rule’ like that (show-don’t tell) in a brutal, simplistic way will actually make you a worse writer. In other words, mastering your craft often involves knowing the rules so you can break them with impunity.”

Speaking of advice, MS-Word blue-underlines ‘more subtle’ and suggests subtler in the previous paragraph.


One can check out the authenticity of rules by reading Bill Bryson’s The Mother Tongue – English And How It Got That Way. Knowing from where the rules originate aids in your having permission to ‘break them with impunity.’


A

nd, another blog says, “Show, Don’t Tell” Is the Great Lie of Writing Workshops.”

The frustrated writer jumping up and down on the concrete floor cries out like a banshee with its forefoot caught in a rusty steel trap placed in the primeval forest by a wantabe explorer, trapper, or guide of the eighteenth century North American frontier, “OK – OK, enough already!”

H

arper Lee writes in Go Set a Watchman, “The hunting club kept the steps in decent repair, and used the jetty as a dock for their bots. They were lazy men; it was easier to drift down stream and row over to Winston Swamp than to trash through underbrush and pine slashes.”

Is she showing or telling?

Oh, and MS-Word advises that ‘repair, and’ should be written without the comma.

Whom are we to believe?

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