To show or imply - Page 2


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Thread: To show or imply

  1. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by silvafilho View Post
    I've received a professional feedback on a novel I wrote and she pointed to me this exact problem. Some plot points were obscure, but not in a sense of show vs. tell, more of a "why the hell is this guy running around after all?"

    I implied too much, instead of telling or showing what should be happening.
    Implication 'is' showing. This is what I meant, above, by 'incompletely imagined'. You need to be able to see the scene in its full detail in order to relate the happenings, and the audience has to have something to refer to.
    It's like innuendo. When Eric Idle nods and winks and jogs Terry Jones with his elbow, squire, most people know what that means, and that's why the jape works.
    Saying "I'm sayin'" doesn't illustrate anything at all.
    I like to make literary references to move the plot...a story of mine begins "He too knew the words of Guru."
    If you don't know the original story, there are details later to fill it in. But if you do, you have the thing pegged.
    As a writer, you control the horizontal and the vertical. Make the reader connect the dots.
    Last edited by moderan; May 19th, 2018 at 03:32 PM.
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  2. #12
    Yeah, I need to work on this. The problem is that I didn't give enough dots for the reader to connect =(

    It is manageable tho.

  3. #13
    Art is getting too scientific for me. I do whatever feels right at the time... why is this my method? Too much analysis leads to perfectionism, which leads to self-sabotage. So, yeah... I just go with the flow and as I have said before, let posterity decide.
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  4. #14
    You can only 'show' things in stories by 'telling' other things. That's how language and meaning-making works - mimesis and diegesis. You can tell me 'she smiled' and imply to me, through that, that she is happy (of some variant of happiness that fits in the context of the smile). Or you can tell me 'she was happy' and imply to me, through that, that she is smiling. The two options give you different kinds of focalization, different perspectives on the action. One looks at the objectively describable, and leaves the reading of her emotions to the audience, which better places you in the position of an onlooking character who would themselves be reading that happiness. The other gives you a recollection of those emotions directly, letting the image that the character or narrator speaking would have read to say that they are happy come as a secondary result of that statement. Both of these approaches have their place in storytelling. Sometimes it's more important that our narrator vocalizes their acknowledgement of how a character is feeling.

    If you try to leave too much to implication, your reader can be left with not enough information to firmly grasp, and too much going on in their heads at once. Remember that thought is linear, no matter how fast. You have to guide the reader through what you want them to think about on their end.
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  5. #15
    In my year of judging the LMC, by far (FAR, FAR, FAR!!) the biggest flaw in the stories was not making what was going on clear enough to get the point. (These are only 650 words, so the point is about all there is to the story... but still.) I would say, when the question arises, always try to err on the side of being too explicit.
    A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking. Steven Wright

  6. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Kyle R View Post
    I lean heavily toward the show end of the spectrum as well, though it's certainly a matter of personal preference.

    With showing, there's always the risk of showing too much, beating the reader over the head with the obvious. But leaving things too open for interpretation also has its own risks, as the reading might feel vague or uncertain.

    Given a choice of two evils, I'd rather overwrite than underwrite. At least with overwriting, the reader isn't left confused. Perhaps they're left feeling worn out or bored (which is definitely still something to avoid), but at least they're not left feeling uncertain.

    With underwriting, though, things can get confusing real quick, especially if the author leaves too many gaps for the reader to fill in. And to me, confusing your reader is one of the worst things you can do.

    When in doubt, spell it out!
    I'd rather bore the reader to tears with exposition than leave them without a good sense of the worldbuilding. Unfortunately, I have a problem with telling rather than showing. But implying, the third option, is usually only good for when you're foreshadowing, and you want to tell/show something but keep it cleverly hidden through double entendre.

    By the way, implying can go very very wrong. In the book Wishsong of Shannara, you can, by reading between the lines, decide that Brin may have (1) have become more than friends with Kimber Boh, (2) used her magic to transform her body one last time (magical sex change, anyone?), (3) there is a 300 year gap so nobody can tell us otherwise. This is helped along by a lot of tricky phrases about how Brin doesn't rush into situations, but when she does, she goes all in. And Allanon warning her not to "misuse" her magic. And the kid with the magic sword, Rone Leah, is basically not someone who was incredibly useful or attractive (he was out of it for the second half of the book, after his sword broke). It's possible to completely fumble an implication in such a way that people come up with strange fan theories.

  7. #17
    Imply/show. Iceberg theory, Hemingway. Sometimes you can say more with what you don't say.

  8. #18
    I think showing, or to use the less ambigous term telling, is essential to your worldbuilding, albeit depending on your goals and the point of your story. If you want your reader to imagine the story exactly the way you imagined it, telling is absolutely necessary. You don't have to overwrite in terms of describing every tiny detail, it's much more about describing the essence of your world and the events happening - describing them enough to make sure everyone knows what's going on and has at least the same idea of how your world looks like and how the events unfold. Of course, if you want to leave certain things - how a location looks like, how a person looks like, what kind of relationship two characters have - to the reader's fantasy because that's your goal as a writer or that's how you want the story to be, that's totally fine as long as the reader is still able to fully understand the logic of your plot (in theory - not every reader will necessarily understand your story, but if it can be understood, if there is logic to it and this logic is detectable, I think it's all fine).
    I believe the point where implying is important is when you write about your characters. About their traits, their feelings, their opinions, their way of thinking. In my opinion, it's much more effective to write a scene where someone is screaming at their kid because of something small, rather than writing "they got angry very easily".

    My absolute favorite stories are those that spell out what's happening in front of the reader's eyes, describing everything so well you can basically see it in front of you or feel like you're actually there, but use their plot points to transport a hidden message, imply an important twist that is not essential to understanding what's going on but essential to understanding what the story is about, or to allow rich fan theories.

  9. #19
    I think the best way is to incorporate a combination of the two. There are lots of situations where you could say, 'Sweat beaded on my forehead but my hands were ice.' Depending what was happening someone could easily infer fear or nervousness. Or if you have a thought that goes with it you can add that and then the descriptive.

  10. #20
    There seems to be a dichotomy between action and description. The action, where the plot is expounded to the reader, needs to be fairly explicit; That must be understood correctly. The description of scenes and objects is a different thing. Then the reader can fill in the detail to suit themselves and create a more personal and believable picture.
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