To show or imply


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Thread: To show or imply

  1. #1

    To show or imply

    There have been a couple threads lately that have touched on this. The points made have referenced letting the reader define things like beauty or how a grief stricken person acts. One school of thought favors spelling everything out for the reader, the other gives the reader freedom to make choices.

    Which method do you prefer and why?

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by Jack of all trades View Post
    There have been a couple threads lately that have touched on this. The points made have referenced letting the reader define things like beauty or how a grief stricken person acts. One school of thought favors spelling everything out for the reader, the other gives the reader freedom to make choices.

    Which method do you prefer and why?
    Show, by a wide margin. Often I simply infer that something has happened, or make the reader assemble the event in their own mind by supplying referents. This also allows me to control several levels of understanding simultaneously, as there will always be people that don't understand the references and will then read a completely different story.
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  3. #3
    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!

  4. #4
    Wɾ°ʇ°∩9 bdcharles's Avatar
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    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!
    My issue with underwriting is that in instances where the word choices are insufficiently powerful, the text gets anemic and bland. There's no commitment to artistry, no dazzlement, nothing cool or inventive about it. But yes, belabouring every tedious detail is also a problem. I call it the "beige sofa" syndrome, after seeing two unrelated pieces of work (not here) that each went into that amount of detail, both mentioning the offending furniture in the opening puh


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  5. #5
    Sometimes itís okay to leave the obvious unsaidóone thing I love as a reader is when the author reveals just enough to let me fill in the blanks on my own. If the narrator explains things after Iíve already concluded the same, it can feel a bit redundant and overwritten.


    That was feedback Kyle gave me. Of course, it leaves out the tiny detail of where to draw the line. But I have played with not saying as much, and I like it.

    I tried writing that scene today, and I'm not especially happy with it, but you can see what I left out. It was just a possibility, but . . .


    "That's my son, that's Dylan. He's my son, you-- "

    Finally I look down at him. This little boy -- clinging to his mother's neck, scared stiff -- looks nothing like Dylan, or me, or any of our family.

    "I'm sorry," I say, feeling how hopelessly inadequate that is. I'm overwhelmed with embarrassment and shame. I let go of the boy and take a step back, trying to smile and not look crazy.




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  6. #6
    If we're using the traditional "show vs tell" interpretation of "show", I don't see show and imply as in any sort of opposition to each other.

    I think we should show as much as the reader needs to be able to reach the conclusion we want the reader to reach. I certainly don't think we need to spoon-feed readers, so leaving some content to reasonable inference works for me.
    Last edited by Bayview; May 10th, 2018 at 09:03 PM.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by bdcharles View Post
    My issue with underwriting is that in instances where the word choices are insufficiently powerful, the text gets anemic and bland. There's no commitment to artistry, no dazzlement, nothing cool or inventive about it. But yes, belabouring every tedious detail is also a problem. I call it the "beige sofa" syndrome, after seeing two unrelated pieces of work (not here) that each went into that amount of detail, both mentioning the offending furniture in the opening puh
    "Showing" is NOT underwriting. That's something that insurance companies do.
    It's making the audience connect the dots instead of drawing the lines. You're in charge of the dots. Make like Georges Seurat.
    no commitment to artistry, no dazzlement, nothing cool or inventive about it
    Complete and utter bilge. It takes more artistry to suggest, and especially to suggest successfully, than it does to simply relate the laundry list. We must therefore duel at high noon.
    Bring your pencil.
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  8. #8
    As a former (year-long) LM judge, I would say that the most common problem there is authors not being explicit enough about what is actually supposed to be happening.
    A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking. Steven Wright

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by ppsage View Post
    As a former (year-long) LM judge, I would say that the most common problem there is authors not being explicit enough about what is actually supposed to be happening.
    I would say that this is because they are incompletely imagined. Most of the stuff I read seems like first-draft stuff, dashed off to be part of the competition. Writing flash is a skillset that needs development.
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    "From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it." - Groucho Marx

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by ppsage View Post
    As a former (year-long) LM judge, I would say that the most common problem there is authors not being explicit enough about what is actually supposed to be happening.
    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.

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