Monday, April 05, 2010

Don't just tell the story... TELL THE STORY.

Okay that sounds like a contradiction.

And for some of you, like me, who love to put scenes in your stories that are rather telling or love to place omniscient clues through out, then it sounds rather like a license to TELL.

Perhaps it's a little of both. (Shhh don't tell anyone.)

Before anyone believes I'm saying it's okay to use alot of telling in your story, let me ask a few questions and hopefully explain what I mean when I say we need to learn to TELL THE STORY.

To me telling the story is a tool I use to help me extract my story from my brain, clarify what I see and write it down. Sounds simple enough. Right?

How do you tell people about your story or work in progress?

Do you sit down, set your face in a sour lemon sucking disposition and while using a monotone voice, say. . . This story is about such and such.. and so and so? I think you will find it interesting because this character does blah, blah, blah. 

I can already see the audience squirming in their seats, patting their lips to keep from yawning and blinking steadily so their eyes won't roll back in their skulls. Surely you don't talk about your story, your baby that way.

If your like me when you tell someone about your story, you get a bit excited.

You try to paint the picture of your story through your words and the inflection of your voice, because you want people to be interested in your book.

I tend to get so excited in the telling I may freak a few people out. Or slap them silly with use of over exuberant hand gestures. LOL

When I see them running the other direction it's a sure sign I've shared more than they probably wanted to know. Seems they might not have wanted a paragraph by paragraph breakdown when they asked how my story was coming along.

Maybe there are times when a person can overshow. HMMM. Just a thought.

I have been criticized for writing telling scenes, but as I told you earlier, sometimes I like them. Sometimes I think we try to remove too much. On the other hand, I try to show more often too. And when I have a hard time with a scene I close my eyes and envision myself telling the story about my characters and their lives.

My family calls that LOST, day tripping or zoned out.  They come in and find me crying and talking back and forth between my characters and wonder if I'm not going crazy or already there. But they have learned to leave me alone because they are never quite certain how a character might react if pulled from their scene.

Other times, I try to tell someone else about it and just to hear the words in my mind, or in my own voice, it helps me build on the scene and hopefully draw the reader into a world. A world they can see with their own eyes just because my words allowed them the ability to take the trip.

And isn't that what we as writers hope to accomplish? Of course we want to reach an audience with our stories. Several of us probably hope to sell a gazillion copies and become the next big name in writing.

I know I don't want people to buy my books, read the first chapter and toss the book aside because it was boring as spit and they could care less about the characters.

I realize not everyone is going to like the way I write. Just as I realize I shouldn't try to write like everyone else?

Then I lose the story teller's heart that I was gifted with. I don't care to go there. Do you?

What do you think about telling scenes?

What process do you go through to paint a picture with your words and get beyond the monochrome realm?

 Do you think a person can over show in a story?


Celia Yeary said...

TINA-There's a fine line between showing and telling, and I perfectly understand your points here. I often wonder if we don't shortchange our readers by NOT telling them a few things. I've read articles and books on this topic, and every editor/publisher will "tell" you we should show, not tell. But sometimes, it is appropriate--call it an info dump if you will, but there are some things you cannot put n an action scene. And how many books do you read that go on page after page with telling, and it's on the NY best sellers list? Happens all the time. Good post--Celia

Tina Pinson said...

Thanks, Celia,

I couldn't agree more. How do those authors get best seller with such poor over telling writing? probably because some people like that kind of writing. Go figure LOL

stories are a fine balance. And there's a fine balance to a writer's/story teller's soul. God gives that inspiration and from that we pull imagination. Thank heaven He doesn't make us all the same kind of writer LOL

StephB said...

Tina, I agree - there has to be a balance. I like to start out with motion and get to the info a little later on, but it's something that's taken me quite a while to master. Sometimes, writing is also about technique and mastering it.

When it comes to telling people about my upcoming project, it all depends on how interested I judge that person. Do they really want to know or are they making small talk. Those who are genuinely interested have that spark in their eye - the same one I feel about the project.

Great post - food for thought. Thanks for sharing.


Tina Pinson said...


So you look for the spark of interest in their eyes before you share. I pounce on unsuspectingly and tie them to the chair...

Actually, I look for the spark. I just have to remember to try to cut my disertation before the spark begins to dim. LOL

It does take awhile to find your balance in writing. I think where we do ourselves a disservice is when we try to become another writer who seems balanced. We can emulate to a point, but if we go to far we become them and not who we were meant to be.
thanks so much for sharing.

Jennifer Slattery said...

I like to go to istock photo and pull up a bunch of pictures that intrigue me. I tend to write in scenes--from one to the next, so I think that helps me "show" more, but I know a lot of readers like "telling" as well. Otherwise memoirs wouldn't be such a hit. I wonder how much of it depends on genre and taste.

Tina Pinson said...

Hi Jennifer,
Thanks for coming by. It's good to get pictures that show the scope of what you're thinking. I think it's an excellent idea.
I'm not sure if genre makes much difference. I tend to think it's more the taste of the reader than anything else.
Before I started learning all the differences about POV and that, I didn't really pay attention, now I look more at the writing and probably critique it more than I should. I'm not sure that always a good thing.