RARA-AVIS: Show and tell

From: Michael Robison ( miker_zspider@yahoo.com)
Date: 11 Feb 2005

Kerry wrote:

My point is that I think "show, don't tell" is almost a characteristic of hard boil, and frequently, if perhaps a little less so, of noir.

Yet, basic as "show, don't tell" is, my own reading experience tells me that many publishers and editors
(not all) seem to prefer to tell. It also strikes me that a lot of novels are fleshed out with "show AND tell": present the scene then tell the reader what is to be drawn from it.

************** Maybe not exact, but I parallel show and tell with objective and subjective, with the "tell" part often consisting of the thoughts of a protagonist. Jack O'Connell, in THE SKIN PALACE, would offer a couple lines of dialogue followed by two pages of inner ramblings. I got tired of it.

The most notable "show" novel I can think of is Hammett's MALTESE FALCON. It was left to the reader to make conclusions about the characters' motives and thoughts, generating a rewarding and entertaining layer of ambiguity into the novel.

That said, there are readers who enjoy the revealed thought process of the characters, and sometimes I number myself among them.


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