10 October 2017

showing and telling

Less than a week until the submission deadline for the final 2017 issue of Electric Spec: October 15, 2017! Get those stories in!

In the meantime, we've starting working behind the scenes to get the new issue out. I've also been reading a book on the history of storytelling, all of which has made me think about the whole showing versus telling thing.

Experts disagree on when the first novel was published. Some say it was Le Morte d'Arthur by Thomas Malory in 1485, but there are many other opinions. Let's just say, prior to about 1400, storytelling was primarily an oral tradition. Imagine those folks of long ago sitting around the fire telling stories. Some of us have had that experience while on camping trips telling ghost stories and the like. Notice my verb choice: telling. These stories were often narrative summaries of exciting events such as hunting expeditions, death-defying stunts, or scary hook-handed monsters in lovers' lanes. Telling stories orally is still quite common around the world, right? Let me tell you what happened today at work....

When the modern novel was borne showing became popular in storytelling. Some experts claim literary novels are mostly showing the details of one or more particular persons, places or things. In fact, a current writing mantra is Show, don't tell. Some would say we've abandoned the excitement of telling.

I say: showing is exciting when you're showing exciting events in the moment. This enables readers to be right smack in the middle of the action. At Electric Spec we very rarely buy stories that do not have this type of showing. However, the best stories have both showing and telling. Show the exciting bits. Tell, or summarize, the less exciting parts.

What do you think of the whole showing versus telling dichotomy?

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