My Incredibly Expensive Education in Showing Vs. Telling

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I came across a wonderful blog today about showing vs. telling. We’ve all heard the golden rule, but many writers don’t know what the heck it means. Show, don’t tell? What? Isn’t the very nature of what we writers do telling? It’s called story-telling for a reason, right? Well yes, but tell it like you would see it in a movie.

I actually think showing is one of my strengths as a writer, and while reading this blog, I had what Oprah attempted to trademark as an “aha moment.” While I read a lot in my twenties—paperbacks I picked up for a quarter apiece at Goodwill and used books I bought for 50% off cover price with store credit from trading my thrift store hauls—the number of books I read paled in comparison to the number of movies I watched.

Now, that was telling. Allow me to show you what I mean.

Back when VCRs were new tech, and instant video was science fiction, I lived in a rural town with no mall, no movie theater, but seven video stores. Eleven if you counted the video sections of the two gas stations, one tanning salon and the appliance store that also rented movies.  I received an internship in my freshmen year of college as a campus marketing rep for a major motion picture studio by opening my wallet and spreading my membership cards—all eleven of them—out on the interviewer’s desk in answer to the question “Would you consider yourself a movie buff?”

After my first major romantic breakup, my best friend launched a full-scale manhunt for me by scouring every parking lot of every movie theater within a twenty minute radius of my house for my car. Because were else would I be? Movies were my escape, a guaranteed two hour solace from loneliness, depression, and anxiety. The theater itself was cool and dark after a long commute in a car with no AC. It was my church, and I prayed there every single day. Between AMC and Regal, I ran up eleven thousand dollars in credit card debt in college in ticket purchases and concessions…and that was with my student discount.

I watched anything…everything. How else could one see 7-10 movies in the theater week in and week out? I watched Last Action Hero twice (and I didn’t even like it the first time). It was an addiction I did not kick until my credit cards were maxed.

So I guess I have a good reason to be proficient in writing things as you would see them in a movie. In the long run, my education in showing vs. telling may have been cheaper than grad school, though the interest on it was a damn sight higher than my student loans. I hope it proves to be money well spent.

 

PS. Anybody else see Avengers this weekend?

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5 thoughts on “My Incredibly Expensive Education in Showing Vs. Telling

  1. Thank you for the plug! I’m new to blogging, so I really appreciate the support. 🙂 I’ve had a nose around your blog and I really like it, so you’ve got a new reader here for sure. I particularly love your ‘origin story’ about the hand-written novel and taped read-through. How fantastic to have persevered, honed your skills, and adapted your work as you grew. Very inspiring.

    When it comes to movies, I’m totally with you. (Although not the $11,000 bill bit!) There’s nothing I enjoy more than sitting in a silent, dark room with a movie or two. And you’re right, it definitely helps with writing. A lot of writers I speak to wax lyrical about how their novels touch upon human nature, or show a depth of emotion – but for me, I just want to entertain people. A laugh here, a gasp there, an enduring sense of fun when they reach the end of the novel… I write in terms of plot and visuals, not to be literary. When it comes to writing humorous genre fiction, you can’t go wrong with some movie research!

    As for The Avengers, well… All I can say is that I’m VERY happy to be living in the Golden Age of comic book adaptations!

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    • “A lot of writers I speak to wax lyrical about how their novels touch upon human nature, or show a depth of emotion…” I have one novel in me that might do that but it is also deeply personal, so whether or not I will ever publish it is a big ‘if.’ I want my writing to be a guilty pleasure. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I am new to blogging myself and it is great to connect with more than just a ‘like’ though sometimes that’s all we have time for.

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      • (Was really tempted to just ‘like’ your reply to spite you… :P)

        I used to sit around thinking, ‘When is my profound book idea going to hit? When will inspiration strike?’ I thought I had to have some fantastic, life-defining novel, and that was a lot of pressure. Letting myself write a ‘silly’ book was such a relief, and I’m very happy in that genre. That said, I’d never rule out something more literary or emotional. Once you have ‘the idea’, it’s very difficult to shake it off. I haven’t had mine yet, but I hope you one day write yours. Even if it never sees the light of day, it sounds like the catharsis will do you good. 🙂

        Hope you don’t think I was being reverse-snobby towards more literary stuff. But, as many Oscar-nominated movies and Palme d’Or winners show, ‘thinkies’ don’t make the best movies!

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  2. Nope, not snobby at all. I have about half of it written. The other half is still writing itself. It is about how my family became a family. We adopted our ten year old daughter from foster care (now 12). I am not sure what the stopping point will be, because we are still very much forming our lifelong bonds, but I will ‘know’ it when I see it. And feel free to like lol.

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