No – this isn’t a post about show vs tell. I promise. Rather it’s about why we want to show and what we want to show.
Let’s start with what type of a reader are you? Are you a skimmer – blazing over all the flowery words to get to the meat of the story – the dialogue, or are you the type who loves to dig in, who wants to see the scene your reading? Do you like to be a part of the story, to be there as its happening, or merely a by-stander?
I’m discovering that how we read a story greatly influences how we tell it. What do you think?
Me personally, I want to be in the story, but I don’t want to lose my focus while I’m there. I don’t want to be subjected to the vibrant shades, all the little knick-knacks on the walls, each blade of grass or leaf as it blows in the wind. I do want to know it’s windy though, and for sure – I’d love to know that the house I’m in isn’t bare, but … sorry writers … I’m not into the flowery speech.
Yet – as a writer – if I don’t put it in – my scene falls flat on its face. So there needs to be a balance. This issue is something I’m noticing in some works I’ve critiqued and works I’ve had critiqued. There will be scenes where I start with setting (another post for another day), work it into my dialogue and make sure that my reader can SEE what is happening – and I’m told it’s too much. But then there are passages I’ll read that I know would be even more vibrant if I could just SEE it. It’s all subjective right? But, there has to be a right and wrong way.
Take this for example:
Wynne sat slouched in her chair, her arms folded tight against her body as she stared at the grotesque thing in front of her. How she was supposed to eat this? Her lips pursed together as the smell of the small item wafted up to her. Seriously. She glanced around the room, at the other tables where this monstrosity was being delivered. The women at the tables all showed signs of disgust, while the men all picked up their forks. At least hers wasn’t the only nose to turn up. This was supposed to be a chocolate tasting event. So why, in heaven’s name, would they serve apple pie for dessert?
Ok – so take that one paragraph. It’s not perfect – I just wrote it off the top of my head … but think about the scene. Are you there? Can you smell the ‘un-chocolate like’ scent? Do you see Wynne sitting there in disgust?
Now, I could have written it like this:
Wynne sat at her table and stared in disgust at her plate. Surely this was a mistake. She looked at the other tables around her. Nope, not a mistake. The women at all the tables apparently thought the same thing as her. The men on the other hand, could care less. They ate the apple pie with gusto. But why, when it was a chocolate tasting event, would they serve apple pie for dessert?
See? It says the same thing – but which brings you in more?
Now I could have written the first piece with more description. I could have described the place settings, the table cloth, whether there was a center piece or not. I could have described the clothes, the room … I could have written this in vivid detail. But then the essence of it would have been lost. Or atleast I think so. I would have skipped over it all – unless of course they were chocolate damask tablecloths (LOL).
What do you think? Am I off base?