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Old 06-15-2012, 12:33 PM   #16
Steven Lyle Jordan
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The biggest deal in "show" is doing it properly. As SL's example indicates, sometimes telling can be better than showing in an awkward way.

I love the moments when a simple described action defines a character so well. In Jurassic Park, Dr. Grant quickly solves the problem of non-matching seat belts in a turbulence-bouncing helicopter by tying two unmatching ends in a granny knot across his waist; that indicates the "man of means" trope, and it was done simply, quickly and effectively.

Many times I deal with show and tell by imagining my story as a screenplay, where you are not privy to characters' thoughts or narrative voiceovers: You want to show; but you want to do it economically, the way Jurassic Park did with Dr. Grant. I prefer this much more than long, drawn-out narrative or exposition.
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Old 06-15-2012, 01:39 PM   #17
Steven Lake
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Originally Posted by mr ploppy View Post
I've never seen a semi-colon yet that wouldn't be better replaced with a fullstop.
Eh, I used to believe that myself, but I've found that, after learning how semi-colons are supposed to work, it ends up being best used to express a thought that doesn't completely come to a stop at the end of the main sentence. For example: "Hanging above them were two moons; one red, one blue." This sentence has better flow than saying, "Hanging above them were two moons. One was red, one was blue." or even simply replacing the semi-colon or period with a comma as it elicits a different, and ultimately more fluid kind of "pause" than either of the other viable punctuation choices would.
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I prefer this much more than long, drawn-out narrative or exposition.
Well said.
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Old 06-15-2012, 03:33 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Steven Lake View Post
Tell: Johnny was an egotist.
Show: "I'm the greatest thing since god, and I am the most incredible as well, and nobody is greater than I am, so kneel before me, slave!"

It's probably not the best example, but it gets the point across. Either way, of all the issues that writers struggle with, this is probably the biggest.
What would you say to ...

Jane really hated Jonny's egotistical nature...

or

"You not freaking God, no matter what you think! You <censor blah blah blah>!" yelled Jane.

Are those telling? I would guess the first is, second is not, but I think both are better then Steven's first example.
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Old 06-15-2012, 06:09 PM   #19
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Not a bad list of sins.

POV is a tricky thing. I was recently reading Michael Connelly's "The Reversal" and he gives somewhat equal time to his two huge protagonists from prior novels (Bosch and Mickey). He's one of my favorite authors but it was still awkward at times because he was switching POV between chapters, giving equal time.
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Old 06-15-2012, 09:47 PM   #20
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The Blog is right about exclamation marks. Georgette Heyer got worse, not better, with time, and in one of her last novels - A Lady of Quality - she has said lady, and a gentleman, holding a discussion in a public place and almost every sentence spoken ends in an exclamation mark. None of the exclamation marks indicated an actual exclamation, and it becomes clear that Ms Heyer was misusing the exclamation mark to indicate firmness of tone--firmness which was self evident anyway. All those exclamation marks make that scene very annoying to read.
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Old 06-15-2012, 10:03 PM   #21
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So the one I've read a bit of hemming and hawing over is repeating a character's name endlessly during dialog. I've read a fair few arguments both ways, and none are particularly convincing.
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Old 06-15-2012, 11:28 PM   #22
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Quote:
"Hanging above them were two moons; one red, one blue."
I hate being pedantic, but I think that semi-colon would be better replaced by a colon, as it indicates a list is on it's way.

"Hanging above them were two moons: one red, one blue."

I tend to use semi colons to indicate a pause half a beat longer than a comma. A full stop would end the sentence, therefore the arc of the thought; I think.
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Old 06-16-2012, 02:07 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by mr ploppy View Post
I've never seen a semi-colon yet that wouldn't be better replaced with a fullstop.
I have two responses to this:

tl;dr

And just today I was reading John Irving's essay, The King of the Novel, in which he says of Charles Dickens: "He is a master of that device for making short sentences seem long, and long sentences readable - the semi-colon!"
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Old 06-16-2012, 02:49 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VydorScope View Post
What would you say to ...

Jane really hated Jonny's egotistical nature...

or

"You not freaking God, no matter what you think! You <censor blah blah blah>!" yelled Jane.

Are those telling? I would guess the first is, second is not, but I think both are better then Steven's first example.
Second is fine. Although obviously it should be "Jane yelled" and anybody who thinks different should be burned at the stake, or staked at the burn as you would have it in your topsy-turvy world. Would you write "yelled she"? No, you would not. And certainly not after a dose of stake-burning. First example is heinous.

I empathise with Teh on names. Obviously I don't empathise with anyone, but saying I do is a trick I was taught to make people think I'm human. RA Salvatore, yes, said that one of his tips was to make sure readers knew who was saying what in a scene. Too often you can end up with alternating lines of dialogue and lose track of who is who in the conversation. Using names, or simply putting in a "Jane said" clarifies this and I tend to the belief that it's worth doing, even if it triggers that skipped record flaw I spoke of. In this case it's valid because it's supposed to be reminding you who is currently in charge of the dialogue. Now, at an advanced level you wouldn't need this if your character had a unique way of speaking, which brings me to another bugbear of mine. Characters who all sound the same.

I can't tell you how many world-destroying tyrants I've read who speak exactly the same as the hero who is out to destroy them or the guy who serves them coffee.
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Old 06-16-2012, 04:16 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by dadioflex View Post
Second is fine. Although obviously it should be "Jane yelled" and anybody who thinks different should be burned at the stake, or staked at the burn as you would have it in your topsy-turvy world. Would you write "yelled she"? No, you would not. And certainly not after a dose of stake-burning. First example is heinous. [...]
From Waltzing Matilda by Banjo Paterson:
Quote:
Up jumped the swagman and sprang into the billabong,
"You'll never take me alive", said he,
But he was Australian, and they were lyrics, so maybe that doesn't count, so lets try Great Expectations by Charles Dickens:
Quote:
"Yes, sir," said I; "him too; late of this parish."
[...]
"Blacksmith, eh?" said he. And looked down at his leg.
[...]
"Yes, Pip," said Joe; "and what's worse, she's got Tickler with her."
[...]
"Don't you know?" said Mr. Jaggers.
Maybe you don't like Dickens, let's try Thomas Hardy:
Quote:
"Nor you to mine," said he.
[...]
"I thought so too," said Mrs. Newson.
That was browsing my free ebooks. Let's trying something more recent. John Irving in The Cider House Rules:
Quote:
"Right," said Homer Wells.
[...]
"She was always that," said Homer Wells.
How many more do you want to burn?
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Old 06-16-2012, 06:30 AM   #26
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So the one I've read a bit of hemming and hawing over is repeating a character's name endlessly during dialog. I've read a fair few arguments both ways, and none are particularly convincing.
I think it shows up if you read the work aloud. Very quickly the repetition of first names becomes clumsy and unrealistic.

The exclamation mark one is one of the reasons I gave up reading James Patterson (that, and the poor writing/plotting/characterisation etc. etc.). His use of them outside of dialogue, just to emphasise a narrative sentence, drives me mad!
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Old 06-16-2012, 08:00 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by dadioflex View Post
Now, at an advanced level you wouldn't need this if your character had a unique way of speaking, which brings me to another bugbear of mine. Characters who all sound the same.
Yes, I've been known to wrestle with that one! Though, in my defense, there's often not so much difference in many characters' backgrounds, upbringing, etc, that would come out in their dialogue except in a rare use of words. (Arthur C. Clarke's work had the same bugaboo. Aren't I in good company? )

I also try to avoid having them sound like caricatures, like the characters in the Doc Savage novels I grew up reading... perhaps I've become too sensitized by "By Yiminy!" dialogue to risk getting too close to it myself.
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Old 06-16-2012, 08:10 AM   #28
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... and anybody who thinks different should be burned at the stake, or staked at the burn as you would have it in your topsy-turvy world. Would you write "yelled she"? No, you would not. And certainly not after a dose of stake-burning.
One thing I have always liked about your posts is your willingness to embrace different opinions then yours. You are just a great, easy going, and accepting person.

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Old 06-16-2012, 08:38 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by mr ploppy View Post
I've never seen a semi-colon yet that wouldn't be better replaced with a fullstop.
Semi-colons and full stops are very different beasts.

One circumstance where a semi-colon definitely can't be replaced with a full stop is when you have a list of items, and the items within the list contain commas. It's correct to use a semi-colon as a list separator in that case.

Eg:

Quote:
In his suitcase were three shirts, rather wrinkled; two pairs of socks, which had seen better days; and two pairs of underpants.
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Old 06-16-2012, 10:01 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by kennyc View Post
You drone on about tea and clothing in fight scenes?

They're British hooligans, old chap. The finest in the world. Of course they're going to stop fighting for a tea break. They're not bally savages.
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