Monday, July 13, 2015

Results of the two versions: A show versus tell experiment.

Last Monday, I posted two different versions of possible beginnings for one of my works in progress (Native Shifter) to find out what version readers preferred. You can see the post right below this one or click HERE.

Version #1 was pure showing.

Version #2 was a mix of showing, telling, backstory and a flashback.

I didn’t really have time to push for a lot of comments, but I did get three comments from authors: PT Dilloway, Michael Offutt and Alex Cavanagh.

All three preferred version two.

Version #2 is the one where I tried to let the reader know more about the main character before having things happen to her. The goal, of course, is to have the reader care about the main character before things go wrong.

However, it has many of the things that other writers (usually in critique groups) will tell you not to do.

Telling: Show don’t tell is a common expression. It makes sense. I mean, the reader wants to be able to see what is happening and not be told. But version two has plenty of telling in that it tells Rayen’s background. I included her relationship with her father and things about her, such as how she likes to hunt, rather than cook.

Backstory: Is often frowned upon. It’s basically another form of telling and it can be boring. However, I have things about how Rayen had traded for some objects such as a spy glass and a book, but was forced to throw them away.

Flashback: Is also frowned upon because it can be jarring. It can stop the action and force the reader to get interested in a new situation when they just want to get back to the present. However, I even have a brief flashback of her father defending her ways with the tribe elders.

Overall, I enjoyed writing version #2 more because I ignored the usual guidelines and did some characterization.

Version #1 was all showing. Alex said it came across as more of an account, than a story. I tend to agree with him. For a long time, this was how I tried to write. Perhaps I went too far with the showing in those days. So my conclusion is….

Conflict mixed in with the telling, backstory and flashbacks can enhance the story. 


In other news "Seer of Mars" is being featured on eBookStage today. They posted it free, so fellow authors head on over there and check it out. Readers, be sure to check out all the deals!


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I think the mix of elements worked well in the second one. You can't adhere to the rules all the time. A book that was all showing would read a little awkward for instance.
You really demonstrated why all telling is so impersonal though. I will remember that.

Pat Dilloway said...

I guess all showing isn't as good.

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

I think a mix is always good, and congratulations on "Seer of Mars" being featured.

Misha Gericke said...

I think that the show don't tell rule is a good one, but not if it weakens the story. (Which actually goes for any writing rule, if you think about it.)

Eric Shultis said...

Interesting article. Pulling back the curtain for a non-writer to see some of the processes involved in the development of a work. It increases my appreciation for the effort put into writing. Seems tricky though. Rules that aren't really rules at all but suggestions that subordinate themselves to other considerations. Still, from what I've read, you seem to have a good handle on it. Both the imaginative, story-idea creating part and the more precise writing it out part.

Cindy said...

Readers are more interest in a good story rather than the "rules."

Cindy said...

I think you mean "all showing" as so impersonal.