In September 2005, when omniocular
was started, I in a bout of shocking vanity offered myself up for membership, and sent the mods an e-mail with links to my drawings and stories. omniocular
is, should you be unfamiliar with it, a closed community for gen art and fic that maintains a quality standard – and I, being a perfectionist who refuses to deliver anything that is not as good as I think I can get it (which is not necessarily saying much), thought I would see whether my hard work met the community’s standards. It is after all a fact that a considerable percentage of those who comment favourably on my art and stories are people who have over time become friends of mine, and affection might very well make them a little blind to my artistic shortcomings, so I was rather interested in the judgement of people I didn’t know.
The verdict came a few days later: the mods took me in, but only as an artist; they kindly asked me not to use my membership for posting stories. I have to confess that this was rather the opposite of what I had expected to be told, because whereas I have no training whatsoever as an artist, I supposed I was ever so slightly qualified when it came to fiction writing, if only because I had spent four years studying literature. Of course I know that being a decent reader and essayist doesn’t make one a decent fiction writer as well, but my connection with and education concerning text has always seemed deeper and more – sanctioned than that which I have with the visual arts. This is just to say I was a little surprised, though not exactly upset.
Because I take everything I do disturbingly seriously, I asked the mods what, in their opinion, were my mistakes as a writer, so that I could try to remedy them in the future. Their answer was that I did too much telling
and too little showing
I have to say that at first I was at a loss as to what this meant. Though I do polish and rewrite a lot, I had never paid any special attention to the aspects of showing and telling, and if I was honest, I wasn’t entirely sure what they meant. Some time later, however, I saw jen_deben
mention something about showing and telling in connection with the rewrite of her novel, so I gathered my courage and asked her to please have a look at two of my stories and explain to me how to distinguish between them, which she kindly agreed to do. The stories came back with lots of very useful comments (*hugs Jen*) – and it dawned on me that ‘too much telling’ doesn’t quite cover what I do :D. I hardly do anything else than tell! Some of my stories, like The Dark Night of the Soul
, don’t have as much as a single moment
of showing. Only … those happen to be my favourites. There was something funny going on here, but I didn’t give it much thought, and instead while writing tried to remember to increase my ‘showing’, though I rather doubt that I was succesful.
Now, with Deathly Hallows
ominously appearing on the horizon, and my languishing WIP of Doom in peril of not getting finished in time, I have once again started to wonder about the whole showing/telling issue. And once more, while going through the existing fragments of said WIP of Doom, I realised that the passages I am most satisfied with are almost purely … telling. It became obvious to me that I would never earn a quality seal of the Omniocular variety if I persisted in committing writerly crimes like that, and worse, relishing
in them :D. But are they indeed crimes? Please allow me to present you my dilemma. ( Read more... )