The Novel Series: Style--Showing vs Telling
One of the most common axioms in writing is “show don’t tell.” “It was an eerie night,” for example, can be more evocatively conveyed by describing the pallid moonlight, the ragged clouds casting wavering shadows on finger-like branches, or the wind whining like a lonely dog through the tree-tops. In many cases, “show don’t tell” is a useful and effective maxim. But focus too intently on imagery, similes, and vivid description, and you risk losing the story’s momentum and alienating readers with overly stylistic prose. Sometimes, the best method of telling a memorable story is to write simply and candidly, using metaphor and simile only when they will heighten the narrative, and being direct—“telling” readers what they need to know—when the aim is to move the plot forward or to establish without ambiguity a character’s emotions. We will look at examples from such writers as Elizabeth von Arnim, Kiran Desai, John Williams, and Tim Winton and experiment with showing versus telling in a series of in-class writing exercises. By the end of the seminar, you’ll have a deeper understanding of when to employ these different narrative styles and why.
Part of GrubStreet's Novel Essentials Series, led by Ursula DeYoung and dedicated to exploring the fundamental building blocks of the novel. Classes include:
- Novel Essentials: Pacing
- Novel Essentials: Narrative Perspective
- Novel Essentials: Finding, Signing, and Dealing with Agents
- Novel Essentials: Style--Showing vs. Telling
- Novel Essentials: Introducing Characters
- Novel Essentials: Arcs and Endings
- Novel Essentials: Narrative Style
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