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Birch Bay Public Market

Friday, May 10 through the end of summer, Cathy and I will be selling her hand-made soaps, lotions, and toiletries, along with my photography, note cards, calenders, books, etc.

Come see us!

Across the street from the C Shop

4825 Alderson Road, Birch Bay, Washington 98230


I had an automated blogroll here, powered by Google Reader, but Google, in its near-infinite lack of wisdom, killed Google Reader. Prior to this murder, all I had to do to put a blog on my blogroll (or to take it off) was to place it in a Reader folder called, appropriately enough, "blogroll" (or, of course, to remove it). I use The Old Reader now for following blogs, but it seems to have no way to something similar regarding the blogroll. If you know of a way to do this, please let me know.

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

“Show, don’t tell,” Round N

Over and over and over, you hear people saying that. “Show, don’t tell.” Usually, it’s said by someone who feels they must “be constructive” (ie, say something bad, but say it nicely) or they’re not being helpful. Well, guess what? Words can’t show! They can only tell!

It was a dark and stormy night.

Show, don’t tell.”

Um. The night was so dark he could feel it closing around him like the wings of a bat. The wind was blowing him sideways along the path and the rain had soaked him to the skin before he’d gone a dozen paces.

Oh, that’s so much better! See how you’ve shown the darkness and the storminess, instead of just telling about it?”

No. I don’t. I see no such thing. I see some words. Those words aren’t pictures. They show nothing. The pictures you think you saw as you were reading those words were in your head! You made the pictures. You did the showing. All I did was the conjuring, the magic, the sleight of mind that made you see things that weren’t there.

Don’t get me wrong, here. I’ve said this a million times, and every single one of them, I’ve added that I have no problem with telling writers that they need to write vividly, that they need to pay attention to the scenes they’re writing and the images they’re creating, but let’s face it: as a bit of writing advice “Show, don’t tell” is a nearly perfect example of how not to write.

I’m writing this sitting in a campground in a county park in Minnesota. It’s so dark here I have a flashlight propped on the coffee can so I can see the keyboard (I take a perverse pride in being the world’s worst typist, and if I can’t see the keyboard clearly, there is no hope at all). The sky overhead is just now beginning to show through the branches of the trees above me. This nearest one is a hickory, I think. A hundred birds are encouraging each other to be the first one out of the safety of the shadow of the trunk, to be the first one to test whether the owls have given up and gone home. One lone raccoon pauses at the edge of the clearing, possibly wondering what I have to eat that he could steal before I notice him. Too late, Bandito. I see you already.

Stop! What do you see? Why? Why do you see that? Why do you hear that? There’s nothing here but words. Move along now! Nothing to see here! No pictures, no images, no movies. Just words. And words don’t show. They tell. That’s why we call it storytelling.

Write vividly. Write life. Write truth.
But make yourself swear a blood oath to your own soul that you will never again say “Show, don’t tell.”

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