Monday, 2 April 2007
Seduction Not Instruction, Judge
I don't like the adage "Show-not-Tell" mainly because 99.9% of writers don't understand it. If they did, IMO they would then argue that "Tell" is always, absolutely ALWAYS wrong.
I wrote two articles on Seduction-not-Instruction (my preferred, clearer alternative to the misleading "Show-Tell" and in the first
HERE I talked about a story of mine, about a woman who leaves her family and runs away to London.
The reason I post this is, if you read the article, the expanded parts, (the "tell" if you like) I quite like and I remember re-reading the article and thinking, "Hey, maybe people prefer the longer, more told version?"
But from my POV if the longer version is INTERESTING then it isn't really tell. It's not "instruction" it's seduction.
However, the point is this. The story won a $600 first prize, and look what the judge said.
"The Smell of Almond Polish is a story which is incredibly understated, yet which carries a vast understory. The writing is clear and uncluttered, starting with a journey, and following the fortunes of Bridie Collins who simply gets jobs, does rather well, then returns home again. The writer never tells us why she leaves her family, or what is actually going on in her life, yet the story is tender and painful."
This reminds me. A female editor at Atlantic Monthly LOVED this story and wanted Atlantic to take it. It was eventually turned down by the senior editor who called it "wilfully obscure"!
The female editor emailed me, woman-to-woman, to explain that the Snr Ed, a mere man, couldn't understand the duty we women understood!
yet which carries a vast understory
That's the point. If the reader can do a little bit of work mentally and sense an undercurrent, feel the back-story, know that there's a lot going on here, more than on the page, that's when work feels powerful and the words seem to be fighting far above their weight.