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Author Topic: "Telling" device?"  (Read 3817 times)

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"Telling" device?"
« on: July 02, 2008, 04:53:59 AM »

Hello chaps.

Recently during a moment of singular clarity I read a few books!

They appear to use a device for "telling" that I found rather useful and simple in its construction.  It was a little Eureka moment for me, however, and even though you are all probably aware of it, I wanted to share it.  Its almost certainly all old hat to you all.
I have adapted its use in my "Absolution," manuscript, a prologue to that you will find in "critique.".

In some parts of the books, the author uses anything from half a page to several pages of "telling;"  this telling is precluded by just a little dialogue cleverly used to draw the reader into the "telling" which follows it.  The "telling" then ends with a continuance of dialogue, almost as if the "telling" section had not interupted the flow of that dialogue....

I thought this was rather clever, it appears that its use was primarily for back ground information.

I have always been taught to "show" not tell" yet here are some authors appearing to go against that general rule of thumb in a clever yet simple way...To me this was a new discovery, I was drawn into the "telling" without pause.

Just thought I'd share my bathtime moment... ;D  (Don't worry I won't draw you a picture!)

Tony... :)
« Last Edit: July 02, 2008, 04:56:46 AM by Tony »
"A man may forget his triumphs
whilst his failures shape him"
Julius Caesar

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Re: "Telling" device?"
« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2008, 01:43:38 PM »

I think if you try to "show" everything, you're going to end up with a book full of irrelevant and unnecessary detail.   There are some things the reader needs to know, but not necessarily see or experience.  I guess the trick is in knowing when to do which. 

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Re: "Telling" device?"
« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2008, 12:23:52 PM »

Exposition-as-flashback (or summary) could work.  I have a tendency to come up with complicated stories that require a lot of exposition, so this interests me a lot.

What I've been going on is exposition-as-authority, or non-fiction lead-in.  You start the story with almost documentary reportage, crime statistics and whatnot, before transitioning into a first-person voice.  I first learned about this technique through an essay by Chuck Palahniuk, but have seen it implemented in a lot of Japanese films--particularly the Battles Without Honor and Humanity series.

I watched Lusty Shogun's 21 Dolls the other night, and it opened the same way--they had a few minutes of documentary reportage about Edo castle, and then reported the birth of the main character.  For a story with a lot of outrageous twists, this technique can help ground the reader in a kind of reality.  They won't say, "What the hell is going on?" because they'll know already.  Then you can get the full effect of plot and character development, without confusion over the general concept diluting that.

On one work in progress, I'm moving towards a documentary introduction for every chapter, because it's just so goddamn crazy.  I was planning to do brief, "non-fiction", "intermezzo" chapters between each chapter, but I don't see it working--readers would just skip those sections and go into the story with no idea what's going on.  It's crucial to build the exposition into the story.


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Re: "Telling" device?"
« Reply #3 on: July 08, 2008, 12:53:40 PM »

Thank you!

You have all given me some ideas to use!


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Re: "Telling" device?"
« Reply #4 on: July 08, 2008, 11:35:09 PM »

I just want to clarify:  Ideally, you wouldn't write any "exposition" (as something separate from "story").  The story should be all story.

It's irritating to hit long passages that contains no plot or character-developing material.  On the other hand, it's irritating to not know what's going on.  I'm trying to use exposition to at least provide the illusion that readers know what's going on.  So maybe they'll say, "Oh, so I'm this setting and the narrator is very authoritative, and then this insanity happens; but it makes sense because I've bought into the illusion."  It's pseudo-realism.  Of course they can't know what's going on, because the story doesn't make sense; but they can go along with me and pretend to know.

It would probably be better for the story to make sense.  I don't come up with many of those, though.

Also:  If you find that there's more "story" (conflict and consequences) in your exposition, it probably means you're writing the wrong story.  It would be better to abandon what you were writing and instead dramatize what had been your exposition.  But that could mean no detective, right?  The story would be all murder.  Less telling and more showing.  The detective comes along after something interesting has already happened and asks questions about it, all just to lead to a payoff at the end.  So maybe mystery means saving the best for last.
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