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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What do you see?

Status - *sigh* Still waiting.

Now, moving on...

"Often while reading a book one feels that the author would have preferred to paint rather than write; one can sense the pleasure he derives from describing a landscape or a person, as if he were painting what he is saying, because deep in his heart he would have preferred to use brushes and color." - Pablo Picasso

I'm somewhat of a painter myself, and I have to say that Mr. Picasso got it right, to a point. I agree with him up to the part when he said, "...because deep in his heart he would have preferred to use brushes and color." When I have finished a particularly visual scene that works beautifully (in my mind, anyway), trust me, I'm ecstatic that it's on paper and not on canvas. It's a real challenge to take people where you are in the mind, and for them to be able to "get it."

It was the author's love of story-telling, and his/her obvious strength in showing the reader what he/she (the author) was seeing in their mind's eye. The writer must have been brilliant in the use of description to impress Pablo Picasso to such a degree as to move him to speak about it. What Picasso was really experiencing was the art of "showing" not "telling." And, an art form it truly is.

We hear about it all of the time in writer's workshops, how-to books, conferences, newsletters, writer's magazines... the list goes on and on. But, sometimes, it can still be hard to wrap our head around it all. And then, when we understand it, the challenge is not to go overboard.

When I was just beginning to write, with dedication, I could get the showing part down, but then I confused it with "fluffy-stuffing." I used a lot of adjectives, and flowery prose. I had to learn balance. I had to come to the understanding that "showing" was not all about the pretty scenery or the storm clouds on the horizon. It was also about the actions and emotions of my characters as well.

I learned the difference between this:

She walked away, angry at him for what he had said to her about the other night.

And this:

She stormed back toward the house, stomping her feet as if she were a five year-old. Mumbling something indiscernible, she swung open the screened door with such force, one would have thought it was going to come off of its hinges. "Who does he think he is, saying such a thing to me about the other night?" she asked herself, hot with anger.

Or, something along those lines.

Can you see it? Can you see this girl literally throwing a hissy fit?

Now, I'm not a pro, by any means. I just know that there are a lot of writers out there who struggle in this area. There was a quote from Anton Chekov that clarified it all for me. He said, "Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass." That did it for me; I had my moment of learning.

I encourage you to look through your work and see if you can find where you've only told about your character versus showing what is going on with them. Think about how you may be able to expand the experience, and write what you see. It makes all of the difference.


Shoe Mood:

Spitting and polishing!


Bish Denham said...

Excellent post! Love the quote from Chekov.

Colorado Writer said...

OMG the waiting is going to kill me. Don't you feel that way?

CJ Raymer said...

Bish - Thanks! I know, that quote turned on the light bulb for me.

Steph - All I can say is, "UGHHHHH!" I'm here with ya, girlfriend! XOXO

Rena said...

Great post!

Christina Farley said...

Love this! What a wonderful comparison in showing with power. I definitly got the visual.

CJ Raymer said...

Rena - Glad you liked it!

Christina - It really helps, huh? Chekov rocks!

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