Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Show and Tell

Oral traditions are an incredibly powerful way to pass traditions, history, culture, and heritage from one generation to the next. The story tellers of many cultures were highly revered people in the tribes as they were the keeper of the history. This was true in the Celtic Tribes as much as it is in any of the African, Native American or other tribal people.

As a young girl I learned the art of story telling from my grandparents. As a young adult I would tell the stories, or stories of my own, to my children. But, in today's publishing world, an aspiring author must be careful not to cross the two. There is a difference in telling a story and showing a story.

When I first began my journey to become a published author, I hated that phrase, "Show don't tell." I would see it digitally scribbled in the borders of my creations and I would scream inside with frustration. I would reword the paragraphs of prose only to be told I was stilling telling and not showing.

Practice makes perfect. I haven't reached perfection yet, but I am making progress which counts for more than gold in my profession of writing. Learning to show a story through dialogue and action words in present tense - even if the scene's setting is historical to the story -- is something that takes practice. Breaking old habits of a story teller is a feat of greatness in and of itself.

I wrote and rewrote "Sticks and Bones" at least eight times to eliminate all the telling. I was and am more careful with "The Malakai Chronicles". When you are forced to correct something over and over you eventually learn; right?

I don't think I will ever stop telling stories in my family. I feel that it is an important piece of our culture and traditions. My two grandchildren enjoy the stories that grandma tells far more than the books that we read together.

The challenge: Show don't tell when writing stories. It's a fine line, but I will learn to tread on it lightly.