Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Writing 'The Misfit' - 'Showing' the Core Point of Each Chapter

For the past few days I have been struggling to get a move on while editing the nth version of 'The Misfit'. Just when it seems that it has fallen into place, I read it one more time and it feels all wrong. I go back to it again and it stretches, kicks and pulls in all directions like a child who is not wearing comfortable clothes. 'Come on,' I say. 'they look good on you.' But its not about looking good pal, its about whether it is comfortable. If I get the flow right the tone is wrong, if I get the Point of View the tenses go awry and if I get it all right I seem to be missing the core point of the chapter. I find myself wondering how much longer it will take me to figure out this business of writing.

One of the things about the 'show' and 'tell' business, I think (still have not applied it enough to comment authoritatively) is that the core points in the chapter that I want to get across must be 'shown' for greater effect. It may be that everything cannot be shown sometimes, and we may have to tell certain things, but the points that you wish to remain etched in the readers mind for future reference, the one that remain with him, must be 'shown'.

I cannot say how much the 'show' business improves details and depths. If I had just 'told' that 'Aditya and Meghna walked around the beautiful path' it may not have the same effect as in Aditya 'showing' and Meghna conversing as they walked. 'Let's take that path shall we?' said Aditya. Meghna looked at the small cycle trail that led into the dark woods, with overgrown grass and wild flowers on either side. 'Looks like a lonely road to take. But is it safe?' Meghna asked. 'Yes,' said Aditya. 'Why else would I take you there? I'd like to show you something you'd really love. Trust me.' Meghna smiled and nodded. The images are completely different.

There are many small details about the two characters that come out, many paths, personality traits, dynamics and possibilities they seem to present that 'showing' brings out. As long as it is true to the main emotion and theme, 'showing' stays and enriches the narrative. I will share more when I try to as I go along this journey.

One important thing about 'show' is that it lets the reader discover the fine nuances through the characters and need not rely on the writer to influence them. After all the reader is intelligent enough to decide whether the path is beautiful, whether X is a good person and whether Y is a gullible one. The beginning of a romance, a murder, love or revenge, it all begins here. So as with any good communicator, it is best that the writer gets out of the way and let the characters take over the business.


Asr said...

Hari, out of all this toiling and furstration, I believe something bright and shiny is in the making. Bring it out soon.

Now that we are on the topic of Tell n Show business here's nice article. Just sharing.


Rajendra said...

I am all for letting the reader dot the 'i's and cross the 't's. Suspense is also good for a narrative.

Harimohan said...

Asr, brilliant article. Thanks, should help all those aspiring to write. I am amazed how often I go back and relearn these things. Next time, it should be in place. But yes, I hope it comes out to my satisfaction and to yours too. On the last lap (I think).

Harimohan said...

Raja, totally agree. I think one of my main failings has bene to dot the i's and cross the t's in my anxiety to tell all (in case the poor reader is not getting it!). Hope to get out of the way now.

Dr. Seven said...

Asr's link is indeed a fine article. The same principle of "show rather than tell" is applicable to teaching in general, not just to writing. I found that beginning with a real-life issue (action) rather than a lecture is generally more effective in the classroom. Good luck with your efforts at perfecting your writing. You already write well!

Harimohan said...

Thanks Satish. But the bulbs keep going off every now and then to get me on track when I forget the basics and get caught in my own flights of fancy.

Harimohan said...

Also works in love - don't tell, show.