While I am dumping out thoughts by writers I admire, we have the following from Warren Ellis (who hasn't ripped my heart out, that I can remember, but is generally worth reading) regarding a frequently repeated, and often wrong, piece of writing advice. He is talking specifically about comics, but the lesson generally applies. The heart of it? "Anyone who cannot imagine genuine storytelling reasons for telling something instead of showing something is an idiot." Yup.
Some people will quote a rule at you, often with a snotty air: “show, don't
tell.” They will tell you that it is bad storytelling if, for instance, the art
doesn't tell the story independently of the text, or, classically, if you are
telling the reader something instead of showing it to them.
This is crap.
Bruce Wagner's WILD PALMS graphic novel, wonderfully illustrated by the late
Julian Allen, frequently “tells” you in dialogue what you are seeing in the
art. So went the criticism. Except, of course, that it wasn't. What it was
frequently doing was striking subtle friction off the proximity of writing to
art – there was additional information in the art, and the blankness of the
text had its own subtextual payload.
Anyone who cannot imagine genuine storytelling reasons for telling something
instead of showing something is an idiot. Anyone who can't imagine the art and
the text telling you *two different stories* is an idiot.
Try not to describe the illustration in the dialogue or caption unless there's
a very specific reason for it. That's it. Anything else is fair game.
There is a very small number of writers who, regardless of medium, routinely rip my heart out. Joss Whedon is one of them. At ComicCon this weekend, someone asked him the meaning of life. His answer follows.
The world is a random and meaningless terrifying place and then we all—spoiler alert—die. Most critters are designed not to know that. We are designed, uniquely, to transcend that, and to understand that—I can quote myself—a thing isn’t beautiful because it lasts.
The main function of the human brain, the primary instinct, is storytelling. Memory is storytelling. If we all remembered everything, we would be Rain Man, and would not be socially active at all. We learn to forget and to distort, but we [also] learn to tell a story about ourselves.
I keep hoping to be the hero of my story; I’m the annoying sidekick. I’m kind of like Rosie O’Donnell in that Tarzan movie. He keeps hoping to be Tarzan, but finding that he’s that weird monkey that nobody can tell if it’s a girl or a boy.
My idea is that stories that we then hear and see and internalize—and wear hats from and come to conventions about... We all come here to celebrate only exactly that: storytelling, and the shared experience of what that gives us. The shared experience of storytelling gives us strength and peace. You understand your story and everyone else’s story, and that it can be controlled by us. This is something we can survive, because unlike me, you all are the hero of your story.
Killing time catching up with the internet while Dementia listens to ukulele videos. If "Johnny B. Goode" on the uke sounds strange, well, yeah. But damn! Good music well played WORKS, no matter how strange the combination of instrument and music.