Saturday, February 6, 2010

Directors, Take a Bow!

So, I was watching a movie recently, (Won't lie, it was Avatar) and I was watching the way the actors protray so much without saying anything. This is Show, Don't Tell at work. It's harder for directors to tell us how the character is feeling than have the actors show it.

A lot of writers have a hard time understanding the concept of Show, Don't Tell. I don't think a single writer has ever just "understood" the concept. We all have to learn it, and we all have to learn our boundaries. You can't completely show a piece of text, but you can't completely tell. Where is the limit?

So, for an excersize, we're going to watch this video clip. I want you to put it on mute, and watch it two or three times. Without music or dialogue, all we have is the visual to show us how the characters are feeling.

What can we say about this scene? How do we know Cole is upset? Well, he's gripping the blankets right up to his neck, there's a furrow in his brow. He has tears in his eyes when he speaks to Crowe.

How would an author represent this? Saying something like, "He was terrified. Cole sat and stared at Dr Crowe, wishing that the man would take away his fears. As he told the man his secret, relief settled in and he started to cry."

This is telling, and yet many authors do this all the time, seeing this as a perfectly reasonable way to handle the scene.

But, we see there's more than that. We do not, at all, have to explicitly say that Cole is upset.

"His hands were so tense they shook where they clutched at the blanket. He held Dr Crowe's gaze, the weight of his secret sitting in his chest like a pile of stones. The secret slipped past his lips, each word releasing him from its crushing hold over his life. Once all the words had tumbled free, Cole began to cry."

Easy way to add words to your MS, which is something that I desperately need. :P

I want you guys to try this. If you have trouble with showing, go onto youtube and flip on a scene, any scene, and take note of how the actor displays emotion. How do we know what this character is feeling based solely on body language? Write out a scene. Rinse and repeat until you feel comfortable enough to adapt this concept into your own writing.

By the way, what do you guys think of my new banner?




  1. I love your banner! :o)

  2. I'm glad you got around to seeing Avatar. Cameron really did a splendid job capturing emotion in essentially a bunch of pixelated images.

    Your new banner's pretty spiff. If I do say so myself. I like the eerie vibe. I feel like I'm entering your secret bat cave or something, lol!

    Also congrats on reaching 70K!

    I've sort of made some improvements on my blog as well. Let me know what you think *shameless plug*