Showing, not telling: thoughts, internal conflict, etc.

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Talis1
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Showing, not telling: thoughts, internal conflict, etc.

Postby Talis1 » Wed Feb 15, 2006 8:35 am


Talis1
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Showing, not telling: thoughts, internal conflict, etc.

Postby Talis1 » Wed Feb 15, 2006 8:35 am

Hi all,

I'm currently working on the umpteenth rewrite of my major project, my paranormal romance novel. I think I finally have the plot/characters nailed down. This time around, I've been really focusing on the whole "show-don't-tell" idea, and I like what I've produced so far. But I have a question. How do you go about revealing a character's inner thoughts? Emotion is a little easier, since there tends to be a physical action related to it that you can describe (e.g., "He clenched his jaw and narrowed his eyes" instead of "He was angry"). But can the same theory be applied to thought processes? Or, perhaps, should the thought processes be shown through dialogue with another character? I want to be able to show internal conflict without boring the reader!

Thanks for your input :)

jmar2
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RE: Showing, not telling: thoughts, internal conflict, etc.

Postby jmar2 » Wed Feb 15, 2006 9:22 am

I was reading a Dirk Pitt adventure novel last night: "Flood Tide". He's a hero in a series of novels from Clive Cussler. You know the type: Meet the girl, save the world, find out the girl's involved, save her from herself, then meet another girl who really is the bad guy, etc. etc.

Point is, Mr. Cussler is always allowing us to peek into good ol' Dirk's motives. Last night for example, he was foolishly attempting to sneak into the bad guy's boat house, fully realizing this was not a fun activity. He entered into a thought dialogue with himself, the old "What in the world am I thinking..."

I'd do this: read a variety of authors and see how they do this. As mentioned, Cussler does OK, though a little over the top in some scenes, the "Steely Eyes" approach. You mentioned Paranormal Romance. I'm sure there are more than a few romance novelists that tap their hero/heroine's inner thoughts. And check out Dean Koontz and Steven King. They let you know what Houses and Automobiles are thinking! At least King does.

And that's not plagarizing. You're not stealing their thoughts or their work, just following their form. That's not theft, that's learning. Just like your asking here. "How do I do ..." You're doing the same when you read their works and figure out the techniques they use.

One interesting thing I think you may find, is that even within a single author's work, you'll find multiple approaches to this method. That's what makes writing so much fun! :)

John

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RE: Showing, not telling: thoughts, internal conflict, etc.

Postby Aspiring » Wed Feb 15, 2006 9:48 am

I don't have any advice for you, except to say that as I recall from what I read of your work, you were handling this rather well. I'd agree with John that it's good to read other authors in your genre and see how they handle this, but I think you can afford to trust your instincts. Good luck.

Talis1
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RE: Showing, not telling: thoughts, internal conflict, etc.

Postby Talis1 » Wed Feb 15, 2006 10:39 am

Thank you, John, for your advice. And thanks, Aspiring, for your vote of confidence! Much appreciated.

I think maybe I'm worrying about this a little too much. Maybe I need to relax and just let it flow; keeping "showing" in mind but not allowing it to stunt what I'm writing.

I'll check my collection of books at home and re-visit what my favourite paranormal romance authors do :). You're absolutely right, John: the only way you can be a good writer is to learn from other writers. Thanks for reminding me!

All the best!

Jamesaritchie
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RE: Showing, not telling: thoughts, internal conflict, etc.

Postby Jamesaritchie » Thu Feb 16, 2006 5:30 am

Show is a good rule to follow, and what can be shown usually should be shown. You can't show everything, however, and tell definitely has its place. The trick is learning what should be shown, and what should be told.

Don't try to avoid tell completely. It won't work.

Talis1
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RE: Showing, not telling: thoughts, internal conflict, etc.

Postby Talis1 » Thu Feb 16, 2006 6:14 am

Thanks, James!

Actually, I cracked open one of my favourite books last night by Linda Howard (if you like romantic suspense, "Open Season" is a fantastic read -- and hilarious to boot!) and refreshed my memory about what I like about her writing. I think I have a better idea of how to go ahead with my rewrite after being reminded how other authors handle it.

Thanks again for all your help getting me back on track!

Jumbie
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RE: Showing, not telling: thoughts, internal conflict, etc.

Postby Jumbie » Fri Feb 17, 2006 6:08 am

If you're expressing your POV character's thoughts, it's fine to use italics and tell us what they are thinking. Just be careful not to give us thoughts of anyone other than the POV character. Those things can creep up on you.

Good luck


Jamesaritchie
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RE: Showing, not telling: thoughts, internal conflict, etc.

Postby Jamesaritchie » Fri Feb 17, 2006 8:23 am

And to add to what Jumbie said, make sure italicized thoughts are few and important. Don't italicize unimportant thoughts, or go on for paragraph after paragraph with internal thoughts.


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