Thursday, 25 October 2012

Showing vs Telling and Egg Whites

I'll be the first to admit, there are specific ways to improve your writing. Spell check is a big one. Proof-reading is up there, too. But the “Show vs. Tell” concept is dubbed as a popular mistake made by many.

I get it. It makes sense. The reader feels more connected if they can live in the moment instead of being told what happens.

In re-examining my own work to improve areas where I’d fallen off the Show horse and told a scene instead, well, it got me thinking.

It reminded me of the concept of folding in egg whites when baking--like with a cake, for instance. You can make a perfectly decent cake even if you just mix in the egg whites with a heavy hand (or in a rush, I’ve even been known not to separate them at all, adding them in whole!) Fact is, you still get a cake at the end. And a scratch cake is nothing to scoff at.

Will it be as fluffy and light as if you had gently incorporated the air you’d whipped just perfectly into those egg whites? No. Will it be an astounding masterpiece, the best cake ever? Probably not. But it’s still a cake. And depending on what other flavors you’ve added in there, and how it’s presented--think chocolate hazelnut frosting, or pastry cream with fresh raspberries as a filling--it still might be a damn good cake.

Does that mean you shouldn’t fold in your egg whites, or follow the ’show don’t tell’ philosophy? Not at all. Depending on your end goal, that might be precisely what you should be striving to do. It's just a matter of considering why you're writing or baking, and who your audience will be. Trying to land an agent or publishing deal--I'll be aiming to showcase everything I've got.  Christmas baking on the other hand--my family tends to value quantity above all else!

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