Monday, August 31, 2009

Why is this working?

So speaking of the creative writing teacher in me . . .

I'm finally reading a book that my good friend Kim has recommended for years--THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH by Ken Follett. In fact, I bought it in France and started reading it on the airplane and every flight attendant who walked past me said, "That's my favorite book."

MEMO TO KEN FOLLETT: Dude. The world is full of flight attendants who "heart" you.

Anyway. Follett consistently violates the Numero Uno Rule of Writing: he often TELLS instead of SHOWS. For instance, he'll say stuff like "Agnes was his soulmate" or "Alfred hated Jack." Just boom! There it is. If either of those sentences came across my desk I would be all, "Show us what Alfred-hating- Jack looks like." And then I would make my student rewrite that bit.

But here's the thing. The narrative Follett has going is completely compelling. I'm liking the book a lot--especially the female characters who are extraordinarily vivid. And all the while I keep asking myself, "Why is this working?" because basically the advice to show (not tell!) is sound.

I'm looking forward to consuming a double fudge malt tonight. The thought of it keeps me going.

5 comments:

LucindaF said...

You are SOOO not your physical age. You just used the term, "heart you". How have you stay in 7th grade this long?

I have not read this book, but I did want to be a flight attendant once... until I got on a plane.
I do not "heart" turbulence.

I'm jealous of your double fudge malt. Enjoy it for me.

shelley said...

This book keep resurfaces in odd places - this is the second time in a week. I think I ought to read it!

Mmm....milkshake...

Kerry said...

actually I've had a few editors tell me that I need to "tell" more and "show" less. I guess sometimes showing can slow the pace down. Or be confusing. Or something. I dunno.

Lisa B. said...

Isn't it kind of when there's a plot driven novel, the writer can get away with--and indeed needs more--of the telling to keep that thing moving? A literary novel usually has a lot of eddies in the stream, moments when you can slow down and even want to slow down, which is why the momentum of literary fiction can be problematic (in my humble opinion). The real joy is when you get a writer whose prose is beautiful, it makes you want to slow down, but you can't--you have to keep going because there is urgent plot business ahead! must find out! hence, re-reading.

link2literacy said...

I read Pillars last summer; couldn't put it down. Never hated a villain as much as I dispised William, and felt there was enough "showing" to make my heart beat a little faster when the lovers got together. Besides, think of how many more pages that novel would have been if Ken hadn't reduced himself to "telling" readers a bunch o' stuff! PS Totally jealous of the trip to France!