Monday, September 23, 2013

in fact it's phony as hell

i think that a lot of the rules of good writing apply to good living too. you should live your life the way you write. or maybe it's that you should write the way you live your life. actually, whichever one you're doing right, do the other one that way too.

the number one rule of writing is to "show not tell," and i think that applies to the way you act as well. we all hate it (and if you don't then you should) when an author writes a character and tells us, "by the way, this character is really smart. really. trust me on this. like one time, he got straight a's in all of his classes and didn't even have to work for them. he's just really that smart." and then the character doesn't actually do anything to show us that he's smart. ever. but the author continually tells us that he is. if you wrote a character that acted smart, then we are smart enough to know that he is smart without you telling us. (too many smarts in that sentence. ugh.) if you feel that you need to tell us so often then you are going down one of two paths that are equally wrong. path one: you could think that the reader is not smart enough to make his or her own deduction on the smartness of the character based on what he does alone. or two: you are writing this character poorly and failing to show us that he is smart, so you need to let us know he is in whatever other way you can. both of these are paths that you should probably get off of. right now. forget about the map just turn to the side and walk. you'll eventually find yourself somewhere better. 

along the same lines, if you have to continually tell people something about yourself like, "i'm a nice guy," then you are doing something wrong. you are either belittling the other person's intelligence by refusing to believe that they are perceptive enough to pick up on the fact that you are a nice guy and/or unwilling to believe that they have the mental faculties required for them to make the decision on whether or not you are a nice guy (and by make the decision i obviously mean make the decision that you wanted them to make). (in plain english: you think they're too stupid to see how nice you are.) or you are doing something at the moment (or in a very long string of moments more likely) that make you seem like you are not a nice guy and so you feel the need to constantly remind people that you are, in fact, a nice guy and they shouldn't forget that fact just because you are currently acting like an asshole. in both cases, you are telling not showing. and in both cases i am inclined to think that you are not a very nice guy. you are probably coming off as either arrogant, proud, creepy, pedantic, or hypocritical and none of those are good things. 

so, in life as well as in writing, show. don't tell.

*Back 2 Good - Matchbox 20


  1. i like this. it seems obvious but its nice to be reminded about it. esp when it comes to writing.

    1. yeah sometimes i feel like the obvious things are the things people need to be reminded of.