todd logo        Todd Shimoda's Writer's Blog                                           home | Twitter | Facebook
ENTRY

Show and tell
July 14, 2008

I'm in the middle of revising my novel Oh! A mystery of 'mono no aware' coming out early next year. My publisher and editor at Chin Music Press sent a document with general thoughts, concerns, suggestions, questions, even some praise. It's always a nervous time for writers, at least this one. Sure I want constructive criticism which will improve the book. Yet, let's face it, constructive or not, criticism is criticism.

Working with editors is a big topic in itself. For now, I want to talk about something the editor brought up about my writing. He pointed out a few places where I "over explained" things. Reading the passages he pointed out, I agreed with him for the most part. For example:
Later that day, I?m back on the professor?s campus. Since I thought I?d be with Carine for a few days, I told the professor I couldn?t make our weekly meeting. I called him and let know we were back on.

The rain is finally starting up. It?s a muggy rain and I wish I were headed to the beach. Maybe that?s what I should do, take a vacation. But I?m supposed to be on a vacation already, traveling the world. If I have to go on vacation to get away from my vacation then something isn?t working. Besides, I?d be taking a vacation by myself. I?m feeling the need to be around people. At least I?m feeling something.

And so I?m at the professor?s office, knocking on his door. It opens slowly and a young woman is behind the door holding it open. The professor is at his desk with a piece of paper in his hand, a small stack of papers in front of him.
Pretty wordy, huh? And most of it didn?t really further the plot. So I rewrote it:
Later that day, I?m back on the professor?s campus with the editing I?ve completed for him. The rain of the rainy season is finally starting. It?s a thick, slow-motion rain and I wish I were headed to the mountains. When I knock, the professor?s door opens slowly.
The rewrite definitely gets to the point quicker. The idea of over-explaining also reminded me of an admonition I read somewhere, years ago. Fiction writers are supposed to "show not tell." Obviously this means the details and character actions should carry the weight of the imagery. For example, a character in Oh!, is a coffee connoisseur. I don't have to tell the reader he is fussy about coffee, I only have to have him curl his upper lip when offered a Styrofoam cup of coffee from the office cafeteria. Or see him stash his own special blend of beans in his desk. (Based on a true story).

Of course it's a lot more work to show not tell.

#

COMMENTS

Number of comments: 3
click here to add a comment

Jo Reed
I liked aspects of the wordier version. But it's hard to really grasp the effectiveness of the rewrite taken out of the novel as a whole.

Todd
That's true.

Lee Witte
I see the rewrite encompassing the main points in the wordier version.

ARCHIVE

date (comments)

Review: Moshi, Moshi by Banana Yoshimoto
April 13, 2017 (0)

First Annual Little Tokyo Book Festival
September 1, 2016 (2)

Review: Tales of Old Tokyo
April 13, 2016 (0)

LA Times Festival of Books
April 4, 2016 (1)

Review: The Translation of Love
February 14, 2016 (1)

Review: Holy Ghosts: The Christian Century in Modern Japanese Fiction
October 7, 2015 (1)

Review: Japanese Literature - From Murasaki to Murakami
September 25, 2015 (1)

Review: The Book of Tokyo
August 28, 2015 (1)

"Why Ghosts Appear"
July 7, 2015 (2)

Review: The Game of 100 Ghosts
March 31, 2015 (1)

Editing, editing, editing
October 30, 2014 (1)

Review: Light and Dark
July 30, 2014 (2)

Review: Landscape with Traveler
June 30, 2014 (1)

Gabriel Garcia Marquez
April 30, 2014 (2)

Review: Triangle
March 30, 2014 (5)

Review: The Guest Cat
February 28, 2014 (2)

2013: Year in review
December 30, 2013 (6)

Review: Jasmine
November 30, 2013 (1)

Review: The Case of the Sharaku Murders
September 30, 2013 (2)

A well-realized voice
August 31, 2013 (1)

How to find a publisher
July 30, 2013 (2)

Review: Kiku's Prayer
June 30, 2013 (1)

Review: The Goddess Chronicle
May 28, 2013 (2)

Review: Paprika
April 21, 2013 (3)

Review: A Straight Road With 99 Curves
March 30, 2013 (1)

Gripping writing
February 28, 2013 (2)

Review: Salvation of a Saint
January 19, 2013 (2)

2012 in review
December 30, 2012 (2)

Review: Ninja
September 30, 2012 (2)

Review: My Postwar Life
August 21, 2012 (1)

New interview with Colin Marshall
July 15, 2012 (3)

Book events
April 25, 2012 (2)

Subduction
March 14, 2012 (8)

Review: A Room Where the Star Spangled Banner Cannot Be Heard
January 14, 2012 (1)

Review: Plainsong
December 20, 2011 (3)

Review: The Devil's Disciple
November 29, 2011 (2)

Haruki Murakami
October 5, 2011 (2)

Busyness and demons
September 25, 2011 (2)

Characters: The Bully
July 30, 2011 (3)

Review: Manazuru
June 28, 2011 (2)

Deadlines!
June 24, 2011 (2)

Review: Butterfly's Sisters
May 18, 2011 (1)

Review: Isle of Dreams
April 20, 2011 (2)

Cades Award for Literature press release
April 12, 2011 (2)

Japan and other news
March 29, 2011 (1)

Borders bankruptcy
February 17, 2011 (2)

2010 review
December 17, 2010 (6)

Congratulations Mario Vargas Llosa
October 7, 2010 (2)

OH! wins best book award
September 23, 2010 (2)

Review: Kissing the Mask
August 22, 2010 (1)

Jonathan Lethem: Writing at the margins
July 12, 2010 (2)

Review: Love in Translation
June 22, 2010 (3)

Jose Saramago
June 18, 2010 (0)

Marketplace of Ideas interview
June 11, 2010 (2)

Imagining Memory
May 6, 2010 (1)

Upcoming Los Angeles events
April 7, 2010 (2)

Time and energy
March 30, 2010 (2)

Review: Botchan
February 28, 2010 (2)

J.D. Salinger
January 28, 2010 (1)

2009 Reviewed
December 31, 2009 (5)

Review: The Word Book
December 12, 2009 (1)

Chaat and Chat event with OH!
November 6, 2009 (2)

Home at last
November 2, 2009 (2)

Los Angeles events
October 17, 2009 (1)

Poets and poetry
October 7, 2009 (1)

Time + place
September 24, 2009 (1)

The future of books
September 23, 2009 (1)

October book tour
September 6, 2009 (1)

Blogging at Powell's Books
August 28, 2009 (2)

The evolution of an idea
August 3, 2009 (1)

The Poetics of Motoori Norinaga: A Hermeneutical Journey
July 9, 2009 (2)

Tour debrief
July 2, 2009 (3)

Book tour events
May 18, 2009 (3)

Simply in the mood
April 24, 2009 (2)

Book tour
April 8, 2009 (6)

The Necessary Book
March 2, 2009 (2)

"Murder Makes the Magazine"
February 7, 2009 (3)

John Updike
January 27, 2009 (2)

2008 misc. (good news, bad news)
January 1, 2009 (3)

Publishing woes and query letters
December 13, 2008 (4)

Punctuation compunction
November 16, 2008 (3)

The Fountain of Youth (and other Ideas)
October 10, 2008 (2)

David Foster Wallace
September 14, 2008 (2)

Ending it all
September 12, 2008 (2)

The mystery of plotting, the plotting of mysteries
August 29, 2008 (3)

Blocking out the block
August 20, 2008 (3)

"What kind of books do you write?"
August 8, 2008 (2)

Theory of Satisfaction: Part 4
July 21, 2008 (3)

Show and tell
July 14, 2008 (3)

Theory of Satisfaction: Part 3
July 7, 2008 (7)

Advice for first-time writers (Barry Gifford and me)
June 30, 2008 (6)

Theory of Satisfaction: Part 2
June 18, 2008 (3)

To be or not to be
June 10, 2008 (6)

Theory of Satisfaction: Part 1
June 3, 2008 (6)

Virtual unreality
May 31, 2008 (4)

The purpose of this blog
May 21, 2008 (5)