The Lie of Showing Versus Telling

Writing groups can have aggressive stances on their views. This is one.


Someone had asked about some sort of writing advice. It was something like not being able to do only showing and not telling. I responded. Then this Heather person responded. She's a normal type of online attacker that's not a very deep thinker. It isn't a great conversation, but it does show some interesting things.

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Jeff(1) - When reading books you'll find that most writing advice is primarily bull.

Heather(1) - Show don't tell isn't though.

Jeff(2) - It is. When you read authors you'll notice that some of the greats do a lot of telling.

Jeff(3) - That's why people like Ursula K. Le Guin say that show don't tell is bull.

Heather(2) - No, it isn't. More of the greats show and advocate for it. Cite your source about Ursula Le Guin and feel free to name these greats who primarily tell.

Heather(3) - Btw I've read all of her books. She does plenty of showing. Plenty.

Jeff(4) - No. I feel no reason to work at this conversation. I think you're projecting ideas I don't have on me. Show don't tell is wrong because it is an absolute, which is the point that Le Guin makes. You should use both. This seems obvious.

Heather(4) - Oh, okay, then we will just assume you made up everything you just said. Show don't tell isn't wrong, and it is an absolute. Of course you have to use both. The reason the guideline exists is because too many people rely too heavily on telling. You are demonstrating that you don't fully understand what it means by calling it bull and absolute. And, again, when pressed about your claims, you can't provide evidence, which means they're as good as garbage. I've read every single of her books, and whether she realizes it or not, she does a lot of showing. Even if she did say that, she isn't practicing what she preaches, and I'm not going to ignore the majority of successful authors because of one crackpot. You are using her as an excuse to be lazy in your writing. Good luck with that.

Heather(5) - No professional credentials or publication links on your public profile, an unwillingness to cite sources for your claims... Yep, no conversation or debate with you will ever produce any fruit, nothing I can learn from you, so welcome to my block list.

Jeff(5) - The earth is a sphere. I'm not going to cite a source. So, you can't believe it.

Jeff(6) - Lol. I lightly challenge your misguided beliefs about absolutes and you have a mental breakdown. That's interesting.

Heather(6) - We all know the earth is a sphère. That is common knowledge. You don't have to provide evidence of common knowledge in a debate, but you do have to cite sources for your claims. Otherwise, they are dismissed. You've literally never stepped foot into a classroom since high school, have you?

Heather(7) - You're the one making shit up about Ursula Le Guin 😂

Jeff(7) - Please, continue.

Jeff(8) - To anyone else that reads this - Le Guin says this in her book about writing, it seems like that would be obvious. Also, for examples of telling by famous authors you could... read any author, but examples that I like are the first paragraph of The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis, in either book order. Or, the first sentence of A Wizard of Earthsea by... Ursula K. Le Guin. Humans have the capacity for rational speech, but only the capacity.

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You'll notice that in Heather's 2nd and 3rd comments that she does some normal stuff when attacking someone online, or in person. She asks for a source to be cited, not because she wants to learn more about what she doesn't know, she asks for a source to try to destroy the person. To try to destroy the authority, not even the argument. This is used a couple of ways. If you don't give a source the person will freak out. If you give a source the person will say that that source isn't good enough and you should get another. They will do this forever. Or, they will cite a source on the other side. There is no way to win with this type of person, because they are not genuine. They don't care about the source or evidence or anything like that, they just want to show that they are right. They usually want to do this for emotional reasons, which is the case with Heather. She is emotionally attached to the statement about showing versus telling. She also tries to give herself as much authority as she can, so show that she's better and thus should be believed above all others, because she's read Ursula Le Guin's books. This person is all about power. They cannot be rational or reasonable because they don't think such things exist, only power.

In my 4th comment I dismiss her because it's obvious that she's disingenuous already. If she actually wanted to learn my view then it could have been a good conversation. As predicted, she freaks out. Naturally, in Heather's 4th comment she says that if you can't cite a source for something then it isn't true. What a stupid argument. People make this idiotic argument often. In her 5th comment we can see her descending into a more personal attack. I've noticed that people do this a lot online, and in person but it's easier online. Instead of talking about what the conversation is about they decide to try to stalk and destroy the person. Everything about me is public, so it's not a big deal for me, but ad hominem attacks are often the go to strategy for people like Heather. All they care about is power and authority. They attack first, they attack personally, and they don't care about anything else.

In my 5th comment I point out the stupidity of her argument by using an example. If you can't believe something without a source then you would completely stop functioning and die. Think about it, it's true. I've had people tell me that you shouldn't do something unless there is a study showing that it's good. All humans would be extinct if people actually acted like this. Hold your breath until you read all of the studies on the long-term effects of breathing.

In Heather's 6th comment she seems to think we are in a debate or in a classroom. We aren't in either. But, if it were a debate then she's set herself up for failure because she's wrong. In her 7th comment she appears to think that she knows everything about Ursula Le Guin, when it's pretty obvious that she knows very little.

In my 7th comment I encouraged her to continue, because she was revealing herself as an idiot. Then, in my 8th comment I cited sources that I would cite to anyone who was genuine in asking about the subject, and addressed myself to them. I used books that were lying near me, one by Ursula Le Guin. It's not hard for me to find sources, but I don't usually do it for people because they usually either are trying to attack for some emotional reason, or they just don't care which is why they won't pick up a book or do a simple online search.

It's obvious that Heather is a fanatic. There's no real use in engaging in such a conversation because they can't be converted. And, I don't want to convert them. I would prefer that they become more open minded as a person and then they wouldn't do such stupid things as fanatically believe in something that's wrong. But, I'm not sure this is really the best view of life. It would be if everyone held it, but almost no one holds it. Fanatically believing in something seems to be more effective in most life situations than being reasonable, which is unfortunate for humanity, but alas.

This conversation is from a few months ago. Since then I've blocked my feed on Facebook so that I'm not tempted to engage in conversations on people's posts unless I specifically look for them. That is better. The best person I've ever seen in handling comments and such is Mike Rowe, and he advocates not engaging in comments with people that are complaining, contradicting, or attacking. He just disengages and then makes a post about certain ones. Victor Davis Hanson does something similar as well. This is my attempt at moving in that direction.


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I've written three fictional pieces that I like so far.


"The City of Peace" - A future history science fiction utopia/dystopia action adventure in a framed story of a father telling his son a story about the child's grandfather. That was a crazy sentence.

http://www.jeffreyalexandermartin.com/2017/08/the-xprize-writing-contest-part-5-of-5.html

"The Birth of Hanniba'al" - A dark, somewhat alternative, historical origin story for the Carthage General Hannibal.

http://www.jeffreyalexandermartin.com/2017/11/write-michigan-short-story-contest-part_30.html

"Matt's Eyes" - Don't read this if you don't like horror stories.

http://www.jeffreyalexandermartin.com/2018/11/a-flash-of-horror-part-4-of-4.html


Here are three of my most popular posts.


"The Making of a Great First Line in Fiction"

http://www.jeffreyalexandermartin.com/2017/12/the-making-of-great-first-line-in.html

"A Letter to My Niece in 2034"

http://www.jeffreyalexandermartin.com/2017/12/a-letter-to-my-niece-in-2034.html

"The Most Important Question in Philosophy - Part 4 of 4"

http://www.jeffreyalexandermartin.com/2017/11/the-most-important-question-in.html


You can find more of what I'm doing here: http://www.JeffreyAlexanderMartin.com

You can support this page at https://www.patreon.com/JeffreyAlexanderMartin

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