Abyssinia Henry: The Power of Telling

There is an important piece of writer’s advice floating around out there. You’ve probably run across it before. It’s on most writer’s advice websites, written on blackboards of creative writing classes, it’s on the lips of writing instructors, shaved into stationary cats, and probably written in the stars themselves:

Show don’t tell.

I’m not fond of this advice. Sure, at its heart, it has a valuable message. In simplest terms, show don’t tell encourages a novice writer to do more than simply report a series of events. To show is to encourage the readers to have a visceral, emotional, and empathetic reaction to what they are reading. A writer of creative fiction should do more than just report what happened like a newspaper article. The trouble is that while creative writing instructors are busy carving the words show don’t tell onto every pebble on a beach, they have failed to notice that the novice writers have not learned the important part of the lesson. Continue reading “Abyssinia Henry: The Power of Telling”

Why Does the Shaman Need the Fire?

“Writing is a dog’s life, but the only one worth living.”
— 
Gustave Flaubert

They descend upon the site, recalling last session’s twists and turns, some reenacting key moments, others content to smile like a conspirator before revealing their theories for tonight’s installment. They banter and question; probe and dissect. A tense excitement hangs in the air. Tonight promises to wrap up loose threads, and reveal the shadowy presence of the next arc. The group makes their way through the dark to the single glowing flame, barely more than a spark, that burns in the centre of the fire pit. Each has brought a log of wood, and the telling will only last as long as the wood burns—though its impact will linger on long into the night, the next day, and beyond.

As the group settles into the circle around the fire, the wood stacked within arms reach so as to not ruin the rhythm of the telling, the Storyteller appears silently from the darkness. There is no ruckus to proceed the Storyteller’s coming, no fanfare to follow. There is the fire; there is the circle. There is the Story. Continue reading “Why Does the Shaman Need the Fire?”