Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Advent: Tell

If the mail carrier ever decides to come through the door and rob us blind, I am confident that our dog, Loki, will raise the alarm and tell us. The same is true if the little yipyip dog across the street ever makes good on its threats to pick the lock on our front door and kill the entire family while we eat. Loki keeps us abreast of the dangers that walk our street, and tells us whenever there is cause for alarm.That's just the kind of dog he is.

As a writer I prefer to show rather than to tell. It's much more compelling storytelling if the reader can run her hands along the rough walls of the oubliette, watch the narrow shaft of light as it scores its way across the stony floor, and feel the encroaching darkness poisoning her own soul, than it is to say "So-and-so was depressed."

But sometimes telling is what is needed. The matter is so urgent, so important, so dreadful or so exciting (or both) that it needs to be shared immediately, and there is no time to feel the weight or measure the strength of each word. The drowning need to be rescued, the birth must be announced, the proclamation of freedom must be shouted from the rooftops.

Show if time allows, but never be afraid to tell when you must. Tell it loud and clear, and leave no room for doubt.

Copyright © 2016 by David Learn. Used with permission.

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