Wednesday, 12 October 2011

I hate Wednesdays

Literary rant, Texas hold'em or my new job? Literary rant, Texas hold'em or my new job? Literary rant, Texas hold... Eeeny meeny miney mo...

Literary rant it is.

There are three words I hate more than any other three words in the world. Is it "hot and spicy"? Alas no. What about "innit, right blud"? Surprisingly not. "Your writing sucks"? (Or even, "yur writin sux"?) No, in fact those are three words I don't mind really (but that's a post for another time). The three words I detest are "show not tell".

Don't get me wrong, I love the concept. I'm best-friends with the concept. I just hate the term. What in flying monkey business is that supposed to put across? The first time I heard "show not tell" I looked quizzically at the guy who said it and asked if I was supposed to be drawing pictures (I'm not dumb I swear! Well... not all of the time at least). Surely a better term would be "describe, don't state". Quite frankly, I didn't get what the term meant until I read the tvtropes entry last month and then I thought "well isn't that obvious? Why did all those teachers have to put it in that way?"

As you probably grasped from my last sentence, this rant isn't just about the name of one term. I would not blog about it if that were all I had issues with. I'm concerned about the teaching of it (and teaching in general, but I don't have enough time to go into that today). My memory of English was:

"Show not tell!" No explanation. Lots of quizzical glances.
"Their, there, they're". Lots of explanation, but come on, why are we doing this again? Most people I know had this down in year 3 (2nd grade if you're American), so why on earth are we doing this again in year 10? (Year 10 is... Freshmen year/9th grade I think?)
"This is a semi-colon. Use it!" No-one will; if they do they'll use it incorrectly ;)
"Show not tell!" Yup. Again.

The point being that in my memory of high school English it was mentioned frequently, without explanation or concept. I learnt more in 5 minutes on tvtropes than I did about SNT in five years. I love creative writing. I hated doing it in school except in year 9 when we had a particularly new and nervous teacher who let us do as we pleased. In said case I got to write as I pleased and she'd look it over at the end and explain everything. You know, that thing those teachers always told us to do? Yeah, explaining is good.

Part two (about people who don't use SNT, or as I now dub it, describe not state (DNS then)) next week perhaps.


Apologies for the overly rant-y and personal post. On the bright side I promise some story excerpts soon :)

(And one last personal comment. I might now have a job! The interview's on Friday, so I'm crossing my fingers now.)

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