Friday, May 28, 2010

Telling Isn't Bad

Telling isn't always bad.

As I was reading The Book Thief, it occurred to me that the entire story could be told orally and still be effective and strong. I was constantly aware that Death was narrating the story to me (telling). Deep POV? If it was there, I didn't see it. Most of the book seemed to be an omniscient Point of View.

Despite this departure from what I normally read in books, I loved The Book Thief.

What was the last book you read that noticeably "broke the rules" and yet you didn't care because it was done so well? Do you know what Telling is, and do you feel you've mastered it?

32 comments:

Katie Ganshert said...

I am rereading A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers. There is head-hopping galore and loads of telling, yet somehow, it's one of my all-time-favorite books. Jsut goes to show that the rules are man-made. It really comes down to what stories touch the heart.

Jessica Nelson said...

Katie, your last line is such an excellent point!
So, there's headhopping? Wow, I don't remember that. LOL Goes to show that readers really don't notice this stuff.

Diane said...

The book sounds interesting.

No crazy lately, unless you count sci-fi.

Hope you have a great weekend and get some great material for your WIP. Waitressing has you meet all sorts of characters. :O)

Wendy Paine Miller said...

I loved the Novel Matters post about this a few weeks back. I know you're over there sometimes. Did you see it? It's all about measuring the right places to tell and finding the best way to share the story.

A+ for The Book Thief!
~ Wendy

Jessica Nelson said...

Wendy, I may've seen that post, not sure. I know I commented somewhere about The Book Thief and how it's mostly telling. I might've done it there?
I should visit Novel Matters more. I'd actually never heard of it until the contest they had.

Thanks Diane. :-) I hope they call me to work this weekend.

Linda Kage said...

One of my writing professors once said something along the lines of, "to become a great writer, you have to learn all the writing rules. But once you can break the rules and still tell an amazing story, you are a great writer."

Jessica Nelson said...

Sounds like good advice to me, Linda. Thanks for sharing it!

Jeanette Levellie said...

What is the Book Thief about?

I haven't read any rule-breaking books lately, unless you count the Holy Bible. I catch myself saying, "That was a total run-on sentence," or "He could have phrased that in active voice rather than passive."

Then I remember who the author is, and laugh at my silly self!

Lynn said...

I really like what Linda said. I'm still mastering the 'rules' and have broken a few small ones. And I look forward to knowing when telling really is the best tool to use for a situation.

I have something for you over at my place!

Jennifer Shirk said...

I've noticed a lot of harlequin cateogry books do a lot fo telling. But I think it works for the most part AND because they have to be under a certain word count. :)

Have a great weekend!!

arlee bird said...

I guess I haven't noticed because I just don't read that way---to see what rules are being broken. I suppose if I was noticing things like that the book was apparently so unengaging that it was not worth reading and I immediately discarded it. I can't recall that ever happening.

Lee
Tossing It Out

Jessica Nelson said...

Jeanette, it's about an orphan girl during the Holocaust. Very, very good. That's so funny about the Bible! I caught myself doing that the other day too. lol

Lynn, I kind of like breaking the rules myself. :-)

Jessica Nelson said...

Jennifer, I actually forgot that I'd noticed that in a Kimani romance. It was a little odd to me though. But you're right, I think it's because of the word count.

Arlee, LOL! Thanks for that frank answer. :-)

Keli Gwyn said...

I've heard that those of us who have yet to sell a book are wise to respect the guidelines. (I like that term better than rules.) Once we've sold, have proven our ability to tell a good story, and have established a solid readership, we will have more license. Even then, we need to have reasons for straying from the guidelines.

I do notice when a writer doesn't adhere to the guidelines. Often it works, but when it doesn't, I'm pulled from the story.

I love what Linda said. Oh, to reach that point.

A question for you, Jessie. Which of the rules/guidelines bug you the most? Which do you see as the most helpful?

Julie Musil said...

If any of the books I've read broke the rules it must have been done so well that I didn't notice!

Karen Lange said...

I've not mastered showing or telling, but am working at it:) Can't think of any rule breaking books I've read lately, but like Julie said, perhaps it was so nicely done that I didn't notice either. I think that writing rules are broken all the time, and if it works it can be okay. Well, just like you said:)
Have a wonderful weekend,
Karen

Deb Shucka said...

I haven't actually thought about books in this way. Thanks for the new frame to read through. :-)

I agree with others above who said if a book engages me I don't think about showing or telling. In fact I don't think (critically) at all, I just immerse.

Terri Tiffany said...

I understand showing and telling but I know I have not consistently done it as well as I should. I might say Anger welled up inside of her instead of showing her stamp her foot or throw down her purse. I do that a lot. Good thing I have others who help me:)

Jill Kemerer said...

I guess following all the rules in the world don't help unless we have an interesting story to tell. One of my favorite authors switches viewpoints mid-scene, sometimes more than once, but I barely notice it. She has such a skill with words, it doesn't intrude on the story.

Talli Roland said...

The last book I read that broke the rules - and where it worked - was Nicola Morgan's 'Wasted'. It truly is an amazing book and a great example of omniscient voice.

Irritable Mother said...

My daughter recently read The Book Thief. Which means I read about half of it, since she always wants me to read to her when she's doing dishes or taking her shower. *grin*
I liked the writing. Good book!

T. Anne said...

I LOVED the omniscient POV in the Book Thief. It's one of my new favorite books. It just goes to show you can break rules if you do it the right way. =)

Jessica Nelson said...

Keli, thanks for the question! I had to think about it a bit. Probably what bothers me the most is when writers get too worried about the word was. I think some "was"ing makes the reading smoother. Of course, absolutely too many will weaken a story, but too often I feel like new writers are overly stressed about this word.
I think the most helpful "rule" is the one about backstory. Actually, lol, you've prompted a post! Hahaa. I might've done one on this before, I'm sure most've you have, but backstory seems to be a common story weakener. I like to jump into the action and learn about characters as we go.
If I remember, your contemporary I judged did an excellent job with that. *grin*

Jessica Nelson said...

T. Anne, Yep! :-)

Karen, that's so sweet that you read to your daughter! Seriously sweet. I hope your kids appreciate that. :-)

Talli, I thought it was so funny when I clicked over this morning (or was it last night?) and saw that you posted about omniscient. Seems like it's a pov that might be coming back in style...

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jess -

I can't think of anything at the moment. The Book Thief is now on my Wish List.

Blessings,
Susan :)

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Jessie Oliveros said...

Pretty much all of the classics that I love (Austen, Dickens, and Gaskell) break "the rules." I guess they weren't the rules then. I need to read the Book Thief.

Genny said...

The last book that absolutely blew me away was Firefly Lane. Loved, loved, loved it!

Linda Glaz said...

It's important to remember than when a story is plot driven, you won't have the depth in the characters like romance does. Whaddaya think?

Tyrean Martinson said...

When I read THE CAPTAIN'S BRIDE by Lisa Tawn Bergren last week, I was so enthralled with the characters and storyline that I only noticed later into the book that she jumped POV mid-scene. Then after I finished reading, I went back and read through some of my favorite parts and found "head-hopping" again. The amazing part is that I usually find that really annoying when I read, but I didn't in that book.

Jessica Nelson said...

Tyrean, sounds like she did it well! I only find headhopping annoying if I get confused, but I think it can be done right and be an excellent way to add tension to a scene.

Linda, I completely agree. There have been a few books I read lately where I really saw the differences between plot-driven and character-driven.

Genny, I've never heard of that! I'll keep that title in mind....

Angie Muresan said...

I rarely think about POV if the story is good. Which is probably a bad thing if I'm to be a writer.