This week, I ran across a good TED talk about showing, not telling. It was so good, it was all showing, and not a lot of telling, and some of the peanut gallery in the comment section were complaining, “What’s the point of this? This is just a showcase for his art.”
For some people, you just gotta tell. There’s no point in being too arty and showing (unless you are very good at this, and can combine a good show with bullet points at the end – kind of like Craig Ferguson’s old “What Did We Learn on the Show Today?” but for realsies).
But fortunately, we write for a sophisticated romance audience, and we can show. We can throw in some extra references, and some of our allusions will hit our readers right in the heart.
Go ahead; take a look and tell me what you think. Christoph Niemann, “You are fluent in this language (and don’t even know it)”, 12:42.
I was especially struck by two of his points. First, he says that in his art, he goes for the simple. He tries to take away every unnecessary element until by taking away the next element, his concept collapses. Second, he emphasized the process. He said he never sits down with an idea, but rather finds it through a process of discovery. He illustrated this with a couple of his preliminary drawings (read “first drafts” for fiction writing), which ultimately combined to make a very poignant New Yorker cover. So, he advocates for a Hemingway-style of clean communication, and he also advocates for making as many pots as you possibly can. (Not familiar with The Story of the Pots? You can read one version here: https://medium.com/startup-leadership/the-best-way-to-learn-something-make-a-lot-of-pots-7f4aa97e1d3a on Medium.)
We creative people are all using different tools – maybe they are pens and brushes, maybe they are notes and strings, or maybe they are words on a screen. But on one level, we are all doing the same thing: expressing and communicating ideas to our audience, who will receive the ideas, and then do what they will with them, according to their own accumulated knowledge and preferences. Even though Niemann is an illustrator and I’m a short story writer, there’s a lot of crossover in what we do, and there’s something to learn.