Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Short Attention Span Theatre

Sounds like a joke? Well, it was. I'm not the person who coined this phrase. I gleaned it from some comedian back in the '80s. However, as much of a joke as it was, it has become a way of life today. Everything is thrown at us in rapid fire--from commercials to tv shows to writing. Nothing should be too long because for some reason, the idea is that humans have a very short attention span and if you don't keep it short, your audience's mind will wander. (And they wonder why ADHD is a problem? But that's a topic for a different blog.)

What I'd like to concentrate on here is the movement toward SAST in writing. I think this is best characterized by the 'Show vs Tell' argument. The popular philosophy in writing is that one should show what is going on rather than telling what is going on. Unfortunately, all Show and no Tell ends up with a machine gun effect story, IMO. I actually can't get more than a few paragraphs into an 'all-show' story before my brain revolts and I get a headache.

I believe it was Aristotle who said (and I'm paraphrasing here) - "All things in moderation." I like a nice balance between showing and telling. It shows in my writing. I mean, think about it. If you're writing in third person omniscient, some things are just going to have to be told rather than shown. It's natural. And from the standpoint of a reader, all writing should flow naturally. (And I'm not referring to a stream-of-consciousness type writing--that just sucks, no matter how 'natural' it's supposed to be.)

Now you might think I'm making this argument to justify my writing style. Perhaps I am. But that doesn't make it any less of a valid point. All show panders to the SAST mentality, while all tell is like listening to your great-grandmother extoll the wonders of linament. A nice mixture of the two seems like the best way to go. Unfortunately, I don't think the professionals in this business share my sentiment, so it may mean my books go unpublished until the day when the SAST goes away.

If any of you have a valid argument for 'all-show', I'd be happy to hear it.

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