Saturday, December 5, 2009

Jacqueline Carey: Telling Not Showing

If you've read anything at all on this blog, it's pretty hard to miss that I love Jacqueline Carey's writing style. She brings to life such vivid characters with such a loving touch that they linger with me for days (sometimes years) after I've finished the novel. It's a gift I admire and strive to obtain.

Reading her eighth novel, I'm familiar enough with her style to start subconsciously dissecting it as I read, and I've noticed one of the strange things she does: she tells you what's going to happen before it happens. Often.

If a scene is going to turn out badly, the character might say something like "And I wished I'd never gone with him." If the character is going to have a happy time, perhaps Carey will write something like "It was a night I would cherish in my memory for all time."

This goes against everything writing workshops and professors and many authors will tell you. She's telling, not showing. Granted, she follows it up with a great deal of showing, but first she tells. And amazingly what it does, every time, is heighten the scene that follows. If it's a tension-filled scene, the tension is higher. If it's a scene between lovers, it is more poignant. As if, by introducing and telling you what to expect, Carey makes the scene that much more powerful.

It's an interesting technique. One that I don't know would work with my own writing style, but one that I love, nonetheless.

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