The Noble Pen for May 31, 2018

Next Noble Pen Meeting

May 31st, 2018 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids


Philip Roth (wikipedia) died recently at age 85.  He is remembered for Portnoy’s Complaint and Goodbye Columbus, among over 30 works.


Randy gathered experiential material about pickpockets for a future book.

Ciuin sold Petty Theft at an event and a lady who read some while waiting liked it.


We’ve all been told to “show, not tell.” This is good advice for most people when they start writing, as the natural tendency is to summarize too much.  Wikipedia has a short article on it. Chuck Palahniuk is more extreme than most on this point and suggests that even “thought” and “remembered” are too much tell.

It is probably not sufficient scene-setting to tell that a room is elegant. You need to show enough details (thick maroon carpet, heavy drapes, flower arrangements, or leather armchairs?) to let the reader see the room.  Don’t tell us an interviewee is nervous; show them fidgeting in the chair, twisting the pen in their fingers, and stammering their answers.

If your character is making a rushed and bad important decision because she is tired and hasn’t eaten all day, so she wants to leave to get to the restaurant, then a few words about lack of sleep, exhaustion, rumbles, and the gnawing feeling in her stomach may be in order to show and emphasize her distraction. Ideally those words would be interspersed with dialog as she talks about the decision.

But you need to balance show and tell with some sense of how important those facts are.  Showing can get long and boring if you take too many words to demonstrate something that isn’t terribly important.  Here’s more on balance. If your character just needs to be in the restaurant in order to bump into another character, it may be sufficient to tell that she is tired and hungry, and not spend a paragraph describing her symptoms.

In showing important things, you should usually not interpret them for the reader (doing both show and tell),  Nor should you dwell too much about their importance, but try to make those facts a natural part of the scene. Here’s a good discussion of effective use of show versus tell

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