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Show, don't tell?

The rule in fiction, apparently, is show don't tell. The idea is that rather than explain what your character feels and thinks, you write a storyline which shows the reader these things.

I never quite understood this, as some of the best books I've read have a narration element, where the writer steps outside of the story and speaks directly to the reader. What about Jane Eyre, that staple of ailing TV companies?

Reader, I married him.


Jane, or rather Charlotte Bronte, speaks in the first person, so is allowed to take the extra step and admit that her reader exists with this line. Terry Pratchett does it all the time, as part of his story, in the added footnotes in many of his stories. No one seems to have taken them outside and given them a talking to.

Life is like this, too, I think, which is why most people want fiction to follow. People like to be shown things and like to do things. They don't want the talking to get in the way. Often, the explanations are unnecessary as, in life, you exist and move and do and are probably about to live out the event you'd be talking about.

This is where aspies fall foul, you see. This is the point I'm leading up to (I'm giving you clear narration there, reader, and I'm speaking directly to you).

Aspies would quite like a narration in life. For one thing, it would stop them getting more than half of the blooming thing wrong, and would certainly avoid a lot of those stunned silences and people blinking in surprise. It would also avoid going into massively hasty decisions without your eyes open.

You may still decide you need that high-end computer, with extras, plus the excitement bundle at a one-day-only offer; but if you had a gentle narrator in the background who could explain that the computer is great, but tomorrow you have the rent to pay, then life might be less complicated.

I agree that aspies are pretty bad at listening to advice at times, and other times we listen too much. For an impulse decision, like the computer, we can be extremely, atrociously bad at listening to sensible advice. We wants it now!!

When it comes to what you should do in your emotional or social life, I don't know about the rest of you, but I tend to gather all the advice I can because I have no idea what I'm doing. The end result can be that I do something entirely diffferent from what I should have done and end up more confused than ever.

And anyway, I have to hold my hand up here as being one of those aspies who does already have the inner narration. I know this is true of so many others too. Unfortunately, it is not the narration of an omnipresent narrator who can advise us sagely because they know the whole story. No, it's our own voices, the narration built up from a lifteime of wondering what to do next.

With me, it would be less of the 'Reader, I married him,' than 'Reader, I spent all his money on this fabulous business idea that was bound to succeed, then I lost interest and me and his daughter spent the rest of my money on a weekend at the theme park because I'd forgotten her birthday, so it was only fair, and then I left him because he became really bad tempered and snappy all the time and was making my life miserable.'

It's true of all of us that if we had a kindly author in the background, manufacturing our lives so that we reached a happy conclusion. there would be less bankruptcy and more quiet marriages with country gentlemen. There would also, probably, be more tragedic deaths of surplus cousins, siblings and ailing mothers, or is it that I just read too much 19th century literature?

I still hold to it, though: aspies need the narration. It's no good expecting us to work out, from using our senses, what is going on and what we're supposed to do next. We don't see that straight line between cause and effect, we're too distracted by the noise going on between them to work it out. We need the cause and effect explained, or at least for someone to ask if we get it.

Actually, no, don't ask if we get it either, because we'll say we do. Part of the problem is that we think we do understand and act accordingly, still not linking up cause and effect and only going with what feels right or seems logical at the time. This is part of the reason we find it so difficult to explain afterwards, so many decisions are based on gut instinct at any given time, and are then lost on the wind and forgotten.

If possible, aspies, do remember to ask for a bit of narration. A few words can go a long way. And non-aspies and best beloveds, do remember to offer those few words. Yes, I know you sometimes (or often) get them thrown back at you impatiently - we know what we're doing! - but persevere because it will probably mean less high-end computing and more money for the rent.

As for the showing and not telling, every day, in confused looks, hesitant words, mumbled explanations and quick glances across the room, we aspies show and don't tell you how we're feeling and what we're doing. It's up to you, as the reader, to work it out without needing us to narrate it for you.

Amanda

My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
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