Show but Please Tell

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I read the Brothers Karamazov again. Published in 1880 it is still great reading. Maybe it will feel like you know much of what he has to say but that is because he said the nearly one hundred fifty years ago.

The engineer turned author, philosopher and in a way mystic wrote phenomenal novels exploring the depths of human wretchedness. He does not mince. Nor does he add any sugar topping on the bad cake.

We get to see life as it was in his day. And we feel it is like a journey into another universe. How could such things happen. How could people survive in such a world.

Crime and Punishment is worse. Just two murders described bluntly in a page. That is all the action it has.

I wonder. About the show, don’t tell dictum. Dostoyevsky lived so long ago that the advice of modern literature do not apply perhaps. But the fact remains that his books which are almost entirely told and not shown make excellent and profound reading even now.

Imagine he had applied the ‘show’ principle in his books. The novels would have been as long as the Mahabharata, which ironically shows quite a bit instead of telling. Today I am certain the works of Dostoyevsky would not get published. Not by the traditional publishers anyway. They have to think of their bank balance.

Times change. Techniques of writing change. You would be dumb to write a poem of nearly two million words and hope to sell it. Or hope anyone to struggle through its depths.

So we write within the limits and restrictions put by the publishing companies. And drivel of various kinds get touted in the best selling list. And last a few months there.

That means keep your present job whatever it is and skip sleep to write. You will die early assuming you don’t go crazy before that happens. Remember Maupassant who tried to cut his own throat.

If you have the uncontrollable itch to write, to put into words your thoughts and fears do so. For such work there is always the non-traditional Publishing routes. Just try to keep your job and your sanity.

5 Comments

  • Coriana Hope
    Coriana Hope says:

    You have a great point! Just because certain styles of writing are trendy now doesn’t mean they are good, or even better than older styles.

    • Pradeep VM – Doctor by profession. Author by inclination. Started publishing Dec 2019, Published three novels "The Village of Shadows," and "The Conflict of Karna." and "With Darkness came Death." You are right; I enjoy the dark side.
      Pradeep VM says:

      Coincidentally I was reading your blog on self publishing when this response came in. Good luck to you in your truly self publishing journey.
      Ask yourself if War and Peace would be published now. http://Www.Mentalfloss.com says – “Before writing The Call of the Wild, Jack London was rejected 664 times”.-

  • Obong eno – A member of the humane race
    AKwafrigeria says:

    Great thoughts ❤️

    • Pradeep VM – Doctor by profession. Author by inclination. Started publishing Dec 2019, Published three novels "The Village of Shadows," and "The Conflict of Karna." and "With Darkness came Death." You are right; I enjoy the dark side.
      Pradeep VM says:

      Thank you

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