Show, Don’t Tell.

A few weeks ago Linda of Half A 1000 Miles sent me a link to a video description contest. The contest seemed pretty simple: write a narrative description of a short film for the visually impaired. I did that, after I watched the video three or four times and then paused it about every twenty seconds to stop and write out a description of what was going on. That may sound challenging and it is. Per the contest rules I tried to time the narrative to follow the action which meant I also stopped to read what I was writing out loud while watching what was happening on-screen.

And since this was aimed at the visually impaired I thought it would be best to avoid adjectives, especially colors. Depending on how and when they lost their sight, or how much sight they have, color may not mean anything to them. Or it might. And while I was emphasizing verbs which push a narrative along the value of adjectives is they slow a narrative down. It was a hard balance to strike.

It also reminded me that while a picture may be worth a thousand words a thousand words don’t necessarily add up to a picture.

That reminds me of the line parroted in every creative writing class I’ve ever taken: Show, don’t tell. No one seems to ever catch the irony that we’re never given examples, but that’s another story.

Anyway here’s the video. I think it’s very funny and clever and illustrates why I find graffiti so interesting much better than I can say.

Seen any graffiti? Send your pictures to freethinkers@nerosoft.com. I won’t call the cops on you or anything.

12 Comments

  1. Ann Koplow

    I shall now show and tell, Chris, that I think you illustrate why you find graffiti so interesting very, very well.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Since you also listen to Says You! I’m sure you remember the late Richard Sher saying the show was best “when we get your comments, when we get your questions, and most of all when you show up.” And to further quote him, thank you for showing up.

      Reply
      1. Ann Koplow

        As long as you show up, I will too.

        Reply
  2. halfa1000miles

    As soon as I saw this, I knew CW must be told about this. You know what’s weird? I entered, but I found it incredibly hard. I don’t expect to win. BUT I EXPECT YOU TO. Crossing fingers for you 🙂

    Reply
  3. halfa1000miles

    I am extremely curious. How many words long was your submit? Mine was 506…

    Reply
    1. halfa1000miles

      CW, ANSWER ME. I am extremely curious!!!!!!!!!!

      Reply
      1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

        I’m glad to know that you’re extremely curious and that you’re also interested to know how long my submission for the contest was. And that while I wasn’t intentionally avoiding answering you all I have to do in the future to get more comments is sit on my hands for a couple of days.
        Where was I? Oh yeah…
        I haven’t gone back and looked at my computer–technical difficulties–but I think my submission was about the same length as yours. 500 or so words seems to be just about right for a narrative intended to be read out loud for around three minutes.
        Regular foolishness will resume shortly. If you experience any problems refer to the following.

        Reply
  4. Tripping

    What a cool exercise. Sounds like a great idea for a high school English class.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It would be a great idea for a high school, or even college, English class. In retrospect I really wish I’d tried to tell the story rather than just describing the action on-screen. That may not have been what they were looking for but I think it would have been more satisfying.

      Reply
  5. Margot

    Silly me. I closed my eyes to experience the video without sight so that I could observe how well you did at your narration. Once I figured out that you weren’t providing us your finished product I decided to just keep listening anyway. I could hear a bicycle, a police chase scene, and romance. It’s really awesome how much music adds to the story, isn’t it?

    Anyway, I agree with Linda—this had your name written all over it and I’m sure you did an excellent job. Will you be posting the finished product after the contest is over?

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It really is amazing how much music adds to a story–or how much it doesn’t add. Notice how there’s no music in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, but that’s another story.
      I need to check but, extremely silly me, I think I forgot to save my copy of the finished product. If I did then I’ll consider sharing it, although it’s not great writing. Technically the contest is now over since the day I submitted my entry was the last day.

      Reply
  6. Pingback: Pictures tell stories… – Sand In The Bikini

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