- Aug 19, 2014 1:02 PM
Show don’t tell.
If you’ve read anything about storytelling (film-making in particular) then you may be familiar with the expression. It’s a principle that states that it is better to show your audience something than it is to tell them. Now this is a very, very basic idea but it’s one that has times where it’s okay to do the opposite.
So I’m gonna talk about it in a way that hopefully will be interesting and funny.
Let’s start at the beginning;
Why should you show rather than tell?
I think the best way to explain why it’s important is to use a real life example. Have you ever had a friend or family member talk to you about their cat/dog/baby/flying spaghetti monster? Have you ever had to sit there and listen to them go on and on about how cute it is? Tell you lots of funny stories about the things that it does?
If you have, chances are you can remember your reaction was probably somewhere between polite boredom and swinging a bar stool at their head. The reason is because most people cannot relate or empathise with something that they personally have not experienced. They cannot connect with a story about a baby putting a bowl on it’s head being cute, because the cuteness is a visual thing. And we’ve all seen millions of pictures of a baby with a bowl on it’s head.
Now, what about if your friend showed you a picture of their cat/dog/baby/flying spaghetti monster? Yes, you may still have a ‘meh’ reaction, but chances are you at least look at the picture. You see what they’re talking about and if it is cute in your opinion, you react appropriately.
This is what’s going on in storytelling with show don’t tell.
I’m gonna use the recent movie Guardians of the Galaxy as example because it actually succeeds and fails with this with explaining the backstories of it’s characters. Peter Quill’s backstory is shown to us. We see him at this mother’s bedside as she dies from cancer. We see him abducted by aliens. We see that he has a strong connection to his cassette player. The result is we can empathise with him when he does some stupid things (like risking his life to get the player back).
Now on the other side, we have Rocket. We’re told Rocket was experimented on. We’re told Rocket was ‘torn apart then put back together again’. We’re told it traumatised him. The result is that during Rocket’s big emotional scene… it doesn’t work. We’ve not seen how horrible this was, we’ve been told. This goes for Gamora and Drax as well by the way. We’re told what happened to them to make them the way they are, not shown it.
Now I’m not saying that telling is necessarily bad. Sometimes you need to tell rather than show. If you’ve got a big universe with a large cast, sometimes you have to tell. For example, if you have to introduce a character and explain who he is in simple terms, then yes you’ll have to tell rather than show. However even then you should at least show as much as you can. For example in FullMetal Alchemist we’re told who Lin is by his servants, but we also see that he’s a foreigner who has two servants working for him. We can make assumptions about him from there.
One of the most important elements of writing a story is making your audience connect emotionally. Show don’t tell is a powerful weapon in that pursuit. It can force your audience to connect by either showing them what your characters have been through, or force your audience into the mindset of the characters. If you rely too much on telling the audience what’s going on, you’re comic will end up just being another cute story about a baby with a bowl on it’s head.
If you want a good exercise for getting better at show don’t tell, try limiting how much dialogue you can use in a comic. Maybe try to work with a few silent pages. Really push yourself to think about how to communicate without words. You’ll surprise yourself with how effective the results can be.
But that’s just this pop culture nerd’s opinion on show don’t tell - what do you think?
- Just for Fun
- Jun 9, 2014 4:02 AM
Alright so I'm in desperate need to sit down and talk about something fun so let's talk about my favourite sitcom of all time - Frasier.
For those who don't know, here's the skinny - Frasier is a late 90s sitcom that ran for 11 seasons that focuses on Frasier Crane, a radio pyschiatrist who is living with his ex-cop father Martin and his physiotherapest from England, Daphne as well his father's adorable dog, Eddie. Other characters in the show include Frasier's younger brother Niles and his show's producer, Roz. The series usually revolves around either the two brother's being culture snobs in some way and a failing miserably, or some emotional issue that Frasier or Niles helps with psychiatry or Martin helps with his sage advice. Hi-jinks and laughs abound.
Also it was a spin-off of the hit series, Cheers and usually features cameos of characters from tht appearing here and there with Fraiser's ex wife Lilith usually popping up once and season.
So why do I love this show so much? Well it is hilarious and while some elements have not dated well, the farcical nature of the show is still glorious. The show's humour is rooted strongly in the characters and how they percieve a situation or how they want to be percieved. This usually takes the form of a character making up a lie they must then go through hoops to maintain in order to save face. Nine times out of ten, honesty would solve the situation, but the characters own neuroses results in them doing everything they can to hide the problem. This could get tired, but the show hides it's formula well and uses it sometimes in really obvious ways - "Oh no! The kitchen staff of our new restaurant walked out on opening night, we'll have to stand in for them!" - and sometimes in really subtle ways - "Oh no! Dad broke up with his girlfriend because he's afraid of falling in love again!" and with framing device of psychiatry vs old time wisdom, you get a nice mix of resolution from episode to episode.
The performances of the cast are also excellent, with David Hyde Pierce and Kelsey Grammar being excellent at both delivering witty put downs and old-style slapstick comedy. John Mahoney and Peri Gilpin do great on the other side of the fence as the more down-to-earth snarkers of the group, while Jane Leeves as Daphne is... interesting. Starting out as quite mad, Jane Leeves manages to slide into the more level-headed Daphne that we get later in the series which brings me to the part where I have to talk about the little things that don't quite stand up to scrutiny in Frasier but don't detract from it either. I'd go into them here, but this is meant to be a positive blog so I'll just say that the 90s had standard jokes that it liked to use a lot ("This character has a lot of sex!" "This guy is in love with this oblivious girl!") and Fraiser goes to that well but I'll say it does put it's own spin on them somewhat.
But that's enough about negatives. I still love this show. It's hilariously witty and has some of the best slapstick you'll ever see. The set ups are usually gold and the show takes advantage of all of them. It's a comedy that does a lot with very little (the show really only has five characters most of the time) and it has very few missteps in it's 11 seasons. If you haven't seen it, check it out and I hope you laugh as much as I do.
- Just for Fun
- May 24, 2014 7:29 PM
So my love for the Pokemon franchise is well documented, but I haven't talked very much about my love for it's supposedly lesser cousin, the Digimon franchise. Well seeings as I'm on something of a Digimon kick at the moment with just having bought the Third season on DVD, I thought I'd talk a little bit about my feelings on this particular monster franchise.
Except the thing about Digimon is that it's kind of a weird franchise to talk about, as throughout it's 6-8 seasons (it's complicated, I'll explain in a bit.) the franchise has shaken itself up a lot. The various seasons vary wildly in both tone and even series mythology, so I'm going do a quick run down of each series and what I think of them.
I'll keep it spoiler free but give opinions on these silly little kid's shows as we go along.
Season 1: Digimon Adventure
The series that started it all and honestly it still holds up pretty well. The story of 7 kids who get sucked into a mysterious world full of digital creatures is still endeering in a simple way and when the story ramps up into the Myotismon arc, it's still entertaining as hell. It's dumb in places (especially the wonderfully goofy dub) but I can't really get too critical of it. The worst crime it commits is having a fairly slap-dash story, but given the series went from a planned 13 episodes to 54, the fact they managed to get anything good out of it - and the Myotismon arc is great - is a testement all of itself. Not many cartoons from your childhood can hold up like this and even fewer you can introduce to newbies and they still enjoy it. So if you haven't seen it, check it out.
Season 2: Digimon Adventure 02
The return of the Digidestined is marred by the fact that it only features the real return of it's two least interesting characters - Kari and TK - and replaces the rest with the bland brigade. Zero Two is not awful, but only because the character arc of the so-called Digimon Emporer is well done and engaging. Weirdly enough, Zero Two has the same issue of a plot that's cobbled together, despite the fact the writers clearly did have ideas and plans in place. From what I hear it's an issue of too many cooks spoiling the broth and different writers throwing in different ideas, but the result is bland and doesn't hold up. It feels like the throwaway kids show the first season could've been. Just don't bother with this, Adventure is satisfying enough on it's own.
Also the Epilogue is the second most rage inducing thing for a Digimon fan.
Season 3: Digimon Tamers
What happens when you get the guy who did Serial Experiments Lain to write a kid's show, you get one of my all time favourite anime. With a smaller cast, Tamers is able to create layered characters that exceed anything the series had before. The black and white morality of the previous seasons is thrown aside for a more grey take with lots of ethical questions about the Digimon franchise itself brought up. They even managed to tie in the commerical plugs in a neat and clever little way. Then there's the sheer brass balls of the last third of the series that decides to take it into darker places that probably traumatised a looooot of kiddies. This season also had my favourite Digimon, Lopmon, so there's that. Honestly I cannot express how much I love this series, it's just a masterpiece in my eyes.
Season 4: Digimon Frontier
Digimon goes Sentai! After a season largely taking place in the real world, Frontier restricts itself to the Digital World and really creates a rich mythology this time around, which is something I really liked. I did miss the Human/Digimon bonding from Tamers and in all honesty the characters were pretty bland, but as a silly little distraction, Frontier is above average. I could happily watch it again, though it really does fizzle out towards the end. Probably the most middle of the road season for me. Good, not great, but not bad either.
Season 5: Digimon Savers
I think Bandai had worked out their original audience had gotten older and for some reaosn went with a series with an older set of characters (ranging from 14-18) with tones of fanservice... that's still very much a kid's show at heart. Imagine if you mixed Gurren Lagaan with Digimon and that's Savers. This is a series where the main character routinely punches out Digimon about 20 times his size. It's silly and obnoxious and seems to desperately claw for attention with it's over-the-top action, fanservice and fan shout outs to bigger concepts in the franchise. And I can't hate it. It's one of the dumbest things I have ever seen but I enjoy it for the same reason I love Jason X, because sometimes you can pile up the dumb into brilliance. Savers does that for me but I totally get why some people really hate it.
Season 6/7: Digimon Xros Wars
Okay so... Digimon Xros Wars is technically two/three series depending on how you count it, but Digimon Xros Wars and Digimon Xros Wars: The Evil Death Generals and the Seven Kingdoms (oy, that title) cover one big arc and I suspect are just one season cut into two parts. The third Xros Wars series... is a new story and very much seperate from the first two. I'm saying this because I actually kinda like Xros Wars and counting the third one would... taint that. Xros Wars is very much a return to the ideas of Adventure, except now they threw out the evolving for basically merging the Digimon like Voltron (not a entirely new concept for the series) and while I'm not a huge fan, it's very much enjoyable for the goofy action you expect from this franchise. Like Frontier, I can watch this happily while I work and not be annoyed by it but never really get into that much (except the finale, oh lord the finale) so about that third series...
Season 8Season 7.5: Digimon Xros Wars: The Young Hunters Who Leapt Through Time.
Oh look, it's Rogo Rage o'clock.
Young Hunters is a naked, effortless cash grab. The main hook of this series is that it features the return of the protagonists from al previous seasons, teaming up to take down a great evil. Except they obviously couldn't afford many of the old seiyuu for those roles for too long, so they all barely appear outside of brief glimpses here and there, and one half of an episode that desperately tries to be big a triumphant, but fails miserably. Beside that, this series follows a character who looks like a bad fan character wandering around fighting whatever Digimon is
marketablecausing mischief that week. It's like they intended to make it a celebration of the franchise by combining all the best elements for previous series, but ended up getting all the crap instead. I'm only talking about it here because I have to. Blegh.
So that's the Digimon Franchise and I do think it has a lot going for it. I actually think that it has more potential than Pokemon in some ways, as Tamers has proven quite nicely. Yeah it's a silly kid's anime, but it's a worthwhile one in my opinion that I have a lot of nostalgia for. It's fun, creative and I recommend checking out most seasons ('cept Young Hunters, obviously.) as nearly all of them try something new. And I have to respect a franchise that changes things up instead of doing the same thing over and over again.
Ahaha... I'm not even sorry.
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Hello everyone! The name's Rogo and apparently I'm witty and junk? I live in the UK and am a huge fan of anime and manga, and as such this of course means that I have decided to start my own manga - Gravston.
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