As some of you probably know, I have two nieces and one nephew who are my world. They dominate my life in every way, and well, I’m okay with that.
The other day we were watching Peppa Pig which happens to be my oldest nieces “Favorite Show Ever” along with Max and Ruby, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and the list goes on. She could watch it “EVERY DAY!” So, seeing as how we spoil her rotten, we let her watch her cartoon.
It so happened that I watched a few minutes of it. Daddy Pig, Mommy Pig, and Peppa and George were all taking a ride in rented convertible while their vehicle was in the shop. The top was down and it started raining, so they had to find the right colored button to push in order to get the top up. Well, if you’ve never watched Peppa Pig, they show the story and then a narrator tells it. Frankly, the narrator annoys me. They show something like them pushing a red button and say, “Daddy Pig pushes the red button.” “Daddy Pig gets sprayed in the face.” (Daddy Pig had just pushed a button for the windshield wipers and the cleaner sprayed him in the face.) Either way, the narrator tells us what happens right after the incident happens. I can kind of understand why they do this for a children’s show, but then again, kids aren’t stupid. They can see what’s happening.
I got to thinking about how this relates to writing. Big surprise there. (I think we, writers, can relate anything back to writing. Just wait until I write about how Tangled relates to writing!)
Do we do this? Do we show what’s happening then tell it is happening? You know the old adage, “Show not tell.” I’m not saying there aren’t instances when you can’t tell. Perhaps your character is relating a memory. Chances are, it’s a little harder to show. But, as with this cartoon, I don’t want to see an action and then be told about it.
Say for example, you see this:
I closed the door to my room, walked a few steps, and jumped on the bed. I laid on the bed thinking about Steven. Steven always crossed my mind. My thoughts always involved him.
(Not an example from an actual work.)
You can see the redundancy of this statement. We know she’s already on the bed thinking of Steven, and we know that he always crosses her mind. It would work better like this:
I closed the door and walked the few steps into my room. I jumped on the bed and laid there thinking of Steven. He always crossed my mind.
This example is a little extreme. I know. The point still holds.
I’ve read this in a work. I won’t name the book. It’s not important. The important part is that in editing, we need to make sure that we don’t tell and show. We need to show.
I don’t want to get into the whole “you have to show everything” speech. That isn’t always the case. Of course, it’s always easier to feel like part of the story if you’re in the action, but there are cases where telling might work better.
This is, too, probably a “rookie mistake.” I know seasoned writers will probably ignore this post. Which is fine. It’s just something that has crossed my mind recently.
My aim here isn’t to down new writers. I want to help. I know that when I first started writing I could’ve used all the help I could get. Luckily, in the third year of my serious writing, I was included in an amazing fiction workshop class in college that seriously helped my writing.
Sorry, running rabbits here. Back to the point of this post. Redundancy. We should probably avoid it. 😉
What are your thoughts? Is your narrator narrating too much?