Show vs Tell

1973-cabaret

I watched this gem of a film last night and hate to say it, but it was my first time checking it out. A classic film and musical, directed by the late Bob Fosse, Cabaret was nominated (and won) many Academy Awards–losing Best Film to The Godfather. (Also a great film and amazing read.)

Unlike The Godfather, I haven’t read the original, short-story, novel version of Cabaret (yet). Goodbye to Berlin was written by Christopher Isherwood in the early 1930’s, as Germany morphed from a liberal, open, artistic city, into the breeding ground for the Third Reich.

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Now, if you go to IMDb and looked up Cabaret, the description reads, “A female girlie club entertainer in Weimar Republic era Berlin romances two men while the Nazi Party rises to power around them.”

And if you head over to GoodReads and check out Goodbye to Berlin, it reads, “In linked short stories, he says goodbye to Sally Bowles, to Fraulein Schroeder, to pranksters, perverts, political manipulators; to the very, very guilty and to the dwindling band of innocents. It is goodbye to a Berlin wild, wicked, breathtaking, decadent beyond belief and already – in the years between the wars – welcoming death in through the door, though more with a wink than a whimper.

GoodReads description is much more accurate than the Hollywood neutralization of the film. In 1972, the war had only been over for 27 years. The deep cut of what took place was still felt by many, in a way, only first hand survivors can relive. (Unlike now, where it’s all text books and films to remind us of the horrors of WW2.)

The amount of films that tackle this subject is long, to say the least. Each years since 1945, has produced film, after film, after film (book after book, television show, after television show, etc.)–attempting to capture the horrors of the war from one angle or another.

in 1931–as Isherwood lived in the slow absorption of nazism in Berlin–watching the wild and decadent city he loved so much, become the backdrop for hate and horrors. When the book was published in 1934–American talked about these sort of things in comments quickly forgotten as they dealt with more important, local, issues–like the great depression.

But, the great depression was everywhere–not just in America. Which is also seen in Cabaret. The divide between Rich and Poor.

Now, as a writer–Showing vs Telling comes up a LOT. Personally, I feel both are needed from time to time. Sometimes, we need to tell our audience things–so we can get onto our next great Showy part. This is a personal opinion, and–if you’ve ever submitted a query to any agent in all the literary land–you probably have learned that, “Opinions are subjective,” and very from agent to agent. So, while you may not agree with me on the combination of the two–that’s okay!

But, back to Cabaret. As I watched the film last night, the story unfolds about the relationship between Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli) and Brian Roberts (Michael York.) Each pivotal moment being punctuated by a musical number at the Cabaret Miss Bowles works at. As you follow them along their complicated relationship, you watch the world around them transform: from the opening, mirrored credits, to the final mirrored ending.

Never once do they say: Sally is hungry. Instead, each time there is food, she pounces on it. They never say, Sally is poor, but she wears the same clothes over and over again.

They never SAY directly, what is happening in Berlin. But you see Nazi uniforms arrive, at first, getting kicked out of the Cabaret–later, in larger and larger numbers. The blood and violence grows in time with tension of Sally and Brian’s unconventional relationship–until it all comes to a head and pops.

Now, for a writer of short stories and books–I’m a rather visual person. I enjoy watching and seeing stories as much as I do reading them, which is why I’m suggesting Cabaret as a successful example of Showing a major transformation, rather than simply saying, “This happens and this and then a little more of this.” Is it possible to execute the same effect on the page? I really do think so. It’s hard to get away from Telling your stories, at first. But that’s what editing is for. Second, third, and fourth drafts are where the true magic happens–when you take a story you’ve told and mold it into a cacophony of sound, tastes, and textures. Overloading more senses than the eyes–adding depth to your words, your surroundings–and really capturing the essence of a story all the way into its bones.

I mean, that’s the real different between showing and telling, isn’t it? In one you’re saying–IT WAS JUST LIKE THIS. In the other, you’re hinting to what it’s like with thread barren shirt cuffs, unwashed sheets, the copper scent of blood; boots on pavement that rattle up your spin, laughter so thick its contagious, and more and more and more.

If you haven’t seen Cabaret–it’s free on Netflix (and most certainly available at your local library.) I recommend it on many levels–for Showing vs Telling, Character development, a world slipping in the background. It’s a real treat, and deserved all the awards it won back in 1973.

Now, go enjoy a good film while I start reading, Goodbye Berlin–which I hope to blog about soon. (Or now. Who knows. Only time will tell…)

Happy Reading!

Aryn

Made in L.A. – Chasing the Elusive Dream

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Cover design by Allison Rose

I’ve been sitting on this one for a while now but it’s time to share. I have a short story coming out in the soon to be released anthology, ‘Made in L.A.: Chasing the Elusive Dream.’

It’s a collection of stories written by thirteen local Los Angelenos and I’m honored to be sharing the pages of this anthology with them and will post more about them, the anthology, the L.A. Times Festival of Books (where the book will be launching from), and how you can buy a copy soon!

For more in depth information right this second go here and check out the Made in L.A. official website.

xxoo – A

Review: Strange Afterlives

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For the first review of the year–I give you STRANGE AFTERLIVES an anthology edited by A. Lee Martinez.

In a short story world filled with a sea of anthologies–some that are good, some that are not–it’s always exciting to picked up one like STRANGE AFTERLIVES. Instead of one or two interesting reads, it’s filled with eleven of them.

I read it in one sitting. I loved it that much.

Here is the Goodread’s summary:

In this anthology of eleven original tales, the undead are never quite expected. From sinister feline mummies to ravenous zombified cars and any and all things in-between, the living dead have returned from their graves, junkyards, and even the war torn skies to haunt the lands of the living. With stories horrific, funny, and weird, Strange Afterlives has a little something for everyone who has ever wondered what terrible secrets could be lurking in that rotting tree or broken toy.

If you’re a fan of horror, and enjoy a bit of humor in the mix–this anthology is for you. As I said before, most times I read anthologies I like one or two stories, but read this one from the beginning, MOUSE TROUBLES by the editor and chief, A. Lee Martinez, to the end, THE SCAVENGER HUNT by John Sanders, Jr.

Happy Reading! –xxoo-A

The trials of writing a short story… who knew?! (That’s right, everyone did.)

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Look up! It’s a giant rock headed right toward us!!

…or is it?…

That’s how all of this feels – and I mean “life” by “this.” Life feels like a giant rock falling out of the sky aimed directly for my forehead.

Things take longer than planned, even with all the organization I try to put in place and the schedules I create for my writing – life comes in and…

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So there is a delay, but the story will happen. I WILL have a short story to post on this site, for you to read – if you like (which I hope you will because I’d love that. No pressure… seriously. Thank you either way…)

I have no date – but the plan is before the end of the year. Secretly (not really a secret if I post it online…) I hope it will be ready for everyone to read on Holiday break! It’s the least I can do for lovelies like yourself.

UNTIL THEN! Promise to stay positive and write more posts to keep you writing!!

xx

A

 

And so it goes…

 

Life continues to come at me like small rocks in a dust storm. I take a breath when I think it’s safe, but most days my face is wrapped in a protective layer of fabric as I steer my way though the network of paths before me. Soon I’ll find the right one, or maybe I’ll realize  I’m already on the right path and the storm is just part of the process.

I’ll figure it out.

I always do.

I would like to report I have been working diligently to get my first ever self published short story online! Exciting stuff (to me it REALLY exciting stuff… like “do a little dance of glee in my bedroom between writing/ editing sessions” exciting.) And this has been made possible because of the amazing Michelle Joyce Bond [who also has a blog you should check out! It’s called, “Sleeps with Notebooks“. Go there, tell her I said hi!]

Basically, this post is merely to say thank you to anyone who reads me, who helps me, who feels compelled to keep trying because of me – because you keep me going. Yup. Never give up! Never surrender! Life is too short to live a mediocre life – live one that makes you feel spectacular.

So if you’re on here wasting time because you’re having writers block, or writers angst (which is worse than a block), or you’re scared because you think you’ll never be good enough – go write something. (And then come back and share it with me. I’d love to see it.)

Sometimes those tiny rocks are just thumping you in the head to say, “wake up!” Speaking of which, a new opening chapter to Imogen Grace won’t write itself…

Happy writing!

-Aryn