08 September 2010

Show & Tell

I will admit to not really knowing much about reviewing. Not much at all. And this is going to be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt by the following two sentences... One thing that always strikes me when I read book reviews is this phrase 'show not tell'. But what does it mean?

Earlier this week I finished reading A Fostered Love (Cameron Dane). Something that frustrated me with this book (and if I'm honest with a number of other books) is the lack of a why... If I'm reading a romance then I assume that the main characters will fall in love. Often they will say they are in love...or think it. But very rarely do we ever know the why - why have they fallen in love? I'm not expecting a bulleted list (although considering my OCD tendencies I wouldn't say no *grin*), but just an inkling of some sort. Or is love completely indescribable? Without an attempt at the why I feel...unfulfilled WRT the emotional connection between the characters. Interestingly, I read an Amazon review that compared A Fostered Love with one of my 'speak to me' keeper book - By Degrees (JB MacDonald). And yet I found them completely different. In By Degrees the why...while not explicitly stated...is vividly portrayed. And the love between the main characters feels...real...centred. Perhaps because it develops slowly, over months, and wasn't...condensed. (I must confess to not being a fan of condensed love...does that even make sense?)

I had another issue with A Fostered Love - the sex scenes. I actually wanted less of them! They felt...mechanical in a way, a step-by-step guide - I really missed the emotional connection between the characters. For me that's the most important thing in a sex scene. The characters don't have to say it, but I want to feel that love within the physical act. And in A Fostered Love it just felt like it was missing. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed A Fostered Love (and am looking forward to the sequel). I just...couldn't put my finger on the problem until now. I want to see the falling-in-love process, not suddenly have it presented to me - all wrapped up in a big shiny bow. Isn't half the fun of a present unwrapping it...trying to work out what it is, rather than just seeing it? The anticipation? Or maybe that's just me...

Apologies if I rambled incoherently... Then again, you may be used to it by now *grin*


  1. I feel it is amazing to come up with your own reasons about why they have fallen in love. I really like that thinking process.

  2. I know what you mean. The author can write "Paul and Greg felt an amazing connection." *yawn* Or the author can describe all the things that make up that connection and the reader gets the sense and the why of that connection. The second is much, much more satisfying - and far less mechanical feeling.

  3. I feel the same way. I love when the author expands on why they're falling in love or at least showing us why.

    I think this is a problem in shorter stories. They have fewer pages to let the relationship grow but I think some authors take that as an out and just cry the I love you's too soon. But that's just me. :)

  4. Shalet Jimmy - welcome :) And great point!

    Chris - exactly. The second is far, far more satisfying in my book. Otherwise it's just words on a page...

    Tracy - I think more and more I need the explanation. And yes, you do see the 'I love you' but no explanation far more in novellas. But then you read a novella (can't think of one ATM) which has the explanation and you realize it can be done! I think By Degrees and Keeping Promise Rock explained the why so well :)

  5. Agreed Orannia, a well-written novella can 'show you' why the couple fall in love, it can be just as complete as a full length novel. The problem is that many shorts are not well done and that short format is used as an excuse. However, they are not easily found.

    I absolutely agree with you. There's too much of the insta-luv, because I want you, and I want you because you... breath? types of romances. Feeling that emotional connection, weather it takes place during the sexual scenes or the conflicts is what makes a romance worth reading. Not someone 'telling' you there's love in the air.

  6. This problem is why I've been on a hiatus from romance novels for a while. I think authors rely a little too much on the tropes of the genre to make us believe the characters are in love, and I just couldn't buy into it anymore.

    I think the most important thing about convincing readers that the characters are in love is make US love them. Then of course the h/h will love one another, right? :)

  7. I didn't get the show not tell thing until I read One Night With a Rogue by Alexandra Hawkins. The hero and heroine went from despising each other and then the next chapter was something like - two weeks later after being in love - huh? what? Yeah - show me them in love!!

  8. There's too much of the insta-luv, because I want you, and I want you because you... breathe?

    Hilcia - LOL! That's exactly it! I have to ferret out the reason why...or imagine it. But the best books - novellas or otherwise - show me. Even without the words 'I love you because...' you're shown clearly. *SIGH* And those books are gems!

    heidenkind - another good point :) I do think some authors rely on us buying into the love because the book is a romance. The thing is, I can love a character but not believe in their love for another. The emotions of the character need to be clear IMHO :)

    Mandi - despising in in love in 2 weeks? See, I just can't make that leap. I must prefer a slowly developing relationship - it's more believable.

  9. I agree with you! The 'telling' isn't satisfying enough for me in most cases, I really need the 'showing' to become convinced of the HEA. :)