The mad origin of ''Show, Don't Tell'' in stories May 2, 2021 0:48:49 GMT shutupbanks, doctorkernow, and 2 more like this
Post by nucleusofswarm on May 2, 2021 0:48:49 GMT
I discussed this in the Varos thread, but figured it was worth giving its own spot as it's fascinating. It's one of the most common bits of writing advice, and something which everyone has heard. How interesting could it possibly be? Well, to cut a long and convoluted history short, and as documented in books like ''Workshops of Empire'', ''Finks'' and ''Who Paid the Piper: The CIA and the Cultural War'', it's a lot.
Paul Engle was a novelist, playwright and writing teacher who helped co-create and pioneer the Iowa Writer's Workshop, a still-highly influential creative writing program that has been the defacto model of writing teaching globally since about the 40s/50s. If you've ever done creative writing, he likely had some hand in how you were taught. While he wasn't the actual creator persay, Engle, funded by the CIA's counter-propaganda initiative (yes really, this was all part of a push to counter Soviet influence by selling the hell out of American culture, art and media), was arguably one of the men most responsible for pushing the school of writing theory that artists creating expressly political, or works with politics as their text, was a betrayal of artistic integrity and that good writing must put any such message or theme into the subtext, leaving it up to interpretation. Works that were socially conscious or calls to action were not real literature, according to this. He, along with others at the Workshop, built on humanist principles such as self-knowledge (or as you may know it: write what you know) and self-discipline (and here it is; show, don’t tell). Arguably the most famous bit of writing advice in the world, and it's only about 70 years old, courtesy of an actual culture war where it was artificially made dominant over other types of writing theory, just to spite Stalin and the Soviets.
Now of course, being a tool of political warfare (yes, the layers of crushing irony don't escape me either) doesn't invalidate it as a useful principle in writing, but it is fascinating to look into as many of the ''Stop putting politics in my entertainment'' brigade probably couldn't tell you why it's good advice, or where it came from. If you want to look at something more, aside from the books above, there's this article in the LA Review (https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/philosophy-creative-writing/) which does a broad sweep of the history, Engle and his colleagues. There is also this video about it by critic Bob Chipman (I know he can be polarizing, but he's on point in this video): www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8BgeuDiwrE