Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Objective Correlative

1. Show don't tell. Right?
2. Those story tellers, they want to make us feel something, they've got to portray it out on stage so we can see it.
3. In Aspects of the Novel (which still holds up pretty well) E.M. Forester came at the concept in terms of causality. Something happens and someone responds to it, thus demonstrating to the reader the emotion experienced. The king died. The the queen died. No biggie; kigs and queens in their death throes every time you pick up a tabloid. But. The king died and then the queen died of grief. Ah, there's causality and a tad of showing.
4. T.S. Eliot. Hamlet and His Problems. Arguing that Hamlet didn't have enough emotional backing to be convincing in the role he played. The kid needed to find ways of demonstrating his feelings to the audience in ways that were convincing yet short of emoting.
5. So the trick is to have situations or objects that convey the desired emotion, an x-ray of the character's emotional condition at a given moment.
6. Simple enough when you consider things or places that remind you of people or times or feelings.
7. This doesn't bring us to quits with Show-don't tell. You've got to pick your spots. War and Peace is so damnably long because Leo went around showing so much that he began to lose track. Demonstrate what's important. Tell the minor stuff.
8. Sounds good.
9. Reminds you of the time Robley Wilson scribbled across the top of your story The Committee, "That's carrying the objective correlative too far."


R.L. Bourges said...

given T.S. Eliot said so, I allow myself to say I always found Hamlet a bit of a one-note kind of guy.
work on saying what I think without asking anybody's permission first.
4.1.1 work on having fun saying what I think without asking etc.

Anonymous said...

There are times showing comes easy, and others when the story is so blatantly told, I'm tempted to scrap the entire thing and start over. Oh the joys of revision.

Unknown said...

You know, I'm still looking for a quote from literature which displays this objective correlative idea. I was told Prufrock does this, but the poem is so sprawling, I'd like that person who uses it to circle the examples of it.


What do you think Shelly?