Namrata Poddar on the Western Preference for Visual Over Oral Storytelling – Literary Hub
Recently, I transitioned from a world of transnational literary criticism into a predominantly white American creative writing workshop culture. As I moved from one fledgling story draft to another, the comments I received most consistently as feedback in my workshop seemed to be the standard fare for most novice writers: “show, show, show,” “show, don’t tell,” “convert into scene,” “externalize,” “get rid of exposition” and “what does this place or character look like?” For this repeated advice, I remain indebted to my workshop readers. After all, which storyteller worth her salt can afford to ignore the Chekhovian dictum today? “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” This counsel to “paint a picture” feels even more relevant in a 21st century whose readers, including myself, consume stories increasingly through images—be it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Hollywood and Bollywood blockbusters.
Yet, while perusing my drafts for strategies of revision, the aspiring fiction writer in me often wondered if “painting a picture” would be a most effective artistic move, especially in an age where verbal or textual storytelling competes constantly with visual and virtual storytelling.