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Don’t Show, Don’t Tell – Guest Blog by K. C. Alexander

Behind The Golden Mask by Didier NguyenWe’ve heard it, right: “show, don’t tell.” A four-word reminder to make sure your work is rich with description, follow-through, actions rather than (in a non-literal sense) words.

But what about “don’t show, don’t tell?” (Not to be mistaken for outdated military doctrine.) Stick with me, kid, it gets way more interesting. And it starts with this link right here: Alice Isn’t Dead, written by Joseph Fink.

You’re probably familiar with Welcome to Night Vale, so you’ll recognize the Night Vale Presents line in this incredible and fascinating podcast. The key difference, however, is this one presents more of a focused story, all delivered from a single point of view—Keisha; a truck driver (narrated by the matchless Jasika Nicole) searching for her dead wife. Named, naturally, Alice. (One other POV appears later in season, which I will not spoil here, but it is eerie af.) This is a creeping, haunting, sometimes lonely story about a heartbroken woman struggling with a mental illness—namely, a panic/anxiety disorder, and the paranoia and fear that comes with. After the death of her wife, an experience she was not there to witness, our fearful protagonist hires on with a long-haul trucking service to find answers.

Her story is narrated through snatches of narrative delivered on CB radio.

So what makes this podcast the keystone for “don’t show, don’t tell?”

It’s the outside stuff we never see. What’s going on outside her narration, what the people outside of our view are doing and why they are doing it. The ripples “shown” in Fink’s writing remain so subtle that you may not hear them, understand them, until your second or third listen. They are small ripples, hardly noticeable in black water, bringing with them an expertly woven sense of dread. But why? From where?

We don’t know.

Alice Isn't Dead (logo)Alice Isn’t Dead is an incredible example of an unreliable narrator, a woman pushing through the boundaries a panic disorder set for her. She dedicatedly (sometimes desperately) tells her story to Alice—who isn’t dead, Keisha insists— along the way.

But she doesn’t notice the ripples, just like us. They are not shown in ways that we have come to expect from our writings. Alice Isn’t Dead only shows Keisha; only reveals her thoughts and nature and beliefs via her words and actions, which are heavily predicated on ignorance of this giant mystery she’s involved in.

And when the black waters part, the shark gliding beneath the ripples no one can see explodes outward, full-breach.

Don’t show, don’t tell is the kind of seed that will probably take a lot of effort to craft; a little thread of an idea hinged on a podcast you heard once. Maybe you’ve read stories on this concept, too. After all, it’s not too different from first-person narration on the regular, right? But there’s something special about the way stories take shape when you scale the show and tell back just a little. Just enough. A singed and torn map with the best bits lurking under black water, caught in the jaws of a circling shark.

I want to give this one a spin. Turns out I really like sharks.

Nanoshock (cover)Nanoshock by K. C. Alexander

Being a mercenary isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Especially when Riko’s hard-won reputation has taken a hard dive into fucked. Now she’s fair game for every Tom, Dick and Blow looking to score some cred.

In this city, credibility means everything – there’s no room for excuses. She still doesn’t know what she did to screw up so badly, and chasing every gone-cold lead is only making it worse.

Without help and losing ground fast, Riko has a choice: break every rule of the street in her search for answers . . .or die trying.

Nanoshock is out now! If you’d like to learn more about this and the other book in the SINless series, Necrotech, you can check out K. C.’s website or follow her on Twitter @kacealexander.

Title image by Didier Nguyen.

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