show me, don’t tell me

The title of this post refers back to this one, which tackled the same question from a somewhat different direction.

However, first I wanted to mention that I've recently realized that it's possible the character of Daphne the dog was influenced by Susie the Bear in The Hotel New Hampshire. Probably not in her creation, but quite possibly in her development.

However (and it's been a long time since I've read the novel or seen the film, so I could be wrong), I seem to remember that the point there was to get Susie out of her bear suit and back to being human, which is not the point with Daphne. If I'd written that book, Susie would have stayed ursine (and she would have stayed gay, too, since apparently part of her "healing" process was becoming straight), and John and Franny would have ended up together. And poor Frank would have got to have a boyfriend at some point, instead of just being "gay" but apparently celibate throughout the many years covered by the novel.

(I also have a mental image of Daphne regarding Susie in her bear outfit and paraphrasing Laurence Olivier: "My dear girl, why don't you try acting?")

This is not a major criticism of the novel or of the movie, both of which I enjoyed. And it does lead me to another, somewhat related, topic.

In an email with a reader, I talked about how much more there always is to tell about fictional characters:

Even with three novels, there's a lot we don't know about Jan Sleet, for example. We have a general picture of where and how she grew up, and in the story being told now her academic history will be discussed, but there's a lot we don't know. Even more true of starling, for another example, who has mentioned details of her history only a few times.

He responded:

I like that, though, because that means there is always more to learn – and more for you (the author) to write about as the character remains interesting. [...] (But please don't pull a Rowling and make a statement about the character outside of the books themselves. If it were worth remarking on, it should have been incorporated into the work itself.)

I agree about how that was handled, though I have no problem with Dumbledore being gay. I understand that, in all those thousands of pages, there aren't any gay characters, which is peculiar.

If, for some reason, Rowling decided after the fact that she had to specify Dumbledore's sexual preference, she could have done what many other authors have done after they've created a fictional universe. She could have written a short story (especially since the backstory of Dumbledore and Grindelwald sounds like it could be quite exciting). That's what John Galsworthy did in between the novels in The Forsyte Saga. That's what Tolkien did with various stories about Middle-Earth. That's what Roger Zelazny did when he wrote short stories about Amber. And, of course, that's what I'm doing now with the murder mysteries.

On another topic, from this month's Q&A at the Chicago Manual of Style website:

Q. In my essay, I have referred to a couple of articles passed to me by an interviewee. They are photocopied, and the article titles and dates are either blurred or missing. How should I footnote and biblio the photocopied materials?

A. These are not proper sources and you must not quote them. I’m sorry – it would be very sloppy scholarship. You might as well write, "I overheard this on the subway." You might take the photocopies to a library and ask the reference librarian if she can help you find some clues as to their origin. Or try typing a distinctive phrase from the pages into a search engine and see if the article appears online.

I must say, I thought that was fairly obvious.

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