What I Learned from Old Cartoons

I have always loved cartoons. I would get up early on a Saturday morning just for the chance to lie down in front of the TV, snuggled under an afghan tucked up to my chin, and watch cartoons until noon. It was a major indulgence, fueled by Frosted Flakes and ironclad willpower. One would think that all that television would have friend my brain cells and squashed my imagination and creativity with a giant Mattel stamp, but not so: the idea of puppets, drawing, entertainment and technology were a lot of what fueled my imagination and those of my contemporaries being raised on Muppet values and Warner Brothers' commercialism. But there is one thing that I learned from cartoons that I still use as a writer: Show, Don't Tell.

This truism is hailed over and over by writers everywhere, a mantra against over-explaining or falling into the pit of cliché where "rolling the eyes" happens when you're exasperated or "biting the lip" when you're nervous. (P.S. Don't ever do these.) Don't tell us that the uncle is mean, the party is rocking, the headache hurts or the kitchen's a mess, show us. Specific examples, creative comparisons, and using all five senses to make the image come alive without depending on the obvious takes us into the scene, into the moment, and into your character's POV.

All I need to do is remember the Big Bad Wolf's gigantic eyes upon seeing a rather shapely Red Riding Hood to keep me in check. Certainly, these things were shown, but never told. (And probably why they took those old cartoons off the air!) ;-)

A somewhat updated version of the original. *wink*

If that's not enough the full, uncut, completely non-P.C. Little Red Hot Riding Hood toon is here. And here's a similar one starring Cinderella as Rosie the Rooter moonlighting as a swing singer. Don't tell me you can't tell what the wolf is thinking (or what his date feels about it) despite neither of them saying a word!

I include these purely for your edification as writers. Honest.


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