Book: House of Dark Shadows
Author: Robert Liparulo
Lesson: Show, don’t tell
Okay, so it’s an old one, but man this book made me realize how important it was. The story is about a family who moves into clearly haunted house and discover that it’s not haunted, but there are several doors in a locked attic that lead to other worlds and times. So it’s a magically teleporting house, since there’s another door that just teleports them to school.
The thing that irked me about the book, though, was the main character. We are told that he is a teenager. We are told he makes movies. We are told that he left his girlfriend behind and didn’t want to move. None of his actions reflect any of this at all.
I kept thinking, how hard would it be to have him call his girlfriend back home? He’s a kid in modern times. Cell phone. Just call her. You can do loads of exposition there and cut that part out of his life entirely after that, since he never mentions back home again, nor does he even think to call anyone back there at any other time in the story. It all felt like exposition that was there because the author felt like it’s what teenagers should do, but none of it was acted out so I didn’t believe any of it. Like when that friend’s aunt tells you her daughter you’ve never met has a lovely singing voice. Nod, smile, hope something interesting starts soon.
It is also not hard to have him with a camera in his hands from the beginning. Or if he’s just got it on him more often than randomly in the latter half of the book. The only reason I even remembered he wanted to make movies at all is because that point bothered me so much at the beginning. He could be working on a script between the weirdness of the house, even, or trying to talk his brother and sister into being cast and crew.
Long story short, if I don’t see it, I don’t believe you. Show, don’t tell.