In today’s review of E.C. Atkinson’s The Scarlet Cloth (as published by Dorrance Publishing), I’m reminded why so many writers and critics have always cited the phrase, “Show Don‘t Tell.”
It’s because it works.
If you want to just explain something, giving out information is fine. But when you want your audience to connect with characters, to feel a sense of drama, to be pulled into your tale, that same approach just won’t work.
The premise is straightforward. The first characters create the titular scarlet cloth, imbued with magical powers and giving them access to something called “dragon magic.” Then they pass on this artifact down the next two generations, who have their own struggles involving the cloth and the relations between men and dragons.
All well and good, except for the fact that there appears to be no real conflict whatsoever. The narration and dialogue just rolls right over. Nothing’s all that tense, so the story itself moves quickly, but not in the way one might hope. It makes the reader stop and demand that there be more time given to fleshing out a scene than just dropping it into a quick blurb of “Well, this happened and then this followed, but never mind, moving on…“
I do give the author credit for trying to make this into a legacy story, as we follow the cloth as an heirloom between three generations of the same family. Having said that, these characters aren’t all that fleshed out. They simply go from Point A to Point B, facing peril that is all too easily resolved.
Bibliography: Atkinson, E.C. The Scarlet Cloth. Pittsburgh: Dorrance Publishing, 2008.