‘Show don’t tell’ and endings
The contrast between endings in Paula Morris’s short story Rangatira: Little Barrier Island 1895 (2003) which was the inspiration for her novel Rangatira (2011) illustrates the ethical value in the writing principle ‘show don’t tell.’ In the short story Paratene Te Manu is summoned to leave Hauturu (Little Barrier Island) by the Crown, but the end of the story ‘shows’ – or suggests - that Paratene will fight for his island. The ending of the story relies on readers knowing the history of Hauturu and its appropriation by the Crown to understand the dramatic irony of the final scene. Whereas Morris’s novel Rangatira (2011) is explicit in ‘telling’ the narrative of land appropriation and the despair Paratene feels. My paper will discuss the ethical and aesthetic value in the concept ‘show don’t tell’ as illustrated by the two endings to Paratene Te Manu’s story.
Rebecca Styles is finishing her PhD in Creative Writing at Massey University. Her creative project is writing a novel based on a family history of mental illness. She has had a few short stories published in local journals, and teaches short story writing at Wellington High School Community Education classes.