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Published:October 24th, 2008 08:18 EST
Media Is The Masses: Show, Don't Tell

Media Is The Masses: Show, Don't Tell

By Sean Stubblefield

Like a silent movie, background details of an environment can speak to us without saying a word. Information is demonstrated or presented, rather than told in speech. This is where the phrase "a picture is worth a thousand words" comes from. The objects that fill a space, their feng shui, interaction and relationships with each other describes a place and the people inhabiting it.

A scene is constructed and composed of scenery.

Clothing style, room décor, furnishings, and architecture all express traits and attributes of people-- individually and collectively. Aesthetic preferences, financial status, ideological dispositions, habits and any number of descriptors are shown in the set dressing details.

Not just the presence or lack of these details, but their utility, treatment and quality, as well.

What goes on in the back ground is just as important as what happens in the foreground.

Sometimes what is unspoken matters and says more than what is said, or augments and explains the saying.

It has been said, and I agree, that you can tell a lot about a person by the books on her shelf (or perhaps DVDs, these days).

They reveal the topics or kinds of subjects that interest her and the literature he likes; the amount, diversity, condition, arrangement and location of these books informs us of the reader.

The mere presence of books indicates something, just as absence of books also talks about a person behind his back.

This composition of background details establishes subtext known among fiction writers as world building.

The degree or sense of realism and the nature of that fictional reality depend on the details that comprise the synthetic reality. Which is why set decorators and wardrobe crew and lighting technicians on a TV or movie set are such a vital part of the production. These sub-textual data accentuate, elaborate and distinguish the main foreground elements.

The atmosphere and ambience of an area is created through the nuance of what is inside it.

Something as seemingly minor and insignificant as having a character wear a cross illustrates an aspect of that character, simply by being there-- it doesn`t have to be ostentatious, obvious or pointed out to us.