1. mattattack007
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    mattattack007 Member

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    Every single thing...

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by mattattack007, Sep 21, 2009.

    Questions: Do I or should I say ever little thing that my main character is doing that should be common sense? Stuff like:" leave the bathroom" verse "I turned off the light and left the bathroom"
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I only include things that I think are important. If turning off the light is important (for example, it has some kind of consequence), then leave it in. Otherwise, it's just extra stuff that probably doesn't need to be said.
     
  3. B-Gas
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    B-Gas Contributing Member

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    Summarise if you want to skip parts of the timeline. "Soon, their discussion became heated" allows you to cut probably a hundred lines of dialogue. "After she finished work, she locked up and headed home" gets rid of thirty pages of tedious work-related drudgery.
     
  4. Joran Selemis
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    Joran Selemis Member

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    One comment I've received time and time again about my work is that I describe the action too much. The advice people give me is that I don't need to choreograph every little thing that the characters are doing, but rather think about the strict minimum the audience needs to know in order to follow their movements.
     
  5. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Its all about what's important. If the character is just leaving a room and habitually turns off the light leave it out, but if the character lingers for a second at the light switch, not wanting to submerge the room in darkness just yet, then say that. Some scenes will call for you to speed through without mentioning more than the bare essentials, others will ask you to linger on their details.

    (Man I'm melodramatic today :))
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Omit the mundane.
     
  7. Operaghost
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    Operaghost Contributing Member

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    Use only things that are improtnat for the narrative, unless the mundane is important, perhaps you wish to draw attention to it fo rsome reason, a perfect example of thi sis in american psycho which has pages of seemignly mundane things broken up by the insane ramblings of patrick bateman
     
  8. Dcoin
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    Dcoin Contributing Member

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    I like leaving little actions that help the reader understand who the character really is.

    For example, dedicating some real-estate to a character washing his hands twice before leaving the bathroom would give the reader the impression of strong neurosis.
     
  9. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    You can skip the needless details with simple transitional phrases like, "Later that afternoon..."

    Charlie
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    For that matter, if your character gets a phone call in the middle of the night, and he gets in his car as soon as it's light, your reader can generally assume he showered, brushed his teeth, emptied his bladder, got dressed, etc. first. If it's unusual, you can mention he skipped breakfast. If he didn't shave or comb his hair, the first person he meets can notice his dishevelled appearance.
     
  11. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Correct. Do not marionette your characters across the stage.

    When a character leaves the bedroom upstairs in the back of the house because they have just heard a car pull into the driveway, you do not need to give a diagram of the house or walk your character every step of the way to the front window of the living room to see who has just pulled in.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I blame the text adventure computer games, and their descendants. :)

    Take comb.
    Take bag.
    Take rope and knife.
    Put comb, rope, and knife in bag.
    Exit room.
    The door is not open.
    Open door. Exit room. Close door.
    ...
     
  13. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Telling us she turned off the light could help us get to know what kind of person she's like. In this case probably not. If you said she left thte light on as always, I'd have to wonder why she leaves the light on. But most people turn lights off.
     
  14. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    Only if there's a purpose.

    The purpose may even be a metaphor, the light having deeper meaning in the text.

    "She turned off the light, never again to return, closing a chapter in her life."

    charlie
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    absolutely not!... doing that is what i call 'breathe in, breathe out' writing... or 'micro-managing'... and it's the best way to bore your readers to death, if they haven't merely tossed your story/book before getting to the second page...
     
  16. B-Gas
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    If you tell people that your main character is riding a glorph, they don't know what you mean. You have to tell them about the glorph's strange, leathery purple hide, its sets of three eyes that stick out at even intervals along its dome-shaped main body, and its six tree-trunk legs. You should probably mention that they move surprisingly quickly and, to properly ride one, your main character has had months of bareback glorph training- anyone else needs a specially-made chair-shaped saddle. It's probably okay to point out that glorphs eat like plants, through strange root-like growths in their feet that need to be removed before the glorph can be ridden that day. Only after this much description do people really start to picture the glorph in their minds, and you can probably pile more description on without ruining the mood.

    However, if you say that the main character's riding a horse, all you really need to tell the reader is what colour it is before they have a fairly good idea of what it looks like, and all you need to point out is the extraordinarily full saddlebags and the wild look in the mare's eyes and you've got a solid image to go for. You don't need to tell the reader that it has a thin coat of shining brown hair or that it has a thin mane along the ridge of its neck. We know that it has four legs with hooves on the end. And we understand that the main character will be sitting in a saddle with his feet in stirrups on the side, and will make the horse go by kicking its sides.

    In other words, people will fill in the ordinary on their own. It's the unusual that you need to point out.
     

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