1. BFGuru
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    BFGuru Active Member

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    Fleshing out a scene

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by BFGuru, Nov 28, 2013.

    I've been reviewing some of my writings lately. I loved them initially, but in looking over a fan fic I wrote a few months ago as well as the first chapter of the novel I'm working on, I feel like they are rushed. They aren't choppy like my first attempts, but they just feel like they need more fleshing out. More descriptors, more ... I don't know... inward workings of the mind of my characters.

    I feel like I know what it needs, but not how to accomplish it. My idols (Follet, Gabaldon, Clemmens) that I aspire to write like their vocabulary is extensive. And although I do use most of the verbiage they do in spoken dialogue, when writing, I simply can't think with such words.

    Is this making sense? I feel like a paragraph to a sex scene is simply not long enough. Half a page to describe an entire day in the woods, not descriptive enough.

    Another issue I run into is figuring out how and where to describe my main characters. Currently my narrator is a young boy. Would he really go into a long description of his mother? Or would she just be mom to him?

    I guess, all that to say...I want a longer story I think.
     
  2. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Well, as somebody who writes L O N G stories (and then has to cut them back!) I might be able to help!

    I think the trick is simple, really. Don't stand outside of your characters describing what you see going on. Get inside their heads completely. Describe not only what they're seeing and doing but WHY.

    What is your point-of-view character thinking about during sex? Are they eager for it, fearful - of sex itself, or maybe of doing it wrong? How does it make them feel? About their body? About their partner? Is there some aspect of their partner that particularly attracts or repels them? And why? What do they think their partner is thinking/feeling during the scene? What makes the POV character draw the conclusions they draw about their partner's feelings? (Body language as well as verbal language is a GREAT way to show this.) How does their partner behave towards them? With gentleness? Knowledge? Inexperience? Control or lack of control? With a lack of concern for your POV character's feelings? Maybe not all that engaged in the emotional aspects of the act? At the end, does your POV character feel uplifted, peaceful and loved? Or maybe frustrated and disappointed? More importantly than 'what' is 'why.' What makes them feel the way they do?

    What is on their minds as they walk through the woods? Birds tweeting, blue sky, green leaves, pretty flowers? Or are they hoping to meet somebody there? Are they searching for something in particular? Are they hunting for mushrooms? A dead body? Does anything they see there trigger a pertinent memory? When they reach a certain point in their walk, have they come to a decision about a dilemma? Does the woods itself play any part in the story other than a place for the character to walk? Make sure that information gets in there somewhere as well. But make sure it happens THROUGH THE EYES OF YOUR POV CHARACTER. That's the difference between showing and telling.

    Don't be afraid to slow things down in your story. By slow down, I mean allow the scenes to develop naturally. This will NOT be boring at all if we go along with the POV character, think and feel the way he or she does. Share hopes, fears, plans, setbacks, etc. Start each scene with an inciting incident (what gets these two characters into bed together, why is the character walking in the woods) and finish the scene with some sort of a mini-conclusion. Let the scene evolve, and don't force the pace. Then move on to the next scene.

    Don't forget, you can always cut back later, if you've included too much. Take it from one who knows! o_O
     
  3. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Half a day page for a day in the woods makes me think that you may be writing primarily in narrative summary rather than writing scenes.

    That is:

    Narrative summary:

    Chuck and Janet had a wonderful day in the woods. The day was green and cool, the best weather of spring. Chuck taught Janet to find the "Marvin mushrooms" as Janet called them, naming them after the cartoon Martian. Chuck scolded Janet for using her camera phone, rather than studying the mushrooms directly.

    Narrative:

    Chuck stooped to push some leaves aside, exposing a cluster of mushrooms. "See? These, the ones with the fluffy brushlike bits on top."

    Janet peered at the mushrooms, then pointed her phone at them. "They look like Marvin the Martian."

    "You're taking a picture? Seriously? Does no one under the age of thirty have a memory any more? And who's this Marvin person--some Twitter personality?"

    Janet straightened, now peering at the photo on her phone rather than the mushroom. "He's a cartoon character, from the caveman days--just about when you bought your first car, I'd say."

    Chuck reached to snatch the phone. "Funny. Very funny. Give me that thing."
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2013
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  4. ddavidv
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    ddavidv Contributing Member

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    My first novel completed, I realize I have this exact problem. I've got splotches of good narrative, but too often I succumb to just narrative summary. The two prior posts are very helpful!
     
  5. BFGuru
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    BFGuru Active Member

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    I "thought" I was doing that jannert, but I thought wrong ha! I think part of the problem is that I'm trying to stick to the POV of only two of the characters. However, at this stage in my story they are ages 6-8. I've kind of started at the end of one of their lives as a sort of prologue that will be repeated later, much much later. The end of the scene is very deliberate and it worked beautifully, but the very next scene they are 6 and although adult things are taking place, I'm trying to describe the world from a child's point of view. Someone suggested to still have it as an adult describing a flash back but that seems more like first person and well, I don't normally like first person.

    I'm contemplating posting an excerpt from it for help but I was hoping to eventually publish this one (I've never thought about publishing my writing before). Or maybe posting an excerpt from one of my fan fictions, but that is already up on a fan fiction site, and I'm not sure that follows the rules here. However, both has the same problem, and if the fan fiction gets help, the novel will get help. Does that make sense?
     
  6. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    @BFGuru - It would make sense to post some of your relevant work, along with your specific concerns about it—and it's place in your story—in the Workshop for critique. Unless you publish a completed story in its more-or-less finished form, this should not interfere with your publishing rights. An excerpt is okay, no matter what state of 'finish' you're in.

    It's a lot easier to give helpful critiques to an actual piece of work, rather than just respond to general requests for advice. That's probably why I just told you to try something you're already doing! :)
     
  7. BFGuru
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    BFGuru Active Member

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    Both "have" the same problems. I hate it when I catch my own grammar errors. LOL

    How long is appropriate for a critique? I've only ever posted poetry here. My chapters tend to be around 5 typed, single spaced pages long so I don't want to post an entire chapter. I think it would bee too long.
     

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