1. Charlemagne Swift
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    Charlemagne Swift Member

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    How to improve upon Length

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Charlemagne Swift, May 16, 2016.

    Hello,

    When I write my stories, I spend ages on trying to have everything make perfect sense, but whenever I do, by the time I finish writing the entire scene from start to finish, it is barely a single a4 page. Does any one have an idea on how I could improve?
     
  2. Earp
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    Earp Active Member

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    I'm not sure why you think your scene should be longer?
     
  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    If you feel your scenes are overly brief (on the whole, which seems to be what you are saying) I would look to the content of the scene. Do your scenes consist only of what is happening? Are you giving any "head room" to your characters? Are we learning about their inner selves or are we only getting on-the-spot actions, reaction, and emotions?
     
  4. Aaron Smith
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    Aaron Smith Contributing Member Contributor

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    **!!With this simple fix you can increase your length!!**

    CLICK HERE FOR SUPER QUICK SOLUTION: bit.ly/increaseyolength

    ---

    I think richness is a lot more important than word count. Take Anthony Doerr, for example. In his Pulitzer winning work All the Light We Cannot See he utilized short chapters to great effect. Some of his scenes were barely two hundred words.

    Are you asking the right question? Do you think your chapters need to be longer or are you influenced by pre-conceived notions of the writing community?



    --.
     
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  5. Ex Leper
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    Ex Leper Member

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    I struggled with scene length for ages, because I thought that I had an idea of what made up a scene. But, like Aaron Smith says, they were pre-conceived notions of the writing community. Once I realised this my writing took off and is now more confident and very much my own style.
     
  6. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Could depend on the show to tell ratio. If I'm doing a scene in exposition I can zip through it pretty fast. Also if there's not a lot of dialogue it can be pretty short. All depends on your goals for the scene. As long as your meeting them and the details are sound length doesn't matter.
     
  7. Charlemagne Swift
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    Charlemagne Swift Member

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    I agree with what you are saying, but how can I show (from a first person view) what they see, what they feel and why they are having that reaction? Most people don't live their lives thinking about their individual aspects.
     
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  8. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    I was going to suggest reading more...but I see from your other posts that you've been a voracious reader...I'd still suggest reading more; but this time try to analyse how the author has done things. Like how to drag the scene out beyond a single A4 sheet.

    Alternatively, complete the requirements that entitle you to post work, and then post one of your A4 sheets and ask us to re-write it, but longer.

    Incidentally, one of the requirements is to complete 2 critiques; the chief benefit of this is that you're compelled (if it's a genuine critique, and not just "I like/hate this") to read the piece critically, which means looking at anything and everything...plot, style, SPAG, pacing...so it actually benefits you - the critique - more than the author.
     
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  9. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Increase the font size and use double space. It'll be two A4 pages in no time!
     
  10. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Actually I don't agree. I think most people live their lives CONSTANTLY thinking about their individual aspects.

    No, they don't think "I am walking to the store. I am buying milk at the store. I am walking home from the store." That's just telling what happened and while it's efficient, it's also boring and unengaging. If you read a story filled with that kind of thing, you're going to quit pretty soon.

    Going to the store is probably a boring topic, but so is a swordfight if it's written the same way. "I swung at him and missed. He swung at me and hit my shield. I stepped back and took another swipe. This time I drew blood. He swung at me and hit my arm." This is even more boring if it comes at the start of a piece, and we neither know nor care anything about the two swipers at work here.

    What makes a story work is what the characters are thinking or feeling as they walk to the store, or swipe at each other with swords.

    If you're walking to the store (as I just was, so it's fresh in my mind), you leave the house, remember to tell your absentminded but diligent husband not to lock the door behind you, because you aren't taking your key. It's just a quick run. You look up at the gathering clouds and wonder if it's going to rain before you get home, and wonder if you should go back for an umbrella. No, what the hell. I don't melt in the rain. You pass old Mr Johnson who is wearing his usual deerstalker cap, working his garden next door, and you think— oh shit, no. You increase your pace to power-walking speed. You wave to him, of course, but you sure as hell don't want to get sucked into in a long yapping session about aphids on roses just now. You're in the middle of editing a chapter, and you can't wait to get back home with the damn milk. You don't want to lose your writing momentum.

    One of your main characters has just come across as standoffish to your latest beta reader. It was upsetting to hear about this flaw, but you're determined to fix it. The character is shy, not standoffish. In fact, he's a kind man, but that's not how he appears at the moment. You don't want to mess up the plot, but—aha! maybe if he tells his hostess how skilled he thinks she is, because of the fine dinner she's just served him, it'll make him look more empathetic than he—woops! I've got a main road to cross here, and it's BUSY. Better forget about my character and plot for a minute, unless I want to end up a splot...

    ............

    ...and etc. Now obviously you're not going to write all that boring stuff in a story, but this is the sort of thing you should get in tune with. What is going on in your character's head at any given time? You can write it all out in a rambling fashion, because nobody is going to see your unfinished, unedited first draft (right?) and then go back later on and prune off the bits that you don't really need. But if you get in the habit of thinking this way as you write, you'll find it much easier to communicate a character's personality. Personality is what grabs a reader's attention. Not: I went to the store. The street was busy and I had to wait to cross it. I bought milk and came home again.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2016
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  11. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Are you simply describing events or showing character attitudes toward those events?
     
  12. Charlemagne Swift
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    Charlemagne Swift Member

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    When I write scenes, its only what the character sees, I struggle to display other's emotions.
    Thank you for writing this, this gives me a new idea on how to write my story. When I have completed all the requirements, I shall post an excerpt for you to critique.
     
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  13. Aaron Smith
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    Aaron Smith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Again, I think you are asking the wrong question.

    If your intention is to write a multi-faceted symphony of characters, first person is the not the right narrative, unless you alternate between chapters. With first person, you can only be so objective before you entirely drag the reader out of the character's head. Otherwise you are limited the narrator's perspective. The narrator may be able to see the sadness on someone's face, but he can only imagine what they feel based on that bias.
    Whereas a third-person omniscient can provide two unrestricted viewpoints.
     
  14. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, technically, if you're writing in first person (I seem to remember you saying that's the case) your 1st person character can't accurately describe the emotions of others. Instead, they'd describe what they saw and interpret what they thought the other character was feeling: He shuffled along, his face drooping like he'd lost his last friend... She stormed across the room and flung fired her pie at my face...

    Another thing you can put in is attitude: I didn't think much of the way she smiled at him. In fact, I'd have punched her lights out if he hadn't been there.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2016
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  15. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    I suffer from the same problem.

    I've found, to some degree, that writing very short scenes the first time around is okay. Let me rephrase that to emphasize that while I find them okay, I do not feel them okay. I feel terribly anxious about them. At my best (I'm not always at my best, but when I am), one of my strengths is describing a scene very succinctly (establishing a mood as well as setting the stage for the action). One of my weaknesses is creating plot. So, I can write short scenes and think I messed up (and failed to establish what needs to be done plot-wise), when it is just that I wrote a scene well.

    Remember that, while you can include only what the character sees, what they see will be influenced by how they feel. The difference between "dashing away" and "fleeing" (in both cases to describe how someone runs away from something) or "laughed" vs. "chuckled" is all about how actions are perceived rather than about the facts of the event.

    Don't forget subtext. Most new authors write the discussion as it is spoken. Most good authors write the discussion as it is not spoken. To clarify, a married couple may have a discussion about leaving clothes on the bed in the morning (as they take clothes from the closet to get dressed for work and decide not to wear various things, but leave the clothes on the bed instead of returning them to the closet), when what they are _really_ talking about is how each of the two spouses feels unappreciated by the other spouse. So, you have to let the reader know what is really going on in the dialogue, including feelings, without telling.

    Your first person narrator is probably unreliable. Other people may have to tell him stuff. For example, your first person and his spouse have been terribly busy of late. But, they finally get a chance to go to the grocery store. They run into a colleague there. During the small talk, the spouse offers both of you to babysit the colleague's kids the following Saturday. Your first person thinks that they don't have time for that, but your first person says nothing (though he thinks that his spouse is inconsiderate of all the work your first person has been doing). After the colleague leaves, your spouse mentions to the first person how stressed the colleague looks, the colleague may have looked like they'd been recently crying (but the first person didn't notice it). Your spouse mentions that they heard through other channels that the colleague's spouse was recently diagnosed with cancer.
     

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