1. elps
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    elps New Member

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    How to keep from being schmaltzy

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by elps, Jan 6, 2013.

    So, I'm writing a scene that I've played over and over in my head, and I've got high expectations for it. There's a guy and a girl who are good friends, and it's the point in the story where they realize they have feelings for each other. They're not confessing their love to one another or falling into bed together or anything too dramatic, but I want to make sure I don't write the scene too schmaltzy or sentimental while still conveying that they do have strong feelings for each other.

    More specifically, I'm debating whether to include a conversation along the lines of, "I thought you didn't like me like that. You don't date girls like me. I'm not your type." "Says who? You think I'd risk (plot points) for just anyone?" (With a little more finesse, but you get the idea). They have a very sarcastic, teasing relationship, so a serious conversation of any sort is a little unusual.

    Do I include the convo, with him assuring her that he does, in fact, like her? Or does that seem like it's juvenile and forcing the point?

    By actually writing this all out I think I've convinced myself that I don't have to actually have the guy say "I like you, a lot. You're perfect for me." I just want to make sure the scene has the gravity that I want it to.

    Does anyone have any advice on writing romantic/sentimental scenes without going over the top with schmaltzy language? Thanks in advance for any help!
     
  2. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you really just have to try to keep it realistic -- does the dialogue pass the laugh test? Some people have a higher tolerance for schmaltz than others, so you're really going to have to gauge this for yourself. I think you are wise to be on the lookout for this becoming too sickeningly sweet and sentimental, especially if your characters wouldn't typically say these sorts of things. You can show a lot by looks, body language, even some thoughts. See what you can convey through actions rather than words -- that might help keep down the schmaltz.
     
  3. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    When I think a scene could get too mushy or something, I keep the setting in a place where nobody can get too
    mushy. Like a restaurant with waiters coming or someplace where there is enough distractions that when
    the characters is losing his nerve, he can walk over to a midway game at a carnival and say - Let me win you something.
     
  4. cmshepard
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    cmshepard Member

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    I think it's hard to not get too awful mushy in such a situation. As Peach already said, keep it in a place where they are constantly interrupted (and keep in tune with the teasing, maybe a waiter or annoying salesperson like in malls keeps bugging them when they try to talk). Something besides the straightforward even, maybe. Have them skirt it and later e-mail/text to the other one that says exactly what they want. If that makes any sense at all.
     
  5. Jon Deavers
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    Jon Deavers Member

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    If I were writing it I would move out of dialog mode and into action mode. She could state her doubts about the sincerity of his propositioning and instead of a snarky reply, he could wink, smirk and grab her by the hand and they share a silent sunset walk down the boardwalk.

    P.S. thank you for introducing the term "schmaltzy" to me. Love it. :)
     
  6. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I was thinking about this some more, and I think so much is dependent on what has already happened in your story. I think most of the conversation you've outlined above would actually be implied. Maybe, for example, at some point earlier in the story the characters are talking and the boy says something about how he loves blondes, and lists movie stars or famous people he finds attractive who are blonde, and your female character is brunette. Later on, they've locked eyes, and he kisses her. She says something like, "I thought you only liked blondes?" And then he could respond in any number of ways -- come up with your own witty remark. Or maybe he denies it. Or says something like he's refined his taste or reconsidered or something. Or says something like, "well, a blonde didn't just save me from a runaway train" or whatever your plot point is.
     
  7. elps
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    elps New Member

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    Thanks, everyone - you've all pretty much confirmed what I was thinking. Less conversation, in this case, is better. I'm going to try to show his sincerity through body language/action. And actually, them being quiet together - no snark at all - says a lot, too.

    By necessity of the plot, they're alone, in an isolated place, so I can't use the interruptions that a few of you have suggested. I will keep that in mind for future mushy scenes, though.

    And Jon, no problem - it's a fun word :)
     
  8. elps
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    elps New Member

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    Chicagoliz, I think you're right. The two have been friends since college (which is about ten years), and she's seen who he's dated and compares them all to herself - especially the latest ex-girlfriend, who is everything she thinks she is not.

    I think part of what my problem is, and it relates to all of my writing, not just this particular scene, is I don't know how subtle to be. Too subtle, and you're afraid readers are going to miss what you're trying to get across. But you don't want to have to hit them over the head with anything, either.
     
  9. Islandwriter
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    Islandwriter Member

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    Why not use some of your own expierience in developing this. How would you tell a woman you have been friends with for 10 years that you now have stronger feelings for her than just friends. By reading your post these charachters should be close to 30 by now, they are not kids. People close to thirty do not express themselves the same as a 20 yo. Is your male charachet strong, weak, shy, or mabe he is a prankster..depending on his personality, he would tell her about his feelings in diffrent ways.

    About Subtle; when i write dialog, i put myself into the charachter as much as i can. If he/she is shy, i would write a more subtle dialog, if he is s prankster he would be more forward. Let the characters speak for themselves.
     
  10. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have this issue, as well. I have found it better to try to be more subtle, and to outright tell less about what someone is feeling, but to try to show it more through their actions. Of course, I occasionally have gone too subtle, but it seems like it's less problematic to be too subtle, rather than too in-your-face. I think it's kind of like salt -- you can always add just a dash more, and a dash more again, but if you've added too much, you've ruined the dish.
     

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