1. SilentDreamer
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    SilentDreamer Member

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    How to refer to two females in the same scene

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by SilentDreamer, Dec 8, 2015.

    So, my current WIP has a female MC, and her female partner.

    I'mm struggling with the way a few parts of chapters where you'd normally refer to one of them as "she" when showing who was talking etc, and err....scenes where a male partner would be a whole lot easier to write if only because I could use "he" "his" "him" where I'm like "her??? Which her??!"

    Which leads me to ask - how do you deal with same gendered characters interacting without using their names all the time? Or is that what i'll have to resort to!?
     
  2. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    You'd tweak the scene to minimize the need for identifiers, and when you need identifiers, you use names. It helps that in normally formatted dialogue, the actions in a paragraph belong to the character speaking in that paragraph.

    If you have a sample, we might be able to help you reduce the number of times that you use names.
     
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  3. DefinitelyMaybe
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    Have you established distinctive speech characteristics/patterns for the characters?
     
  4. SilentDreamer
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    Thanks - I will have a look at what I've got, and what I'm currently happy to share! I'll have a look at what I can tweak myself too!
     
  5. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    What @ChickenFreak said.

    Plus, if they are physically different (e.g., one has long blonde hair vs short brunette) have them holding back their hair, fiddling with their glasses, etc. in the attribution.

    And make sure that they're different people, with a different way of speaking - one uses shorter sentences, etc. - so that WHAT is said is as much an identifier as possible. (Damn! @DefinitelyMaybe got that in first!)

    You can get away without attributing every speech. As long as you identify every fourth speech (rule of thumb) you can leave the natural rhythm of "Jane said, Amanda said" to keep the reader straight.
     
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  6. SilentDreamer
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    Kind of - the MC can be a bit wordy at times, where as her girlfriend is more short and to the point. MC also swears a reasonable amount!
     
  7. SilentDreamer
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    SilentDreamer Member

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    That makes sense. I'll take a look and work on some of the suggestions here, and see what happens - and show you guys later (in a few days...about to log off and go to bed! (it's been a very long day)).

    However, I read the bit about fiddling with glasses - one of the characters popped into my head wearing glasses, looking very good! So, that will have to go in there! Thanks!
     
  8. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    The best way to do this, in my opinion, is to use as many 'beats' as you can. In other words, let us know what the characters are doing (and thinking, if it's your POV character) as well as what they are saying. You can slip in names more easily this way, without sounding repetitive.

    However, I'd avoid fiddling with glasses, etc, unless that action is truly meaningful. Instead, actually envision the scene closely, and see in your own mind exactly what's going on. Facial expressions, body language, positioning in the room, the energy the characters are giving off to each other. All this stuff can be described from the POV character's viewpoint. It's the kind of sight a movie will give you, but the written story won't, unless you put it there.

    Just make sure that a character's actions and speech are clumped together in the same paragraph. Otherwise it gets TOTALLY screwed up. That's a very common mistake I notice in Workshop offerings. One character performs an action in the same paragraph as the other character is speaking. This, unless very carefully handled, can make a dog's breakfast out of the scene. Readers are used to associating action and speaker in the same paragraph. This is how they are likely to read what you've written, and even one 'mistake' can lead to confusion, and the sense that somebody else is speaking a line.

    It's a tricky thing to accomplish, but practice makes perfect. Practice AND feedback. If your readers say they get confused as to who is saying what, you need to work out a way to improve the scene.

    This is where rules can go out the window. Forget 'he said, she said' as being the only options available. There are lots of others.

    As @ChickenFreak suggested, some samples of a few lines or so might help us to help you.

    Here's just a sample from my own story, to illustrate how I handle this kind of scene. I hope it helps.


    “Jess?”

    Jessie cringed, but it was only Caroline, her body framed in the light from the open door of the barn. The music inside had gone quiet again.

    “Jake tole me you was out here.” Caroline moved swiftly, to plant herself in front of Jessie. “He tole me you ran off like you was on fire. What’s wrong?”

    “Nothing. I’m ...fine.” Jessie realized her voice was too quivery to convince anyone, much less Caroline. “It’s just something...somebody said.”

    “Who said? Jake?” Caroline took Jessie by the shoulders, her voice sharpening with concern. “Jess—you been cryin’—!”

    Jessie turned her face back to the moon. “I’ve been so stupid.”

    “Is Jake botherin’ you?”

    “No,” said Jessie, collecting herself. “Oh, no. Jake’s nice. It’s not him...not at all.”

    Caroline went very quiet for a long moment. “Then it’s Joe ...ain’t it,” she said, at last, and her voice had softened.

    “I love him.” There. It was simple. As simple as that.

    “Hell, Jess. Me an’ Rob, we had that all figgered out at Christmas. ‘Bout time you caught up.”

    “At—Christmas—?” Jessie had been certain nothing would ever shock her again. “That was ...months ago! I...why...why didn’t you say something? Why didn’t you tell me?”

    “An’ spoil tonight?” Caroline’s grin was gently teasing. “Nah. Some things you gotta figure out for yourself, sweetie.”

    “But—I didn’t know—”

    “Wal, everybody else did. Even Ben.”

    “Ben—?” Jessie gasped. “Ben knows?”

    “He collared me on the street, started in Joe-this an’ Joe-that. Seems your letters was full of nothing but Joe-Joe-Joe. Thet finally got ol’ Ben’s brain saddled up an’ ready to ride. He warn’t about to ask me right out, but he coyoted aroun’ the rim for quite a while.” Caroline chortled deeply, and there was wicked satisfaction in the sound of it. “So I got to thinkin’...wal...why not bring ol’ Ben out to the B-Bar-N, so he c’n see for hisself?”

    Jessie felt her jaw going completely slack in disbelief. Even after all these years she could never quite keep up with Caroline Carver. “You—I don’t believe what you’re saying! You brought Ben out with you on purpose that day? Just to stir things up?”

    “Rob tole me it was almost worth listenin’ to my bad fiddlin,’ jist watchin’ you an’ Joe while you was dancin.’ Both of you pretendin’ you wasn’t thinkin’ what you was thinkin.’”

    “You planned that—?”

    Caroline’s grin was wide, and completely unapologetic. “Ben Kidder ain’t no match for me, Jess. No match atall!”

    “Why should he care? He doesn’t love me. He never did.” Jessie realized, only as she said them, that her words were true, but the shock was a muted one now. Like the other truth—that other shock—it was something she’d always known.

    “Mebbe not,” agreed Caroline easily. “You figgered you was in love, ‘cause he wrote you them stories, an’ sent you flowers an’ all that falootery stuff. That stuff ain’t real. Ben ain’t a bad sort. I ain’t sayin’ he is. But he’s all for hisself an’ his big plans, ain’t he? You want to go traipsin’ after a man that ain’t got time to visit you more’n twice a year? You gotta figger out what’s real Jess.”

    “I—I’ve been asleep...all my life,” Jessie stammered.

    “Wal, you jest woke up.”
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2015
  9. SilentDreamer
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    Thanks for all your advice - I've not got the time today to have the look at the story and see what I can do with the advice you've given, but it's given me a lot to think about.
    Jannert - the fiddling bit isn't going in...the character suddenly had glasses....and it worked for the story so she shall have glasses! (and not fiddle with them unless absolutely necessary!)
    Thanks so much guys - will post something in the next day or so (Though, I've just had a quick re-read - I seem to have stepped tot he "name them" side of things........)
     
  10. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    If it's dialogue and just the two of them talking, there shouldn't be much confusion if you just format it according to industry standards. With three women talking it might get trickier, in my experience anyway.

    What I find more challenging is long chunks of narrative. Just wrote a big fight scene where two women were fighting a bunch of, well, monsters that look sort of like mannequins, and every now and then you really had to stop and think how to keep it clear which one of them is doing what -- and suddenly you have a clusterf*ck in your hands.

    Here's an example from the abovementioned draft. Sure, you can see that the execution is shaky and the grammar's still drunk, but these flaws aside, there's already some attempt to make it clear what Brenda is doing and what Ann is doing, so perhaps you can use similar techniques? In addition to using names, you can alternate between the POV character's thoughts and descriptions of action, and use context and formatting to make it obvious which one you're talking about.

    ...Brenda growled and throttled one of the four mannequins to the ground, pinning it down. It gave Ann the chance to perform one of the most magnificent double leg takedowns Brenda had seen over her short-lived college wrestling career. Where did she muster up the strength to lift a six-foot body encased in metal, spring into air, and drive the fucker into the ground?

    Ann disentangled herself from the flailing mannequin and skipped away from the three others stumbling towards her. “Go! We'll both be screwed if you don't!” She sunk the tomahawk in the face of the nearest mannequin...

    I'm not sure if it really works 'cause this isn't something I'm confident with, but at least that gives you an idea of how to possibly go about it.
     
  11. SilentDreamer
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    SilentDreamer Member

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    Right, after all the Xmas busyness, and all that - I've finally found a piece I'm happy enough to share - It feels alright to me with the names, but I wonder if it could work better. Thanks for your help, and sorry it took me so long! (Edit - I can't figure out how to tab in a quote, so sorry it's 'paragraph" blocked to make it easier to read - it makes a short ish conversation look very long!)

     
  12. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Blake Snyder's Save the Cat! talks about this. Look for 'limp and an eye-patch.'
     
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  13. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    That's a clever suggestion. She fiddled with her bandaged arm.
    She shifted in the chair, taking the weight off her aching hip.

    Any number of physical or personality differences, if established ahead of time, can be used to indicate which character is speaking.
     
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  14. SilentDreamer
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    Thanks guys! I'll have to go look for the Save the Cat!
     
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