1. Toph Bei Fong
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    Toph Bei Fong New Member

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    How to write coinciding events?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Toph Bei Fong, Feb 12, 2012.

    This is a problem I've faced several times and I've never really found a good answer for it. I think it's a fairly common thing to happen; the action is rising to a climax, lots of things are going on, and then suddenly multiple things happen in the same instant.

    The problem is whenever I try to write a scene like this it's inevitably clunky and awkward. I try things like "and just then several things happened" or "in the blink of an eye, everyone made their move". But when I try this approach I just end up listing the actions and the tension I've built up is kind of lost. I'd like a way to sum up all the actions quickly so the climax comes to more of a point, or a way to focus in on one action and then go back and describe what else happened at that moment.

    Any help is appreciated!
     
  2. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Can you give just a little more detail? My first thought is to wonder whether you really need all of those events, or whether you can lose some of them. For example, if Jane and Jim and Joe are all going into a fight, it's tempting to describe what they're all doing, blow by blow and move by move. But is there a specific reason why we can't just follow Joe, and have _him_ notice, as he looks around, that Jim is gone and Jane is unconscious on the ground? Maybe we don't need to know exactly how that happened, right now.

    Or maybe this example doesn't apply at all. That's why I'd like more detail. :)
     
  3. CheddarCheese
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    CheddarCheese Contributing Member

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    Hi Toph,

    I know what you mean, and it is true that making many things happen at once is never an easy thing. I can't really give extensive help without actually knowing what's happening, but I can try to lend you some points of advice.

    Most stories are in the perspective of one character. Even if there happens to be a switching of perspectives, the perspective still tends to focus on one character at a time. If multiple things happen, how much of it would that character really see? How much of those events could the character process in his/her mind? You might find yourself cutting down the amount of events happening if you narrow it down to the perspective of one character. Of course, this won't work in situations where the reader absolutely has to know everything.

    In that case, try your best to write out each event in a unique way. This way, even if you're just listing the events, they will continue to keep the readers attention and keep the momentum.

    If all else fails, cut down. This kind of situation is a good indicator that you simply have too much going on at one time. Confusing or boring the reader is no way to go, so try and manage your events such that unnecessary actions are stripped away.

    I hope this helps, and good luck!

    (I like the 'Avatar' reference, by the ways :p)

    Cheers.
     
  4. 1000screams
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    1000screams Member

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    I try to only provide the amount of detail to the reader that the character can take in. So during the course of a climatic event, if I were standing in the character's shoes, what would I see? I might hear other things going on, but I might not be able to whip my head around to take in all that is happening. If I'm focused on something, like fighting someone, I might not even perceive the other events going on.

    Now if you're doing something third person pov I view that more as a director with various camera angles. At the climax of a movie you might get wider angle shots to take in all the chaos around, or you might get a tighter shot of the lead character taking names, or more than likely you'll get a combo of the two. So as a writer, you take the scene that is playing in you head and decide what camera angle you're using and plot the scene based on what images you want to play in the readers head.

    For me, I'll write the scene fully as I see it, then I edit for dramatic effect. Some details just aren't needed for a fully formed picture to be painted in the readers mind.
     
  5. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think the key here is using limited 3rd person viewpoint, choosing one viewpoint character for the entire scene. The whole thing gets told through the eyes of one person, so you prioritise what you will "notice" and describe, just like a person chooses to look in a certain direction, go help one friend at a time etc. You won't be able to be in everyone's head at the same time, but that's a good thing.
     
  6. Toph Bei Fong
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    Toph Bei Fong New Member

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    Thanks everyone for the advice. It helped me find parts of my writing that could really be improved.

    I usually write in limited third person, switching POV's only when a scene changes. But looking back I found that for situations like this I had switched through multiple POV's in quick succession. It made everything seem tangled and sloppy. I went back and changed it so that I only focus on two events at most and only from one character's POV.

    @Cheddar- ikr? Avatar is the best!
     

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