1. Flipdarkfuture
    Offline

    Flipdarkfuture Member

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2011
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    0

    I keep using the same words when writing about the movement of a character.

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Flipdarkfuture, Mar 22, 2012.

    I'll show you what I mean, here is a paragraph from my fanfic.

    ====================================================================================================================
    He leant out of the doorway, looking left and right before going back into the wrecked corridor. Sarah held onto his hand tightly, keeping a nervous eye on the dark corners of the hallway. Cautiously he stepped out, leaving the room behind with Sarah in tow. He came to the corner and drew his pistol, he turned to Sarah, holding a finger to his mouth. Sarah nodded, all that came out of her mouth was a weak squeak. Slowly, with the flat front of his pistol leading, he rounded the corner, his footfalls making barely a hint of noise, adding to the loneliness of the enclosed space.
    ====================================================================================================================

    I would like to know how I can describe his movements a bit more fluidly. The scene is a tense one since they are in the middle of a warzone, so I want his movements to reflect that of a cautious soldier behind enemy lines.
     
  2. Faust
    Offline

    Faust Contributing Member Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2010
    Messages:
    206
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    Amongst the Populace [Michigan]
    One thing you can do is make sure you are defining who 'he' is. You use 'he' a lot without actually referring to the character, a good question to keep asking yourself when creating action sentences is he...he who? And making sure that you are properly referencing your characters. Otherwise it's easy to get lost in the action and get who is who mixed up.

    Another thing is thinking 'how can I say this differently?' So instead of saying for example,

    He turned the knob and entered through the door.

    You could say he

    Opened the door and stepped through the resulting precipice.

    or

    Turning the knob, he swung the door open and cautiously entered the adjacent room.

    Ideally, you want it to convey enough information to be easily understood what the character is doing, with enough detail to keep it relevant. Watch out for 'wordy' descriptions. You don't want your readers to drown in your details.

    If this was hard to follow, I apolgize, NyQuil makes it hard to communicate effectively sometimes xD
     
  3. killbill
    Offline

    killbill Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2012
    Messages:
    559
    Likes Received:
    24
    Location:
    where the mind is without fear...
    Tense scenes usually work better with short sentences. So, by fluid if you mean long flowing sentences there is a bit of a contradiction there. I think this scene needs only some minor tweaks, for example, you don't need the adjective 'slowly'.
     
  4. Rennie1989
    Offline

    Rennie1989 Member

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2012
    Messages:
    15
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Kent
    If you use Microsoft Word then right click the word are scroll down to 'Synonyms' and it will give you some alternative words with similar meanings. I have a tendancy to use the same word over and over again in the same paragraph or scene, and that feature on Word has helped me a lot!
     
  5. Erato
    Offline

    Erato Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2012
    Messages:
    294
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    A place called home
    ^It doesn't let you do that on a Mac, does it?

    He leant out of the doorway, looking left and right before going back into the wrecked corridor. Sarah held onto his hand tightly, keeping a nervous eye on the dark corners of the hallway. Cautiously he stepped out, leaving the room behind with Sarah in tow. He came to the corner and drew his pistol, he turned to Sarah, holding a finger to his mouth. Sarah nodded, all that came out of her mouth was a weak squeak. Slowly, with the flat front of his pistol leading, he rounded the corner, his footfalls making barely a hint of noise, adding to the loneliness of the enclosed space.

    He leaned out of the doorway, looking quickly around to make sure they were safe. Cautiously he stepped out of the room, leading Sarah, who held tightly to his hand and watched the hallway closely. At the corner he drew his pistol and motioned Sarah to be quiet with a finger at his lips. She nodded, barely able to squeak. Slowly, leading with the flat front of his pistol, he rounded the corner; nothing was there. Their footfalls made barely any noise, adding to the loneliness of the place.

    I don't think there was anything too much wrong with it; I'm not sure what words you were using over and over. It looks pretty good. I don't think you need to define who "he" is - he's obviously the protagonist, and the reader would know, from the preceding chapters, who he is. You needed to replace Sarah with a pronoun at least once. It did drag a tiny bit, like it went on and on; you don't want that to happen. When you watch a movie a fifteen second clip like this one will seem to last for hours as you sit on the edge of your seat. All the actions in the first paragraph can be conveyed instantly. But it's not so easy to write it all. You see the scene in your mind like a movie; but for us, it has to be described, taking time. In a situation like this I think it's best to be concise and try to convey as much as possible with as few words, or the drama will collapse.
     
  6. Elgaisma
    Offline

    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2010
    Messages:
    5,337
    Likes Received:
    92
    Learning how to use a thesaurus and dictionary is a great skill for writing. Using them together helps misuse of a word as the dictionary will explain when and where the word should be used. Reading the actual meaning of a word you misuse can also suggest alternatives.

    I have a soft spot for a Roget's style Thesaurus rather than an A-Z it also helps reduce the misuse of words as it groups them together under what it is an alternative for.

    There are several programmes online, I use Wordle, that analyse the amount of words you use. I find seeing an artistic depiction of my word use incredibly useful. I do it chapter by chapter and then go over the said chapter to see if my use of the most frequently used words is justified, if the sentence can be rearranged to remove it, or a synonym used. Others analyse the types of words you use etc
     
  7. madhoca
    Offline

    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2008
    Messages:
    2,527
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    the shadow of the velvet fortress
    Forget synonyms. All that micro-managing is like stage directions. It's unnecessary to go into such minute detail for every second, and makes for tiresome reading. Cut to the chase more, e.g.:

    Sarah clutched his hand, a nervous eye fixed on the hallway, and they stepped out. When he came to the corner he (name) drew his pistol. Although he gestured to Sarah to be silent, she couldn’t stop a weak squeak emerging. He rounded the corner, pistol first. The whisper of his cat-like footfalls added to the loneliness of the enclosed space.
     
  8. jazzabel
    Offline

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2012
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    1,666
    It sounds fine to me but what you could include are internalisations, to describe inner thoughts and processes, here and there. This fleshes out the scene and makes it feel more real. Otherwise, fancy words for varietiy's sake always come across as contrived, so I wouldn't recommend it.
     
  9. Elgaisma
    Offline

    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2010
    Messages:
    5,337
    Likes Received:
    92
    Synonyms don't have to be 'fancy' words though. I'm aware I serially abuse words and phrases it is worth having two or three ideas for combatting them when they are too close together. A varied vocabulary doesn't need to use 'big' words very often. (says she who uses astronmically in her first paragraph of a novel this morning.)

    I personally think the writing in the OP is great, it is fluid and builds tension well. However, pistol's synonyms can be gun, firearm, piece etc (I am not handgun aware enough to know what would work best and hubby isn't here to ask) - non of them are 'fancy' words. The OP may decide actually pistol works best being used twice in that situation, but sometimes varying the word works better.

    When I write I am aware my characters touch backs a lot, do things with eyes, punch shoulders, laugh, smirk etc knowing that allows me to either vary it or make it clear I'm being repetitive for a reason. I think the OP is talking about something similar, that if a similar situation arouse in the book it would be described in the same way.

    Being aware of language is one thing, but also in this case being aware of the scene, setting and character can bring in ideas for variation. The Bookshelf Muse is a very useful blog and resource for this. (again it contains a thesaurus but this time for setting and emotion etc). Asking what do I need this scene to achieve can also help?

    Somebody else brought up being aware when to use name and when to use pronoun can also have an impact on the distance a reader has from a character at any one time.

    I am very, very grateful to the English teacher that actually took two lessons to show our class how to use dictionaries, thesauri, English usage etc They are really useful tools I rely on as I'm writing and make it easier for me to write characters with overblown vocabulary, malaprops etc (I love characters that use wordplay). Also for varying the characters both in speech and movement.
     
  10. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    ditto that in spades!... i call such micro-managed prose 'breathe-in/breathe-out' writing... focus on the overall drama of the action, not on every single detail of every single movement of every single character, every single second of the scene...
     
  11. jazzabel
    Offline

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2012
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    1,666
    Yes, of course, you are right, but what I was referring to is unnecessary variety for variety's sake, not necessarily word complexity. If "he marvelled" is the right expression for me that's cool, but if I find myself writing "he marvelled" just because I want to avoid writing "he said" then it's better to restructure the sentence, even make it non0dialogue, then just putting "he marvelled" in there gratuitously :)
     
  12. funkybassmannick
    Offline

    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2011
    Messages:
    836
    Likes Received:
    30
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Control+click allows you to "right click," if that's your confusion.

    EDIT: And this will allow you to look at synonyms in programs like Word.
     
  13. Elgaisma
    Offline

    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2010
    Messages:
    5,337
    Likes Received:
    92
    :) I agree 100%. Personally, I like my writing to use a varied vocabulary and to make use of wordplay etc Not everyone does and I've read exceptional works with limited vocabulary.

    The lack of variation seems to be bothering the OP though. Which is when as a writer I usually think it is a good idea to play, explore new ideas and find out if I can get something working better.

    I don't think having the skills to use a variety of dictionary and thesaurus is a bad thing for a writer to have ;) I am not advocating abusing them, but practising and learning how to use them together, properly.
     
  14. Nakhti
    Offline

    Nakhti Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2012
    Messages:
    400
    Likes Received:
    16
    Madhoca got there before me, but I was gonna say almost exactly the same thing. You're describing every action in painstaking detail, which is slowing down the scene and leading to word repetition. Just paraphrase the action into the main bullet points, and find stronger, more descriptive verbs to replace adjectives and description:

    = He checked the wrecked corridor was clear, then ducked back through the doorway.

    = Sarah gripped his hand, nervously eyeing every shadow.

    = Pulling her with him, he crept into the hallway.

    = At the corner he drew his pistol and turned to Sarah, a finger to his lips.

    = She nodded, unable to supress a squeak of fear.

    = Pistol first, he tiptoed round the corner, the whisper of movement almost deafening in the deserted hallway.


    Learning how to prune sentences down to their bare essentials takes practice, but try to have an ear for the rhythm of sentences, and when you're using 10 words when 3 will do (for instance, notice how the single word 'tiptoed' replaces 'his footfals barely making a hint of noise' - I got 107 words down to 72)
     
  15. jazzabel
    Offline

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2012
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    1,666
    @Elagiasma: and I completely agree with what you said :)
     
  16. matwoolf
    Offline

    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2012
    Messages:
    2,300
    Likes Received:
    2,227
    Location:
    Brighton Heights
    MY TURN...and I am newbie fram Engerland. GOOD MORNING MERICA!
    Jeez this flipping computer so complisating, wht doNT the bittons werk ROGHT. OK, edit this lad's piece for him. GO go go. Make it tight


    He leans doorway, looks, left or right? Return to the wrecked corridor. Sarah holds his hand a damp squeeze, nervous eyes upon the dark corners. Hallway shadows . Mat steps. The room is behind, and she follows. The corridor corner. He draws pistol, twisting, he mouths with eyes 'SHUT IT!' And he zips across the lips . Sarah nods squeak, pistol nose leading around. Footfalls. Silent in this lonely place. BAM BAM he kills all the insects.

    Sorry got excited there. Good luck with your project. Sounds exciting. Just making silent footfall myself at the moment. Please hope this posts right, okay find click...o' course lots of different ways to write. Now shall I be a kiss person? First post? Take that boys xxxxxxxx
    ==================================================
     
  17. matwoolf
    Offline

    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2012
    Messages:
    2,300
    Likes Received:
    2,227
    Location:
    Brighton Heights
    Whaaat? I thought it was priddy. That's how I tend to write first draft, then translate with a couple a pronouns, injunctions. It goes down a mixed bag. Dark Future was looking for different ways to write? Meds? We call it meths.
     
  18. matwoolf
    Offline

    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2012
    Messages:
    2,300
    Likes Received:
    2,227
    Location:
    Brighton Heights
    thank goodness you're all still here. i been worrying 'bout this down the gastro tavern. Meths...methylated spirit, tramps, ach, bums, drink, white spirit. Did you know that anyway? Over reaction? No, not meth which would be far more sinister reference.

    OK recovers...and fwiw...wouldn't do either, although prison wine is fine.
     
  19. Rennie1989
    Offline

    Rennie1989 Member

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2012
    Messages:
    15
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Kent
    Not got a clue, I've never used a mac :/ sorry!
     
  20. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    an excellent job of pruning, nakhti!
     
  21. Flipdarkfuture
    Offline

    Flipdarkfuture Member

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2011
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thanks guys.

    The 'He' is a character associated with the protagonist, and due to being in a massive battle, has been seperated from him. His name is Javik, the last of a species that ruled the entire galaxy 50,000 years ago. Those who have played Mass Effect may know them as the Protheans.
     
  22. Elgaisma
    Offline

    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2010
    Messages:
    5,337
    Likes Received:
    92
    Mass Effect is an RPG? (I'm a bit out of date since I had children).

    If it is - keep the stage directions in for the fan-fic. IMO that is what will give your work a 'visual' effect. The way you have written it feels like an RPG/Action Advernture game. Trim them a little, but don't lose to many of them.
     

Share This Page