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  1. wilprim
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    wilprim Member

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    Problem moving a scene forward

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by wilprim, Mar 19, 2012.

    I have been having this same issue and really need some help on it. I seem to have a problem with moving a scene forward. I catch myself going on in a way that makes it sound runny. I move the scene forward with the word "and" and then sometimes "and then" and also with "He did this.... and then he did this... and then he did this...." so on and so forth. I don't know if that is bad, but it makes my sentences and scenes sound bad. For an example, one of my sentences might sound like: "He got out of his car and shut the door. He walked over to the open door slowly and then stopped just short. He listened for a moment and could hear the soft cries coming from behind the door."

    Sorry for the brevity of this but I think it gets the point across. I just want to know if there is any description technique for this or something that might aid me.

    Thank you in advance!:D
     
  2. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    It sounds like you are dwelling on mundane details.

    Ever wonder why, even though we are often around main characters throughout the duration of a book, we never see them pooping? Not only would that be gross, but it wouldn't contribute to the story. You can leave out a lot of mundane details, because these things are implied. Try this: Skip ahead to where the good stuff happens. Just start in the middle of the action, etc. Reread what you wrote, and if there seems to be something missing, add it in. But you might be pleasantly surprised with how little you actually need to add.
     
  3. wilprim
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    wilprim Member

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    Thanks for the reply. As you said, "Skip ahead to where the good stuff happens." What if after my example my character comes across a ghost and it attacks. Would I then leave out his walk to the door? It seems like that would jump the reader from the character sitting on the couch to the character getting attacked by a ghost in a total different room (this would seem normal to me if there were teleporting in the story).
     
  4. doghouse
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    doghouse Member

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    Hey, wilprim.

    My opinion is just to write the scene and complete it. Don't try to edit when you first draft. Yep, it will probably read quite unpleasant, but the art of writing is in the rewriting.

    Let those creative juices flow, dont hinder it over simple stuff as word choice and sentencing, etc.

    If you want direction for a scene, then bullet point what you want to happen -- outline it.
     
  5. Kaymindless
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    Kaymindless Contributing Member

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    The reason it seems bad to you is because it's repetitive and no very descriptive.

    So, something you can do while writing, or during editing is consider your descriptions and your sentence structures. For example, "He climbed from the car, allowing the door to slide shut behind him. The house was deceptively normal, a place where a family could grow, but he could see the door standing open in front of him. Approaching it slowly, he could hear the soft cries escaping from the house."

    Keep in mind, that is rough and it's seven in the morning so it's probably not grammatically correct but it's an example.
     
  6. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    I agree with this. It's okay if your rough draft is crap. I believe in the rewrite and you can't fix what you've never written. I also think Kaymindless made a good point in changing up your sentence structure but it's okay if you wait until later to fix the sentence so that all of them don't start with the same word.
     
  7. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    In our beta group, we call that 'stage directing' (don't know if that's a common phrase for it or not ;)). It's like you're describing a play to a blind person. Of course, the only real cure is practice - making yourself constantly aware of it until you no longer do it. But one tool is to put each sentence on a separate line - pretty easy to see then what's needed, what could use more description to make it interesting, and what can get tossed.
     
  8. Nicholas C.
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    Nicholas C. Active Member

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    Kay's example is good. However, I'm a fan of dropping the pronoun at certain times and just using a fragment... "He got out of his car and shut the door. Walked over to the open door slowly and then stopped just short." It breaks the "He" monotony and keeps the prose fast and to the point (if that's what you're going for).
     
  9. LBGale
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    LBGale New Member

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    I agree with those saying to just write it out first and edit later. A lot of times, I find the "and then...and then" style of writing is a product of me just feeling my way through the events of the story. If I knew all the "and thens" before I wrote then writing would be a fairly boring process, but I need to take down what's happening in my mind as it's happening. Later on, after a few weeks of space, I can re-read and realize how much of the "and thens" are useless, but I'd rather know more and cut more than add more out of confusion and vagueness.
     
  10. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    Notice that I said "If there seems to be something missing, add it in." I didn't mean to imply you must always have your characters "teleporting" everwhere, it's an exercise in how to cut mundane scenes.

    You want to build into the "good stuff." Merely saying he opened a door might seem jarring because there is no real build up. If you want to build up into your character meeting a ghost, you might want to describe the setting in order to set up a creepy/eerie mood. He doesn't just open the door, he touches a freezing handle, turns it, and the door opens by itself, creaking as it does so. Basically, you can also take mundane details and MAKE them interesting.
     
  11. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    "He got out of his car and shut the door. He walked over to the open door slowly and then stopped just short. He listened for a moment and could hear the soft cries coming from behind the door."

    Something you can do (even in first draft) is make the description, action, and stage direction all part of the scene. This is a poor example:

    He got out of his car and spied the open door. Is something wrong? With heart thumping, moving like he expected a burglar to come running out at any moment, he came closer to the door. Soft cries could be heard coming from the inside. Someone was hurt -- he picked up the pace ...

    For teleportation feel free to borrow Milly the Story Fairy (she is on my blog here somewhere) - I find her a vital tool in first draft stories to prevent being stuck in the mire and too much waffle.

    Although, she now has a collection of stories of her own.
     
  12. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    There's a definite skill to storytelling, and if the scenes sound bad to you, then they are probably not that great. It can take a long time to nail a scene or a chapter.
    Try reading books by successful authors in the genre you are writing in, and see how they negotiated the variety in sentence and story structure. Also, a few books on writing might help. And, of course, not giving up until you are happy with each sentence. Good luck! :)
     
  13. Newfable
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    Newfable Senior Member

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    I'm of the same opinion.

    If I keep hitting a dead end in moving a scene forward, I'll make some kind of outline to help relieve that mental tension. Sure, letting the creativity out is nice and all, but if I'm just saying mundane things over and over again, I'm also not getting any work done.

    I did this the other day for a nice lil' short story I was writing. It was small and seemingly random and boring, but one outline later, and I've got a nice lil' modern fable on my hands.

    Note though that making an outline for me doesn't necessitate being part of the editing process. It gives me a map, a loose plan, that I can work in, which I can later go back and edit thoroughly.
     
  14. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm with those who say that if it's mundane, leave it out.

    Example 1:

    He opened the door and left the house. He walked to his car. He got in and started the engine. He drove to the store. He got out of the car and entered the store. He picked up a quart of milk and walked to the checkout line. He paid for the milk. He left the store and returned to his car. He drove home.

    This is as boring and repetitious as it gets. And it's unnecessary. Just cut to the chase, so to speak, like this:

    Example 2:

    He drove to the store and bought a quart of milk.

    See? Much shorter, cleaner, and without all that repetition of "he did this" and "he did that."

    Of course, if something interesting happens on the way to the store, you fill in details about that. If a ghost goes to the store, that might be interesting - you might want to describe that in detail. But if it's just mundane stuff, cut it. Cut it right to the bone. Your reader will be happier and so will you.
     
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  15. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that the brevity may be a problem, because I suspect that the solution is to cut out much of this text, and that's difficult without having the surrounding text.

    For example, if I make up the surrounding text, I might end up with:

    "Monsters! I'm telling you, monsters!" And the phone went dead.

    He stared at the screen, then snapped the phone shut and grabbed his car keys. Enough of this nonsense; well past time for an in-person look. The drive seemed shorter this time, the building less ominous in the daytime. Monsters? Feh. No such thing as monsters. All the same, he had to steel himself to get out of the car. Pausing just short of the open door, he heard soft cries and... was that growling?


    Looking at what I'm doing, I seem to be:

    - Cutting obvious actions that we don't need to be told about, like shutting the car door and walking to the door and listening.

    - Ornamenting the actions that we do need with feelings and thoughts. For example, I don't say, "He drove over", but I instead tell you that the drive seemed shorter, the building less ominous, and as a result I've told you that he drove to the building. I tell you that he was frightened to get out of the car, and as a result i've told you that he did get out of the car.

    - I also break these actions up with his thoughts about "this nonsense" and the monsters, so that there's less of a did this, did that, did the other thing "list" feeling. My goal is for you to see through his eyes, riding along with his thoughts and feelings, and not be consciously aware that you're also being told his actions.

    - The only list I keep is "snapped" the phone shut and "grabbed" the car keys, because I want a bit of a fast decisive action-action-action list feel.

    - The main bare un-ornamented event is the the sound from the door, because that's new and unexpected and therefore doesn't need any ornamenting. In fact, if I were to ornament it ("Pausing just short of the open door, he felt a chill go down his back as he heard soft cries and... was that growling?") I think that it would lose its impact - even if I found a phrase less cliched than "chill down his back."

    So does this work? I don't know; I wrote it and therefore I'm a lousy judge. But those are my thoughts on your question.
     
  16. Erato
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    Erato Contributing Member

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    Or almost never. Anyone ever notice that there seems to be no such thing as a bathroom on the Enterprise? Not until Insurrection, right? They never needed it.

    Right. So it's easy to get bogged down telling how, "He got out of bed and put his slippers on. He went into the bathroom and stretched in front of the mirror, uncapped his toothpaste, and smeared it onto his brush. He scraped the bristles back and forth across his teeth in everyday monotony."

    That would be fine if it were important. If it were vital to the rest of the story that at this moment he was brushing his teeth, wearing his slippers, we'd want to know that. If it were followed by, "Suddenly, his eyes opened wide, as he remembered the night before. He spat out his toothpaste and rushed into his room, and there, in the corner, he saw it." Then it's important to us to be shown that something happened last night, and he'd pretty much forgotten it, and followed his everyday routine. Then the scene is actually a little suspenseful. When's he gonna remember? When? When??

    But if instead of it being important, he just went on to the rest of his life, we'd be disgusted.
     
  17. Rybe
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    Not true! Almost all of the crew quarters had one, we just got to see them using the sink and showering instead of pooping, because that's much sexier, and all of their bathroom appliances liked to hide in the walls, but you do have a point. Why design a prop that isn't going to be used? But yes, there was one located in the lower front of the shi- WHY DO I KNOW THIS? I'm done now. *cough*

    I guess the point of my ramble is...knowing where your characters poop is important. Showing it is not. Same with walking to the door.

    Anyway...To be useful...

    I'm seconding the "just spew it out and fix it later." But, sometimes, if I'm stuck on other mundane details I end up tweaking the flow a little to hurry things along and keep them interesting. If I seriously can't get the character out of that car, maybe a disembodied arm lands on the hood of their car! That will get their butt out of the driver's seat right quick. Okay, sort of a bad example, but I hope you get my meaning? But I'd probably in this case still go with the boring walk to the door and fix it later approach.
     
  18. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Fix it later" would drive me nuts! Next thing you know, you've finished the story and having to rewrite the whole thing - and ending up with half as much as you thought you had. But I'm an edit-as-you-go type, so that probably explains it. :p
     
  19. Kaymindless
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    Kaymindless Contributing Member

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    I'm a mix, to be honest. There are things where I just note to myself to fix later, then there are things that I can't ignore and go on with. It's all personal and in the end should be whatever get's you to the finish line. Personally, this issue is something I would attempt to fix as I write, just because it's the easiest way to train myself how to write better.
     
  20. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I rewrite it, take all those bits out and end up with double the story. My 50K YA turned into just shy of 100K ;) I don't often refer to the previous draft though. After my first book I decided it was a waste of time as none of it existed in the final draft.
     

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