1. Mafuane
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    Mafuane New Member

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    Problems with padding and cliches

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Mafuane, Sep 18, 2010.

    I always have this problem, I usually write down a few bulletpoints about a scene beforehand but have problems when I get bogged down with padding. Right now, the two main characters are travelling to the capital city, but get stopped by a sort of crossing guard as one of them isn't a citizen, I go into detail about how this characters is interviewed by said guard to show his naive personality, but I'm wondering if I really need to go into that much detail or whether I should just say "after being interviewed roughly by the guard, he sadly when on his way" etc. etc. and whether this is a sort of cliche, the uptight angry guard frisking the innocent naive LOL.
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    If it is your first draft, just write it and don't worry lol. You can take it out afterwards if it doesn't work. I find a lot of cliches came out after I had finished the first draft and the ones that stayed were well written, funny and added to the story.

    It has the potential to add emotion and either fear or fun to the plot. Are you going for scary or Herr Flick/Mein Strudel kind of camp fun?
     
  3. jo spumoni
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    jo spumoni Active Member

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    I agree with Elgaisma: write everything out at first, then cut accordingly. It's better to have too much material than too little, because cutting is always easier than adding. If you ever have doubts, watch the deleted scenes on DVDs and you'll find that even the greatest movies had too much information originally. Sometimes, it's difficult to know what's important till you've written it all down. Happy writing.
     
  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it depends on the purpose of the scene, but I'd say that once the purpose is complete, you can shift to summary and get out of the scene. For example:

    -----
    "Are you travelling for business or pleasure?" asked the guard, examining their luggage tags.
    "Pleasure. Pleasure. Absolutely. We're not doing business in the country without a permit. That would be illegal. Pleasure." Jodie nodded emphatically throughout the sentence, as the guard lifted his gaze, eyebrows rising, and I just closed my eyes and tried not to sigh. Not again.
    Three hours, seven forms (in triplicate), two international phone calls and a thorough luggage search later, we were finally able to hail a cab for the hotel.
    -----

    But, yes, in the first draft you may not know for sure what in the scene is needed, so just write what you want to write. Or if you _do_ know that the purpose is complete and you don't know how to get out of it, you can just write yourself a note ("Get them out of this scene and into the hotel ballroom.") and figure out how to make that transition later.

    ChickenFreak
     
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  5. Horizon Noise
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    Horizon Noise Member

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    Hmmm. Yes and no. Yes, get your first draft down fast without too much messing but when it comes to something like this you need to have a basic idea what you want to convey and how you're going to do it. Two thousand words of dialogue will only help you if your scene ends up predominantly one of dialogue. If you decide on your second draft to write it up as a summary you'll have largely wasted your time.

    So decide what point you want to get across and what the best way is to do it. If you choose a more detailed approach you need to have a key point which demonstrates the character's naivety. Don't just have two people rambling on about anything and everything related to customs procedure. And also, unless the guard is going to appear later on, don't waste too much (if any) time describing him. A walk-on should be as anonymous as possible because he's only there to develop other characters, not himself.
     
  6. Mafuane
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    Mafuane New Member

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    Thanks guys, I think i'm just gonna leave it and tighten it up in my second draft :p, appreciate the help!
     
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  7. pseudonimrod
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    pseudonimrod New Member

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    when I run into that problem I try and write mostly dialogue first, and add the actions and unspoken information around it. That way I can fill in the essential details without having to worry where the conversation is going.

    I like using the conversations (no matter how short) to give clues to the character's overall personality. Dialogue can be phased out, or lengthened, depending on the scene. You can never have too many details, but it's important to keep the story flowing.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Of course you can.
    For that reason and more. :)

    Another reason is that too much detail can subvert the reader's imagination. In many cases, the reader will create a more useful image in his or her imagination than the one in the author's imagination.

    Consider the irresitably sexy woman your male character encounters. If the author imposes his or her image of what that woman looks like, the reader can be thinking, "Okay, but she doesn't sound all that hot to me." But if the author instead just drops in a couple hints about the male character's reaction, the reader can fill in details from his or own conception of "sizzling hot babe."
     
  9. Auskar
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    Auskar Member

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    I'm like "Pseudo" - when I'm in a situation like that, I write the dialogue. Later, I can add what happens so the reader can understand the dialogue, and some readers don't like it when there is TOO much dialogue. Even later, I can take out what doesn't work for plot or what does not help explain the character.
     
  10. wavodavo
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    wavodavo Member

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    Mafuane, I'm not totally clear where you're in your writing process when this issue comes up, but it sounds a little like you have your editor turned on while you're writing. If so, that's a bad way to go--like taking iPhone pictures of yourself while running through a high pole vault. Your editing is going to kill your creativity.

    IF that is what you're doing, you're not alone. The solution is to trust your creative side and to trust your editor side, but don't let them out at the same time.

    When you're writing your scene, pretend you own a paper factory and you can write as many pages as it takes to get the scene written. Later, when your ardor for creating the scene has cooled--a few days for me--turn on your editor and start reading. Usually, you immediately see where to make cuts. You can winnow down the details to the essentials to get your idea across.

    After THAT, as Stephen King suggested in On Writing, try to reduce every paragraph's word count by 10%. Don't hew precisely to that reduction; you don't want to chop it down until it sounds like Tarzan wrote it. However, I've found that turning 60 words into 54 words really clarifies and enlivens a paragraph. Doing a 10% reduction to a whole scene will likely make it crisper and more vivid.

    Anyway, if you're double teaming yourself while writing, stop it. You'll see immediate improvement.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Oh, if only Mr. King would take his own advice...
     
  12. Aszyllin
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    Aszyllin Member

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    I think details and cliche's can make or break a story.
    For example, have too little details and it is going to be dry! However add too many and people may get lost, or instead the book may become awfully lengthy in areas.
    I would go into detail when you are especially wanting to reveal something to the reader. If having a discussion with the guards, or having a lengthy paragraph about your character being stopped at the border, reveals something to the reader, then I would go for it. However if its just page space then don't bother. For example, maybe you want your reader to know that your character has a naive personality, then getting into a dialogue with the guard would be helpful.
    I agree with the others, just write and then cut or add afterwards!
     
  13. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Don't add padding for its own sake... Good descriptions are there because they tell us something about the world or the characters. The reader is usually not interested in what the guard looks like... unless his pocket is bulging from the bribe he just took, or his shirt is unbuttoned because he just came out of the whorehouse, or the brooch on his chest shows that he is deeply religious and the MC may try to appeal to his mercy.
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Misdirection is a valid purpose, by the way. Chekov's gun can distract the audience from The insulin syringe that will be the actual instrument of murder. The gun need not be fired after all.
     
  15. Jones6192
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    Jones6192 Member

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    I usually try to just tell the important details, just enough to give the reader an image of what is happening, without wasting my time with unnecessary flowery descriptors. Yeah, I'm looking at you, Inheritance Trilogy.
     

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