1. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    Stage directing your characters

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by doggiedude, May 1, 2016.

    I had someone volunteer to read over my first chapter & make suggestions. One of the things this person had an issue with was a few sentences that explained movements or who was facing what direction. I can see how this sort of thing can be overdone and get annoying but he seemed to think it was inappropriate no matter what the situation. Should I not be describing these things?

    Examples:
    Jack walked off with the long tails of his pinstripe suit swishing back and forth. William moved to the front door and looked out through the massive windows that fronted the building.
    *****
    William was facing Jack and watched him raise a hand to cover his eyes as he heard two more hits against the field in rapid succession.
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2016
  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Are the movements significant? Is it important that Jack raise his hand, and is it important that William see it happening? If it is, I'd keep it in, if it isn't, I'd probably leave it out.

    The "William was facing Jack" part feels unnecessary, since it's clear by the rest of the sentence that he must have been.
     
  3. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think it's so much that you are describing their movements, but that the verbs are rather generic. They don't imply attitude or emotional state or motivation for the movement.

    If you were to rewrite the example passage and try to show us what's going through your character's heart and mind while he's moving around—in as few words as possible and without going overboard telling us his thoughts—you'd be heading in the right direction, IMHO.
     
  4. NiallRoach
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    NiallRoach Contributing Member

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    As said, there's no emotional meat, so it comes off as generic "A did this. B did that" narrative
     
  5. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    I don't want dispute the emotion thing. I'm hoping that's only because of missing context.

    I've read lots of stories that seem to go overboard explaining every detail of people's movements. I'm hoping my wording keeps it simple enough to describe actions / movement without being tedious about it.
    In some cases I use it as a way to liven up a boring - He said, "blah blah" by turning it into something like - He picked up his drink and said, "blah blah"
     
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  6. NiallRoach
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    NiallRoach Contributing Member

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    True, we're only seeing that. Maybe other stuff drowns out the stage directing, it's hard to know without reading more.
     
  7. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    They do seem somewhat over-detailed. Actually, no, my issue is redundancy.

    > Jack walked off with the long tails of his pinstripe suit swishing
    > back and forth. William moved to the front door and looked out through
    > the massive windows that fronted the building.

    Here, is the "front door" relevant, and once it's said, do you need to tell us that the windows are also in front? I would trim the door, which trims the "double front":

    Jack walked off with the long tails of his pinstripe suit swishing back and forth. William moved to look out through the massive windows that fronted the building.

    And I'd think about whether I actually need to describe the windows. Maybe it could just be:

    Jack walked off with the long tails of his pinstripe suit swishing back and forth. William moved to look out the front windows.

    Except, why do we have the swishing pinstripe, if William doesn't react to it?

    Jack wheeled around and walked toward the back door. William stood for a moment, watching the long tails of Jack's pinstripe suit swish back and forth. When the back door slammed, he shook his head and moved to look out the front windows.

    > William was facing Jack and watched him raise a hand to cover his eyes
    > as he heard two more hits against the field in rapid succession.

    If William can see Jack's face, wouldn't we assume that he's facing him? And if William is the viewpoint character, we don't need to be told that he's watching him; anything that happens comes through William.

    Also, who heard the shots? William or Jack? I can't tell if you're switching POV characters. Let's assume that the POV should be William. In that case, we don't even need William in the paragraph. I'd change this to:

    The sound of two more hits came from the field. Jack raised a hand to cover his eyes.
     
  8. KokoN
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    KokoN Active Member

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    Whose point of view are these excerpts from? I think you could change them but it depends on which character we're supposed to be viewing the scene through.

    However, I disagree that it's always inappropriate to explain movement.
     
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  9. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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  10. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    I think it is a little flat. No emotion, kinda robotic. What are they looking at in the light of the sun, and how do they feel about what it is they are looking at?

    I literally have a character that hides most of time behind a mask, and has more expressions on his hidden face when gazing out of a window or at another being. Try adding some color, even if it is just a light splash here and there. It will make it less robotic. :)
     
  11. Feo Takahari
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    Feo Takahari Active Member

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    People are already talking specifics, so I'll get into the general case: I think actions in books should be like actions in comics, showing each point of change. If a character in a comic raises his arms and balls his hands into fists, one panel will show his hands at his sides, the next may have him raising his arms, and the last will show his fists clenched. The viewer is left to infer the transitional periods. In the same way, I think a book should mention the character raising his arms and clenching his fists, but not describe each part of the motion unless it lends itself to further analysis of the situation (e.g. raises arms slowly because reluctant to fight.) Just give the reader enough to visualize what's important.
     
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  12. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    I'll add my two cents in the same vein as @Feo Takahari. Don't (oh God, I've started with an imperative! what's coming is not really a rule, more a guideline or principal, especially in genre fiction) — don't write anything that doesn't advance character or plot. If you write something, anything, and we don't know something more about either of those two things after reading it, then it's redundant.

    It's a good principle, I think. Hard, but good.

    Jack walked off with the long [if he's wearing tails they'll be a standard length unless he's in fancy dress — long is redundant] tails of his pinstripe suit swishing back and forth [how else could they swish?]. William moved to the front door and [unless mentioning the door is important to the plot?] looked out through the massive windows that fronted the building [are the massive windows important right here, or is the important thing what William's looking at?].

    The first line is plot and character — it tells us what Jack does (which I imagine is something that advances plot, and the description advances character — anyone wearing tails is a particular kind of guy).

    The second line doesn't advance either (taken out of context like this). I guess the important thing is what William sees:

    The massive windows that fronted the building gave out onto a scene of carnage/carnival/camping/calligraphy/whatever... [if it's William's POV, then we know this is what he sees]

    Forgive me that last line. I'm not trying to rewrite you, just illustrate the point.
     
  13. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    I originally wrote it without the long and then someone else told me they couldn't understand how a suit was jacket was moving back & forth.
    Let's try this instead-
    Jack walked off with the fashionable tails of his pinstripe suit swishing back and forth.
    I'm trying to describe something like this as a modern fashion in this world.
    [​IMG]
     
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  14. NiallRoach
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    NiallRoach Contributing Member

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    Do you need the 'Fashionable'? Could you not imply it having a character or he himself think that he looks good, or vain, or ridiculous?
    That's the image that comes to mind when I hear suit and tails near one another, that jacket, so I think your one beta may have been an anomaly.
     
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  15. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    I would hate to be all "don't tell the readers things and less you have ALLLL the reasons!!" because that's not my style at all. But I do agree with others that some of this stuff is probably irrelevant. Some of these details could be include elsewhere in the scene and be better there, some of it is probably not worth saying. I like including a bunch of details, but I think we both know it's about what details are most interesting and relevant. Some can be incidental but then it is because there are a part of character or world and should still be conveyed in an engaging meaningful sense. Or at least that's what I think. You've been writing for quite a bit longer so I'm not too confident in my opinion.
     
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  16. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    If it's important to your world building, why not call it what it is — a tailcoat ("man, who'd've thought those things would ever come back into fashion — with pinstripes too!")?
     
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  17. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Btw when I say "meaning" when talking about incidental traits I mean described in a way that evokes those traits potently, again, I'm not someone who likes asking for everything to have a "'reason". If it's your vision of the way a character dresses or a building looks, do it, but you can have "meaning" in that you convey that in a imaginative way.
     
  18. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Don't tell my cousin about this type of suit, he might just get one. He already goes by The Man in the Purple Suit, and writes really weird comic books. And no I am not making any of this up. :p
     
  19. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    [​IMG]
    @Cave Troll's brother.
     
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  20. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    He is my cousin, not my brother. Here is a pic of him at a comic convention. :p

    Matt.jpg
     
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  21. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    @Cave Troll. Yes, you clearly wrote cousin and I misread it. I love your brother cousin. Especially those massive chops.
     
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  22. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Do a general google search for The Man in the Purple Suit and his tumblr page is the second thing on the list. Dude is a weirder than me, granted he is at least 10-12 years older. :pThe description on google is enough to point that out. :p
     
  23. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    @Cave Troll . I will. As for weirdness. No such thing. Eccentric, my dear chap, eccentric is the word. :)
     
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  24. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    I found that pic on ebay. They have lots of steampunk-style costumes.
     
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  25. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    No he is on a level all his own. In the google description it says he speaks of himself in the third person. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.:p
     
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