1. Foxe
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    Foxe Active Member

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    The Scene As Your Mind Sees It

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Foxe, May 19, 2016.

    When you guys think of a scene or setting, what details do you focus on that aren't necessarily pertinent to driving the plot which you use to embellish your story world?

    Allow me to elaborate. When you picture a scene or a setting in your mind, what details do you like to bring out as you imagine them? Are your mind images very detailed from which the descriptions flow or are they abstract, which then you have to use your conscious reasoning/thought rather than your creativity to fill the setting?

    Do you have a checklist of things you want to mention such as the description of the setting (in varying degrees of detail), the people around, the smells, the sounds, the feelings?

    In other words, how detailed is your imagination and how do you pick what to write from what you picture, and does your imagination create a vivid enough picture?

    Sometimes I have difficulty picturing precise details of a scene and I find my writing is a little bare until I read some passages from a book, an article, or I pick up on a detail in real life and make a note of it to then fill my writing world with more detail.

    What's your method of imagination, and then the process of how you choose what and then how to put it on paper edit: so to speak (haha)?
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2016
  2. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Well that is I don't use paper. You are the tree killer aren't you? O_O :superlaugh:

    Well I try to note the things worth noting. Though I need to do it more often. I have gone to the great depths of having my characters sweat (well those that can), and get physically tired. Also the way something smells or tastes. Creating environments is a bit more daunting a task, cause it comes down to: What is important and what isn't? And what should be described and what shouldn't? It feels a lot like a slot machine and you never know when the thing is going to give you what you need to win. Though I think it goes without saying once certain aspects have been established, you should not have to dive into them again at length. Thus assuming the one reading can keep up with the more important elements, and remember how the minor things that fill in the background are. Other than that I am not really sure.
     
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  3. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I have a pretty good general impression of a scene when I begin it. I see enough detail to convey a mood, but not enough to paint a detailed picture. It doesn't matter much to me, though, because the details come flooding to my mind almost instantly when I start writing. Even just two or three sentences into the scene, I'm already aware of a ton of detail I hadn't thought of before I set down the first word. This happens even when I'm not describing the scene. I can be relating a passage of dialogue between a couple of characters and the scene fills itself in for me very quickly.

    I think my strengths as a writer are in characters and settings. Plots? I struggle with plots. Pacing is also usually a problem for me. But I'm good at getting characters and settings down right.
     
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  4. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    @minstrel I struggle a bit with the dialogue bit. Seem to have half of a whole conversation worked out, and the other half is fabricated later. Is there a trick to getting it to not be so broken up?
     
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  5. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think there's a "trick" to any aspect of writing. If there were, they'd all be listed in some book and everyone who reads it would be a great writer. I think you just have to read enough good dialogue to recognize it when you see it in your own work. I don't believe there's any substitute for reading good fiction if you want to write it.

    It sure would be easier for all of us if there were, wouldn't it? ;)
     
  6. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    I have a fairly vivid imagination so having details to focus on has never been that hard for me. But when it's feeling a little bare, I absolutely do have a checklist - what senses should this scene engage and/or what senses have I been neglecting (it's olfactory; it's always olfactory)? I'm usually pretty good with visuals but I'll write a whole damn thing and then realize I completely spaced on ever talking about how things sound or smell or feel. Luckily I don't have a hard time filling in the details from imagination, I just don't always think about it on the first pass. Or, y'know, the second or third, sometimes.

    When I do hit a snag I just steal a technique from artist friends and look up references. It's simplest for visual stuff, sure, but you can google "what do dragons sound like" just as easy as "what do dragons look like".
     
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  7. NiallRoach
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    NiallRoach Contributing Member

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    I see very little. I can imagine locations when I'm writing a real one, but not really set a scene there. When I imagine scenes whilst writing, I get nothing beyond a feeling and dialogue; everything else I have to consciously invent.
     
  8. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    My WIP is set in a fictionalized version of the town I grew up in. The main character even lives in the house where I lived. So that was what I started from.

    All I have is memories of various locations around the town (photos don't really help because most of them were taken much later), our house, other people's houses, fields, etc. and they're all rather vague (can't visualize the way I used to). So, I make my best guess as to what things looked like, their placements in the locations and stuff like that. That's my second phase.

    From there, I decide which details are relevant, which ones I want to make relevant and write the scenes. Then I rewrite until I have the descriptions down to as few words as possible without losing any details I feel are important.

    That's about as close as I can come to outlining my methods. They really are more organic than that, but to get more detailed, I'd have to do a breakdown on a number of different scenes.
     
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  9. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I try to focus on things that are going to - reveal character, help plot or storyline, include theme. Also an object's/item's level of importance within a scene.
    When I start I daydream the scene out. As long as I have a setting everything can get clearer as I write. Not everything happens in a first draft.
    In my WIP my mc is a 14 year old boy who is rather childish and odd. His mother drags him to casting calls hoping he'll become a big star.
    I pictured the casting to take place in a small rented house in L.A routinely used for casting calls. The living room had been transformed into a waiting room - but I never made a big deal of mentioning it. That wasn't important. The important issue was that Finlay didn't want to be there. I made no reference to anything in the room except chairs, the other boys auditioning, a bubble toy machine and the necklace Finlay is wearing. And a secretary briefly mentioned.
    The items - chair to sit on. Referenced in an action - he takes the bubbletoy back to his chair.
    The boys - are mentioned by comparison. Finlay in his scoffing dismissal of their looks and style which are modeled after a singer he doesn't like reveals his irritation with their conformity. But is also reveals his yearning and jealousy at how easily they fit in. ( in the next draft I might reinforce this by positioning them on opposite sides of the room with Finlay stuck sitting with his mother. )
    His necklace is a symbol of control - he wants to wear it, his mother tells him to take it off.
    The bubbletoy symbolizes Finlay's childishness and when it's pointed out by his mother he decides, while holding it, to sabotage his interview.

    The bubbletoy machine was not pictured in my mind until I started writing. I paused and turned the setting over in my mind. I always look for options in the setting or the other characters looking for the right kind of details. Since I had already covered other characters in the scene I thought - what can be in a waiting room? I dismissed plants cause nothing interesting sprang to mind. Pop machine possible? a bathroom? hmm. Magazines better... then thinking on how childish Finlay is and there are kids cast at casting calls I thought - bubble toy machine. Eureka moment.

    I also help generate ideas by looking at lots of Pinterest pictures. One that caught my eye was a car stuck in a tree top and decided to work that in as part of the story. Part of the fictional tv series set. I have folders filled with pictures that catch my eye while I'm working on something.
     
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  10. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Some things are vivid and some things aren't. But a thing that I find really important to consider is how the point of view character thinks. I use multiple POVs, and how I describe a place is going to be influenced by who is seeing it. So - as an example, my two main characters are reporters, one covers politics and the other covers fashion and music and used to work as a DJ. If Character A enters a room, she's not terribly perceptive on the details of how the place looks, but she notices all of the little behavioral tics of everyone inside. She's all about the people and what their actions say about them. Character B, on the other hand, will always notice the background music and how the sound system is structured, the decoration of the roon and what it says, and notices everyone's clothing.
     
  11. Aaron Smith
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    Aaron Smith Contributing Member Contributor

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    I usually have the beginning, the middle, and the end. Anything in between those comes as I write.

    Example: I wrote a scene about a guy who is lost in New York. The idea was that he met someone, they did drugs together, and he got raped. But there is more in between. I think you can find it in my Workshop history, not sure.
     
  12. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    I go into a trance-like state and 'see' the scene playing like on a screen, then I just type what I see. I may add or remove items later, but not usually.
     
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  13. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Nothing wrong with taking a break and coming back to finish a dialogue later. As long as it's nicely joined up and consistent when it's done.
     
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  14. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm pretty good at visualizing my characters in their setting, but I'm afraid my writing suffers because I take the surroundings for granted. I fill the page with dialogue, dialogue, and more dialogue . . . Talking heads! I was looking at a chapter today and realized how much it needs more sensory detail and character business. And I can supply that. But I'm scared that if I do, my novel will get even more absurdly long than it already is. And readers won't put up with that.

    At least, I doubt they will.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2016
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  15. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    I hadn't thought of that @Catrin Lewis, Thank you. :supersmile:
     
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  16. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    I visualize it quite literally in my head. And when I can be arsed, then I write! :write::write:
     
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  17. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    Oh yes that is largely how I do it too. I draft the scenes the way I described above, then return to 'weave in' the dialogue for pace and flow. I tend to write dialogue in a separate session, separate file actually, then paste it in.
     
  18. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    But to more closely answer @Foxe's question, when I do weave in scene description, do I have a checklist? Goodness, no. But I try to think of what my POV character would notice and feel about his surroundings and incorporate that in. So with both my protags in my first novel being architects, they're going to notice whether things are well-designed or not. They'll be into the colors and textures of materials. Whereas the MC of the second novel is a gardener, and she sees the world in terms of flowers and trees and other growing things. She'd be more likely than my architects to pick up on fragrances, while they are really into music and interpret their environment aurally, too.

    The main thing for me is getting into my characters' heads and seeing with their eyes. Don't know what the Great Reading Public will think of that, but it's what I try to do.
     
  19. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I try so hard to do this, and it never works. My brain doesn't naturally turn pictures into words. So I have to look for other methods (tricks), like thinking of the setting as a living thing.
     
  20. Megalith
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    Megalith Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's the same with me. I can picture the setting and the events perfectly but I can't turn it into words very well. I start putting in way too much detail and end up describing the wrong things. I've found a minamilistic approach works out better for me in the end. I am still having a lot of trouble mastering this, but it seems like the right direction and hopefully leaves more for my readers to imagine.
     
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  21. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is one of the many circumstances where "write what you know," comes in handy. If I had to write a story that took place in a jungle, there's a good chance it would turn out awkward.
     
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  22. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's a huge problem for me as well. I'd like more sensory detail, but I also want a publishable word count.
     
  23. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I feel you should write to your strengths, at least in your first draft. If you feel dialogue is your strength, and writing it gets your story out on 'paper' or the electronic equivalent, then just go for it.

    THEN when you're all finished, put the thing aside for a good long while. I feel this is a step many writers struggle with. If you don't give yourself a long-enough break from the original writing, you end up tinkering and not actually seeing the big picture. You remain overly fond of your writing, and won't see its flaws ...yet.

    When you do come back to it with fresh eyes, you will see that a lot of your dialogue is unnecessary. (Endless pages of 'banter,' etc, or too much restatement of what has already been said.) You can then ruthlessly pare speech down to the crucial lines that move the story forward. Then you add in—as you suggested in a later post—enough details to make the scene come alive in place and time. You can do this very economically, often by breaking up your dialogue with action beats that contain a bit of character reaction to the location they're in.

    People who struggle to write dialogue will need to do the opposite. Maybe pare down repetitive or overly detailed descriptions of scenes, and focus hard on what the characters are actually saying and how their voices 'sound.'

    The trick is keeping your story moving forward without stalling, no matter what pace you've set or whatever your strengths are. It's hard to do that in a first draft.
     
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  24. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    I don't 'see the scene' my mind doesn't project an internal picture. All I care about, this stands for reading, writing, or even watching, is how something makes me feel.

    For me everything i write starts with one thought, "Wouldn't it be interesting if..."
    I then take the following mad rant and edit out as much of the crazy and inane as i can.
    The product is as you see.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 23, 2016
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  25. Tea@3
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    Another post which should be bronzed. :superagree:

    I especially like the red lines. :)
     
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