1. Alex R. Encomienda
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    Alex R. Encomienda Active Member

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    To stretch it out or not to stretch it out?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Alex R. Encomienda, Aug 11, 2016.

    Hello wonderful writers!

    I was typing my WIP which stands at 110,000 words as of now. I noticed I still have much more to tell so I cannot cut it short; however, when writing scenes how long should they extend? I'm writing a scene where a woman is being lynched and burned by a mob but it might only stretch two pages. My brother says that such a scene needs to be longer with more detail but how much more details does it need?

    I'm visualizing all I can but there's also those who say do not stretch things out; if a woman has blue eyes just say she has blue eyes. If a man is dying just say he is dying.

    What do you prefer as writers/readers?

    Am I leaving out a lot by just telling it in two pages or should I keep going and avoid too much detail?
     
  2. ddavidv
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    ddavidv Contributing Member

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    Less is usually more. I think your brother is probably a) wrong and b) not a professional editor. Follow your instincts.
     
  3. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    No one can tell you if a scene needs to be longer or shorter without reading it. And even then, it's just an opinion. If you've already got 110,000 words down, I think you have a pretty good idea on how long your scenes need to be.
     
  4. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    It depends on how important the details are for the plot overall. Sometimes a few paragraphs is all you really need, but if you must make it seem larger and more important then you could draw it out to 1-2 pages. Just depends on how "flowery" or "padded" you want it to be.

    It only took about a half a .doc page (probably less) to have an MC get shot in the shoulder and lung, force a mercenary to sit on a live grenade at gunpoint, and stumble back into a hallway to collapse in the fatigue and of mortal wounds.

    So a 2-4 paragraphs are all you really need, but it is up to you on how lengthy you want a particular event within a scene to go on for. Good luck. :p
     
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  5. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    Caution (character-based writing): Don't forget the impact on the MC which is witnessing. The more emotional impact, the more detail I have found. For me: the more my MC is involved emotionally, changing internally, the better I need to explain to the reader what's going on in his head apart from the obvious crash-and-burn in the actual happenings. Someone (I forgot who) put it real good: "Don't cheat the reader out of an experience."
     
  6. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    A checklist you might use for evaluating scenes once they're written:
    • are the POV character's thoughts and feelings coming across (reactions to what's going on),
    • is there enough description so a reader can fill in the blanks to picture the scene,
    • have I painted the action without getting too detailed.
    It doesn't take much to get all that across and depending on how important the scene is to the overall story, I could see covering a lynching in anywhere from 100 to 1000 words.

    At this point, though, I'd suggest you just finish the story and worry about length (of any particular scene or the story as a whole) later.
     
  7. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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    I take Mary Poppins advice on this one - "start at the beginning , go on until the end, and then stop" that is to say theres no right answer and show don't tell is a cliche - both showing and telling are valid approaches , it the balance between them which matters and what the ideal balance is, is different for each writer (and reader for that matter)

    you could do a lynching in a few lines or draw it out to the whole first section of a book, and either would be fine so long as the brevity communicated enough for the readers to fillin the rest in their imaginations, or the verbosity communicated rich essential detail and didnt come accross as filler for the sake of it ... it really depends on your writing style
     
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  8. Siena
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    Siena Active Member

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    I just think it depends on how well it reads and whether there is a point to it.
     
  9. Greenwood
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    Greenwood Active Member

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    I reckon this. For the OP; what are you trying to achieve with this scene? Is it the death of a beloved character? Is the woman an unknown woman? Is it viewed by a pov character in your work who is deeply affected by it? If it's the latter; I say go with Lifeline's advice. If it's a scene for pure shock value (which might be either the 1st or 2nd), then less is more if you can write it to have a powerful effect.
     
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  10. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    You don't say what your goal is, or even in what genre you are writing. But the fact that you are conscious of word count suggests to me that you are interested in traditional publishing for general fiction.

    I'll begin by seconding @ddavidv's advice not to rely on family members for advice on writing matters. However well-meaning they may be, unless they are published writers, their opinion is useless.

    There is, of course, no set rule on scene length, but it should be as long as it needs to be in order to advance the story and further the understanding of your characters. As it happens, one of the problems I had in the novel I'm currently pitching was scene length. Because I was so anxious to keep the overall length of the novel reasonable over a 500 year history, I tended to keep some scenes very short. The result was that the story tended to read like, "First A happened, then B happened, then C happened..." Not very engaging for the reader. At one point, the editor with whom I was working noted in several scenes, "And how did he feel about that?" or "And how did that change her?" and sometimes even "draw this scene out more". So, I went back and reviewed and revised again, and most of the scenes in which I couldn't answer her questions, I deleted or merged into other scenes.

    For your scene in question, I think the crux of the matter is what is the response you are looking to elicit from the reader? A woman being lynched and burned by a mob? I'm thinking your going for rather serious revulsion. You're not going to get that by saying, "She was lynched and burned by the mob." At the same time, you want to be mindful of the fact that some readers hit full revulsion faster than others, and going past that point may lose some. So, it's a balance. My advice is to write the scene, then see.
     
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  11. Alex R. Encomienda
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    Alex R. Encomienda Active Member

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    This scene is merely a gypsy woman being executed which is witnessed by the pov character. He also witnesses other dark things but this is the last one he sees and he makes the mistake of speaking to the woman prior to her death which makes it harder to watch. The scene is finished within a page and a half.
     
  12. Greenwood
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    Greenwood Active Member

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    From your saying that her death makes it hard to watch, I take it that you indeed covered the question "what is he thinking and feeling right now?". If you covered the event itself as well as the impact it has, I don't think there is a go-with wordcount to stick to. If you covered everything that is relevant to the story and the scene fits in well, and you feel good about it yourself, I'd say go with it.

    Those commenting before me gave a great piece of advice, one that I can attest to; don't let the opinion of friends or family influence your writing. Suggestions are fine and should be welcome, but they shouldn't make you doubt yourself. Your brother likes things this way, and tomorrow your next-door neighbour thinks the complete opposite. Unless they are published writers or profesional insiders, don't put any weight on their opinion. I did this when I first started and it only brought confusion. Not that I'm published, but simply letting all those opinions and comments rest is great relief that will help you focus on what matters; your own creative writing process. When your finished, a professional can always rip your work apart if they like too, but at least then you know they might actually know what they are talking about ;)
     

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