1. Malisky

    Malisky Fortune cookie Contributor

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    Structure issues upon action and dialogue.

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Malisky, Dec 12, 2016.

    There is a part I want to include in a WIP where three people turn to address simultaneously one person that just came into the scene with three separate characterizations. How do I pull this off? Part of the story:

    “Of course they will, darling.” A voice came from behind. It was Lazare.

    “Uncle… Lazare… Maestro…” the three of them said on the same time as they went to appoint their frustrations to the man that orchestrated everything, but with a subtle wave of his hand he cut them off.


    Another issue I have is with this scene. Three people participate in it. One is an animal trainer (Gael), one is an opera diva (Clair) and the other is a girl that works backstage (Rosemarie).

    “I…” Gael went to reply to this expected remark in a reassuring manner when Rosemarie popped up from behind and took the reins.

    “Of course they will,” she said confidently. “They haven’t eaten for days you see, which makes them amenable…”

    She knelt by the cage, looked at its lazy occupants and then continued, “… but once we have them in the water they’ll come to life. You’ll see.”

    She looked up at Claire…

    “You’ll sing your song, step out on the tightrope and when the clap of thunder comes, the lights will flicker off and…”

    She jumped up…

    “… that’s where I’ll toss the ox’s heart into the pool - you know, I only bought it myself this morning and it is the biggest ox heart I’ve ever seen – and then…”

    She approached Claire with a mischievous act and set her sparkling eyes on hers…

    “… they’ll go mad over it!” she said and stopped right in front of her, looking at her with her cutest, childish expression.

    I want to show a choreography of Rosemarie as she is speaking to Clair, because she becomes playful and quite theatrical as she explains the plan to Clair, but this doesn't seem right to me. I want to show animation as she speaks. I haven't seen it as a structure method in a book before. Does this make sense? Do you have any tips for betterment?
     
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  2. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I have an immediate couple of tips. You should stop separating each of your sentences with line breaks, keep all of a single speaker's actions and speech in a single paragraph, if possible. And please, attribute your dialogue to a named person. You can do this with the paragraphing trick, but also don't be afraid to drop in a name now and again. As far as I can tell there are three females in this scene. Too many uses of the word 'she' in place of the person's name can scramble a reader's brain.

    To illustrate:

    “I…” Gael went to reply to this expected remark in a reassuring manner when Rosemarie popped up from behind and took the reins.

    “Of course they will,” she (who is she?) said confidently. “They haven’t eaten for days you see, which makes them amenable…”

    She (who is she?) knelt by the cage, looked at its lazy occupants and then continued, “… but once we have them in the water they’ll come to life. You’ll see.”

    She (I assume this must be Rosemarie, because she is looking at Claire. But trust me, the previous 'she's need to be identified.) looked up at Claire…

    “You’ll sing your song, step out on the tightrope and when the clap of thunder comes, the lights will flicker off and…” (Who says this line?)

    She (which she?) jumped up…

    “… that’s where I’ll toss the ox’s heart into the pool - you know, I only bought it myself this morning and it is the biggest ox heart I’ve ever seen – and then…”

    She (okay, it's Rosemarie again, approaching Claire) approached Claire with a mischievous act and set her sparkling eyes on hers…

    “… they’ll go mad over it!” she said (which she?) and stopped right in front of her (which her?), looking at her with her cutest, childish expression.

    I'm going to take the liberty of showing you what I mean by rewriting this, or rather reformulating the paragraph. If I have guessed wrongly about who is saying what, then I rest my case. Am I right that Gael never says anything here but "I?" I'll try to figure it out. But that's the point. The reader shouldn't have to stop and figure it out.

    “I…” Gael went to reply to this expected remark in a reassuring manner when Rosemarie popped up from behind and took the reins.

    “Of course they will,” Rosemarie said confidently. “They haven’t eaten for days you see, which makes them amenable.” She knelt by the cage, looked at its lazy occupants and then continued, “But once we have them in the water they’ll come to life. You’ll see.” She looked up at Claire. “You’ll sing your song, step out on the tightrope and when the clap of thunder comes, the lights will flicker off and—” she jumped up “—that’s where I’ll toss the ox’s heart into the pool—you know, I only bought it myself this morning and it is the biggest ox heart I’ve ever seen—and then…” She approached Claire with a mischievous act ('act' isn't giving me a picture of what Rosemarie is doing) and set her sparkling eyes on hers,“...they’ll go mad over it!” Rosemarie stopped right in front of Claire, looking at her with her cutest, childish expression.

    You also might liven this up a bit more and capture the mischief in Rosemarie's actions by choosing better, more descriptive verbs. See if you can replace dull, generic verbs and verb phrases like 'went to reply,' 'looked up,' 'approached,' 'set eyes' and 'stopped in front' and 'looking.' Search for a more exact word or phrase. This is where a Thesaurus comes in handy. Look up 'look' in a Roget's Thesaurus, and you'll be amazed at the word choices on offer, and they all give a whole new meaning to 'look.' And etc. More vibrant and exact verb choices will really make this scene pop to life.
     
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  3. Malisky

    Malisky Fortune cookie Contributor

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    No, you got it right. Rosemarie is "she" but I didn't want to iterate her name over and over again and I wasn't sure if I could place the whole scene into a simple paragraph, because the monologue goes on and off again multiple times. I haven't seen this before in a book (at least I can't recall) and that's why I'm not sure about how to handle this. I think your version makes more sense though. Thank you for your help. I'm still on the rough side of this story. Will look up for word choices when I edit. Thesaurus is my best friend. ;)
     
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  4. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    There are other ways to break something like this up, including an interjection from one of the other people in the scene. You're right not to want to keep repeating a character's name, and that's where the paragraphing trick comes into its own. Make sure that any action a character performs while speaking is included in the same paragraph as the speech. People's eyes and brains have been trained to see a paragraph break during dialogue as indicating a new speaker.

    Obviously, there will be times when a character is rattling on, nineteen to a dozen, and you will want to split the paragraph. If you do that, make very sure the split is acknowledged at the start of the new one.

    ....bla bla blablabala," said Claire. "And also, bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla." She grabbed a chair, shoved Alan into it. "And bla bla bla bla bla de bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla de bla bla bla bla bla bla de bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla de bla– "

    At this point, Claire had to pause for breath, before she continued. "And furthermore, bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla de bla—"

    Alan couldn't take it any more. "Don't you ever shut up?" he said.
     
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  5. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    It's also not clear who the POV character is. If it's Gael, she can maybe mention how Claire is responding to this fanciful display from Rosemarie. Does Claire smile? Or step back? Or seem puzzled? Is Gael annoyed at being interrupted the way she was, or is she in awe of Rosemarie? If Gael is the POV character, this gives you lots of scope to set the picture in motion for us.
     
  6. Iain Sparrow

    Iain Sparrow Banned Contributor

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    Malisky should have probably included the scene that precedes the above installment she's working on... Gael is a middle-aged man, and the animal trainer at the Phoenix Opera House. He has a weakness for brothels and cheap liquor. Rosemarie, is one of our three MCs. She's 12 years old and not meant for the bohemian life of the theatre, though she does her best to fit in and she does adore Claire, whose the lead female performer at the Phoenix.
    Gael would be okay with Rosemarie taking charge for the moment, as he's dragged her backstage to go over the night's main attraction one more time before curtains up.:)

    And thanks for your help... this is the last sort of whimsical scene before the story gets all serious, and people start misbehaving.
     
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2016
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  7. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    But which character is the POV character? It's not obvious at all from this scene. I just think it might help focus the scene if we were seeing it clearly through the eyes of one of the characters.
     
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  8. Malisky

    Malisky Fortune cookie Contributor

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    It's omniscient, but the MC (so far) is Rosemarie. The story unravels around her. Another two MC's will join her on the way.
     
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  9. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    So you don't have a point of view character at all? Does this mean we get to know everybody's thoughts, or nobody's thoughts?
     
  10. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Let's not. This thread is not in the Workshop and was intended to ask a singular question. We are already into the crit zone, which this area is not intended for.
     
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  11. Malisky

    Malisky Fortune cookie Contributor

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    We get to know the person's of interest thoughts but with measure. Only when needed. Mostly the MCs' since it's their story we are focusing on and some other characters that will have somewhat of a parallel story-line maybe, but this is only speculation since we're not there yet. Their POV or observations do not fuse into the narrative style. It's an adventure and I want to keep it light, although some very dark aspects of our society are going to be examined. You could say that it's mostly plot based than character. The voice might change in mood but not in character. I hope I'm getting through.
     
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