1. Mayarra

    Mayarra Banned

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    Watching the character figure it out, or not?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Mayarra, Sep 8, 2017.

    In the fantasy story I am writing, I have this moment where one of my protagonists is figuring out what is happening. This thought process I have worked out as a few lines of internal dialog. The setting is that the protagonists went to a military safe-zone, where they got captured instead because they had special abilities. I let some friends read one of the early drafts, and one of my friends said that he would prefer this bit to be shorter and less focussed on Eliza figuring out why she is taken captive. I agree to it needing to be shorter. Reading it again a day later, I already see lines that can be removed or shortened. But I would like your thoughts on the original to which my friend commented, to know where the mistakes are according to you and how to improve it :)

    Also a bit of where I want to go. Eliza is supposed to be the brains, she figures stuff out while her sister, Ryd, notices more things. Eliza's idea of everyone held captive has some sort of special ability also plays a part in how Eliza figures out a plan to escape, based on chance, which hopefully is not a mary sue moment :S.

    Here the part:

    ‘Why would they do this?’ Eliza looked down at her scraped legs, ‘Why kill those who refuse to get in the safe zone? Why separate some who do and chain them up?… Wait a second… I can change colors, Jason destroyed that wall, and Ryd… Ryd saw things when she shouldn’t have been able to see.’ Careful to not move her head, she looked around. ‘Maybe everyone here has an ability. After all, some caused destruction in cities, it would make sense to get rid of those. That means that the detector scans for those abilities somehow. But why kill all that are outside? And why not kill us right away?’​
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2017
  2. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    Without any context, it's hard to know whether this snippet belongs in your story or not, really. There are some things you can logically deduce, and the reader would expect the character to deduce such things or they would come across as dumb. To give a very simple example, if there's a good smell coming from the kitchen, the character might assume there's dinner being cooked - she would not need to think to herself, "Hmm what's that gorgeous smell? Why is it there? Wait... It's 6pm, which means, it's dinner time. The smell can only mean dinner is being cooked!"

    The truth is, if my dinner example would actually be in a book, the reader would probably think the character is stupid or that the author is just saying the obvious, which makes it boring and unnecessary.

    So using my own dinner example, it should probably be written like this instead: "Hmm, what's that gorgeous smell? Oh I hope it's lasagne!"

    So, applying it to your own snippet - how "obvious" is the deduction she's made, based on the rest of your book, which I obviously don't know? Depending on that, your snippet can be, or perhaps should be, written very differently.

    Right now, the way you've written it is really a "think out loud" type. Asking the obvious questions, perhaps even echoing what the reader could be thinking. This is generally perhaps not a good thing.

    This sort of style where you're asking direct questions - you should limit it to one or two questions and no more. Readers can be impatient and wanna move on quickly, esp if your questions are obvious anyway. As well as that, there probably shouldn't be such a large chunk of thought going on in third person narration - not done like this anyway.

    Essentially you write like I used to when I was 13 or 14 years old (so I'm assuming you're a young writer). Everything you've written could have been done in narration, rather than as internal thought. So since you've chosen to write in third person rather than first person, is there any reason why there should be such a large chunk written in thoughts instead?

    Your issue isn't simply shortening the snippet, but how information should be conveyed.
     
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  3. Mayarra

    Mayarra Banned

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    Not a young writer, just a beginning one who has no clue what she is doing :D So little of a clue, I am learning proper english language as I go along :)

    I was trying to show that Eliza is troubled, trying to make sense of things, though I had (and have) no clue how to properly do that

    Not taking that you intended to, but I am a little but offended by it. My writing is bad, I am very much aware of that. I like to believe I am learning, but it still is very bad. ^^ But regardless of that, I do tend to take profiling as an offence. Especially if it is degrating when the profile you sketch is in fact wrong, which kinda is the case here :(
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2017
  4. Surcruxum

    Surcruxum Member

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    'Why would a "safe zone" kill those who refused to get in? Something's wrong.' Suddenly, Eliza had an epiphany. 'Wait a second… maybe everyone here has an ability, like me or Ryd, and the detector is used to scan for those abilities.'​


    Well I'm not an expert in giving corrections, but there it is.

    Personally as a reader, i think there's too much "why". She's asking questions that others are probably asking as well. Focus on the stuff she answered right. Also you can do it in narration and there's no need to have a lot of internal thoughts.
     
  5. Mayarra

    Mayarra Banned

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    I thought about that, but I would like to keep the narration to a minimum ^^
    To me, narration is the easy way to present something and I made it my challenge to use it as little as possible :D at least when it comes to omniscient narration, I only want to present what the characters percieve.
    I just dont always know how to present it properly
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2017
  6. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    Ah, no offense was intended. Maybe take "young" to mean "just starting out"? :) Either way, sorry to have caused offense. Just to clarify, I'm not calling you 13 or 14 years old. I'm just saying it reminds me of my own writing at that time. Although yes, I can see perhaps that's a little discouraging. Tact is not my best trait! You shall have to forgive me, or ignore me. I'm all right either way, but I do hope to be helpful :) (and it's nearing midnight here so perhaps blame any further offense on my sheer tiredness...)

    Going by your second post about trying to keep narration to a minimum and only presenting what the characters perceive - just want to say, narration and presenting what the characters perceive are not mutually exclusive. In fact, good narration should do exactly that: present what the characters perceive. I'm not too sure what it is you consider "easy" - what is it that you think narration is?

    The truth is, it sounds like perhaps it's first person narration you want to be experimenting with, if you feel third person narration is easy and the challenge is to present a closer, more intimate version of the character's thoughts and feelings.

    I'm not sure how well-versed you are with the types of narrations out there, but if you only want to present what the characters perceive, you're not talking about omniscient narration. You're talking "close third/limited" or first person narration.

    It just occurred to me that another issue with your writing would be pacing. There's not necessarily anything wrong with presenting those questions as you have, but pacing them across a longer scene and peppering some action and body language between the thoughts would make it feel smoother, less like a clump. Because right now, it's like you've just unloaded Eliza's thoughts all in one go, if that makes sense?
     
  7. Mayarra

    Mayarra Banned

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    What I meant with the "easy" is writing like all the answers out in the narrator voice.

    Eliza thought and concluded that all captives had special abilities like she did.
    Lines like that
     
  8. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, I thought that was probably what you meant. But writing narration like this would also make it very bad narration usually. You have probably heard of the advice "show, don't tell". The narration you find easy to write would fall in the "tell" category. However, just because you express the idea as internal thoughts in your original post doesn't make it "show" - it is still in the realm of "tell".

    Now obviously this is not a hard and fast rule - telling is as good a device as showing, but both must be used appropriately, and telling just happens to be the one that tends to be overused or misused, hence the common line "show, don't tell".

    Anyway, that's not how the majority of good narration is written, thus I guess I am saying there's nothing easy about it. Actually you are probably more prone to making exactly this kind of mistake by writing it as internal thoughts.

    The real challenge, if you want one, might be in the objective third person - where you only write what an observer can see, and yet you somehow still convey thoughts and emotions. I wouldn't write an entire novel that way but it certainly makes good practice. It would train up the skill of what it means to "show" something. How would you show Eliza working this out without ANY reference to her thoughts or feelings? How would the guards show their suspicion without dialogue or references to their thoughts? Once you get past the realm of "show she's sad" (well, she could cry or hug herself or walk out of the room) and into more complex situations, it becomes rather hard.
     
  9. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    There's a big range between that and the literal quoted thoughts that you use. In close third person, the narrative can essentially be the POV character's thoughts.
     
  10. Mayarra

    Mayarra Banned

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    Do you have an example? I dont really understand
     
  11. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Returning to add an example of editing your own example to use close third person narration rather than quoted thought:

    Eliza moved a little away from the others and sat down to think.

    Why?
    Why kill some--but only some--of those who had refused to enter the safe zone, while chaining up the others?

    All right, who were the 'others'? Herself, Jason, Ryd, to start. Eliza closed her eyes and went through them. She could change colors. Jason destroyed the wall. Ryd saw things that others couldn't.

    She opened her eyes and scanned the faces in her line of sight, careful not to move her head. Maybe everyone that had been spared was special. Special but not dangerous? But how could the detecter know that?
     
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  12. Mayarra

    Mayarra Banned

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    I do like it a lot. It is a different style than my usual writing though. I myself work with one block per person, so to speak, like my example. Then when it is time to move to another person, I start a new line/block.
    Would it be confusing if I put a piece like your example in it?
     
  13. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Are you saying that you don't change paragraphs until you change POV characters? That sounds problematic.
     
  14. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    I can't say I've had much practice with objective third person narration myself, but the idea is for example, instead of saying like, "She was hungry" or even that "She thought, 'Hmm I'm so hungry!'" (both examples essentially tells you she's hungry, even though the first one is narration and the second is internal thought) - instead of that, you might have, "She wrapped her arms around her stomach as she eyed the chicken wrap in the display window." (You know from her body language she's hungry. You worked it out for yourself rather than the narration telling you she's hungry)

    I'm not saying you cannot or should not use internal thoughts, or that you cannot or should not make references to her emotions and thoughts. The most common kind of narration certainly does do that. But since you say that simply telling the reader things is easy - and you're right - and you say you wanted a challenge, I'm saying that the practice you need is to learn to use narration to show a character's thoughts and feelings. Objective third person is a good device to force yourself into that mode. Once you are well practiced in the art of showing characters' thoughts in narration, then you can go back to mixing - eg. using both narration to show things and make references to a character's direct thoughts and feelings.

    In your specific case of having Eliza work out why she's been held captive, I do think you will need to make some references to her thought processes. Objective third isn't the thing you should use in this specific instance. I'm saying that you can practice writing in objective third person narration to improve your writing skills.

    However, it is a good question to ask yourself: how would you show Eliza's thought process without making any direct reference to it, using objective third person narration?

    One example from your own writing, when she looked around her but being careful not to be obvious that she's looking - it shows her trying to observe her environment, and it also shows that the environment is a dangerous one that she was wary of. A good example of "showing" rather than "telling".

    Personally I'd do that kind of showing more often as you relate her thought process, and expand the moment over maybe a few paragraphs or a page, rather than a single paragraph. (as I said in earlier posts, peppering the thoughts with some body language and pacing it a little better - eg. spreading the thoughts out. It is a process, after all, so it should take time and time can be conveyed in the speed at which she reaches her conclusion.)
     
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  15. Mayarra

    Mayarra Banned

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    Here is a bit from an earlier chapter to show a bit what I mean.

    The windows started vibrating at the sound of a few loud honks outside, accompanied by the rumbling of the engine.
    “Ryd! Hurry up already, will you? The bus is here already,” Eliza yelled from the hall. She sighed, shaking her head.
    Immediately Ryd rushed into the hall, the remaining half of her sandwich clenched between her teeth. She swung the front door open before racing back into the living room.
    “Ryd, what are you doing? Come on!” Eliza shouted while taking her first steps out of the door towards the bus.
    “Forgot my backpack!” Ryd reappeared in the hall and made her way outside. She closed the door and waved towards her mother, who was smiling at the twins from behind the window. “Sorry! The…. Bridge was open,” she said to the bus driver upon entering the bus, while still munching down on her breakfast.
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2017
  16. Mayarra

    Mayarra Banned

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    I do try to do this a lot, but more often than not I can't really figure out how to describe things in a manner that is both fun to read, and explains enough to understand what is going on. Practice makes perfect I think ^^
     
  17. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    In your example, you're depicting two different characters, but you're not necessarily changing the point of view character.

    I'm not sure what you mean by "block". Do you mean a paragraph?
     
  18. Mayarra

    Mayarra Banned

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    I think I do. Not reallly used to all the english terms. Like, usually it is just one or two lines like in the example ^^ With your example, it would be writing it like:


    Eliza moved a little away from the others and sat down to think. Why? Why kill some--but only some--of those who had refused to enter the safe zone, while chaining up the others? All right, who were the 'others'? Herself, Jason, Ryd, to start. Eliza closed her eyes and went through them. She could change colors. Jason destroyed the wall. Ryd saw things that others couldn't. She opened her eyes and scanned the faces in her line of sight, careful not to move her head. Maybe everyone that had been spared was special. Special but not dangerous? But how could the detecter know that?
     
  19. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    @Mayarra. I can totally relate to @ChickenFreak's example. It shows the thought processes clearly, while yours is more 'talky' and contains information the reader (and the people she's talking to) would already know.

    Would Eliza actually do her thinking out loud, especially in such an awkward and dangerous situation, and in company of people she doesn't actually know? I suspect she'd only tell trusted others her conclusion, don't you? Or maybe even keep what she's discovered to herself?

    The people in the story know they're in chains. Some of them know that certain of them change colours, etc. And that people outside have been killed. By now the reader probably knows these things as well. I think @ChickenFreak brought these snippets of information together really well, and showed the internal thought process more straightforwardly. And this leads into the possibility that now Eliza needs to find out what 'powers' the strangers have—and who can be trusted—to figure out how to use them to effect their escape ...if that's the way the story is going.

    .......by the way, I'm not referring to the paragraphing issue at all. I'm talking only about the wording of that bit.
     
  20. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    You could have paragraphs as long as the above, but changing paragraphs only when you change characters would be problematic. If one character were the subject for a dozen pages, that would mean a dozen-page paragraph. That won't work well.
     
  21. Mayarra

    Mayarra Banned

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    Thank you ^^

    Will see what I can do with the piece
     

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