Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Show me the story

While I was sick, I had plenty of time to think about little nit-picky things that bother me. Like why Dayquil costs so much when it comes in the handy six serving size? At six hours a pop, it's only good for one and a half days.

But the thing that I realize has come to be my pet bugaboo is "telling". If I have to read one more instance of "He wondered why he didn't feel more strongly", or "She knew his lips would be firm and commanding", I'll break into hysterical laughter.

Telling, AKA narrative summary is a form of explaining. And yeah--while you have to have narrative, it needs to be part of the story, not the whole thing. It's like going into Die Hard with McClane ready to go after Holly and the story breaks off, "McClane thought about rescuing his wife, but because of the issues between them, he wondered if it wouldn't be better to call the police. Remembering the last time they'd talked, he knew..."

It's like a person who always drives to the store, getting out of his car to walk. All of a sudden, there are sounds and noises, smells and other people--that weren't there before.

It's McClane punching that elevator for the penthouse.

I do it in my roughs, and it's only when I go back in to edit, and actually do stop and look around that I'm happy with what I'm writing.

...horrible example time.

this is rough draft

She froze in the glare of the headlights. The car rushed forward, and an unknown rescuer pulled her back into the shelter of some parked cars.

this is the revised, but not completely finished version

Aimee froze, heart pounding up in her throat. Her brother was yelling. Everyone was yelling. And over it all, she could hear the car revving, faster and faster.

Someone grabbed her from behind, spun her off her feet, and threw her into the parked cars. She slammed into a windshield and rolled off.

“Stay down!” shouted her unknown rescuer.

He had his foot on her, holding her down. Her glasses were gone and she couldn't see.

“I can’t move!” she screamed.

The car screeched to a burnt rubber stop. In the sudden silence, Aimee heard the whir of the window and a soft laugh.

...which is still not quite there, but closer than version one. It's more vivid, because your brain translates the impressions into visuals.

It's also a lot longer and takes up more word count.


Jeanna said...

Can't wait to see what happens next. Maybe that's why they removed the VO in the director's cut of Bladerunner.

Alice Audrey said...

You're right. The revised version is better than the original.

jodi said...

Bladerunner, I love Bladerunner. Good movie!!

lol, Alice--yeah, the first one sucked, huh? I like the second one too, but it's got another three or four rounds of edits before it's good to go

Unhinged said...

I'm like you--a very visual writer.

(And you're so brave to use your own work as an example. High five.)

(And you have a THING for John McClane, don't you?)

I'm right there with you.


And you said of your revised versions: It's also a lot longer and takes up more word count.

But that's not a detriment, right? Not when this longer version does more to involve the reader?

Kaige said...

Maybe that's why I'm having so much trouble pushing past 40k in a given story? Hmmm. Food for thought.

See, there ya go, making me think again. :)