My fanfiction and other random ramblings

my thoughts on how to write (or not)

Archive for July 2014

Why characters should sometimes do something

with 2 comments

Or why they should not. And on a various ways of speaking.

I’ve gone on a FF reading binge again, this time diving deep into the “X-Men: The Movie” category on FFNet, and I’m coming up with some pearls of wisdom. Feel free to ignore, criticise or simply glare at me for my audacity of trying to lecture others while my own style is still limping sometimes.

To the point:

Pearl 1: Make your characters do something.

What bugs me sometimes is that these poor guys in the stories only walk, sit, stare and speak. Really, people. Sometimes the girls sigh. From time to time someone screams.

Correction: Make them do something that makes sense AND is connected to what they did before.

What I mean is that the characters are people. They should do stuff, even when they are discussing weather or planning a strategy. Make them pick their noses when they forget themselves, roll their eyes, tap fingers, snort, yawn, blink, even stomp around in a fit of nerves. Just make sure what they do is more or less consistent with the context (don’t make a girl yawn and then be bright and sunny in the next sentence OR make someone sit down as a picture of serenity and start screaming out of a blue – of course not applicable if you’re describing a mental asylum).

Paying attention to what they say, the faces they make, the movements around the room/table/field will make the story more fluid and more connected and not just a bunch of disjointed paragraphs.

Also, don’t make your characters do things totally out of character (unless you lampshade it properly by someone else commenting on weird behaviour). Try to redo or describe better necessary weirdness. One of the most common means of furthering the story is someone (preferably a young lady) running out of the room/house and collapsing by the nearest bench/pond/window for our hero to save her or whatever is on his agenda. Make sure her behaviour, EVEN IF DISTRESSED, makes sense.

Yeah, I’ve written a “run out, fall down, be almost ravished” scene myself. When I was 16. It seemed like a good idea at the time and I had no other way of making Her see Him finally. Which was a totally lame way of progressing the events, now that I re-read it.

Pearl 2: Don’t make them do single-action, separate things.

Don’t fill in every gap in dialogue by someone doing a separate action.

“Ugh” she said.

He walked to the mantle.

“I’m not very sure” he said.

He picked something up. He turned it around and put it back on the shelf.

“I’m very sure” she said.

She stood up. She threw blanket behind the sofa.

You see? Awful. Like something from a kid’s book. Make longer sentences. Make things connected with each other. “She stood up, throwing the blanked behind the sofa she’d just vacated” makes this description much more dynamic.

Pearl 3: (from a recently-read P&P fanfic)

For God’s sake, whatever you do, don’t let them run into a soliloquy.

When they talk, let them talk, and by this I mean exchange information. If one person just blurts all their innermost thoughts in a 4-paragraph soul-searching and mind-wrenching expose, all others would normally flee or faint. Don’t make them do this. Let them have a bit of dialogue.

In the case of this specific story, Wickham spewed the whole “Darcy sucks” story in the VERY FIRST SENTENCE to Elisabeth. Well, PARAGRAPH, not a sentence.

Now, monologues are OK. if you’re a Danish prince (and even then they are a bit pathetic), but for normal people (with normal fiancĂ©es) it is not the preferred method of communication. The preferred method is, in fact, the exchange of ideas. You say something, I answer/comment, you do something, I open my fan, you stomp, I criticise and so on and so on. Mix a bit of movement into the dialogue and let it be an actual dialogue and not an exercise in a debate club.

Written by Srebrna

2014/07/24 at 00:04