Sunday, 1 April 2012

B is for...

Bangs, Booms, Brawls and other short lived but generally brutish events in our writing. I would call them moments of action, but that’s entirely the wrong letter. I suppose my question to you is what you do with events that are, in real life, generally not nicely spaced out the way a narrative demands?

Think about it. An explosion, blast or other sudden event is often over in a fraction of a second. Far less time than it takes to read. Certainly far less than it takes to write. Even the average bar fight is not going to last for minutes, but for a matter of seconds. If you don’t believe me, watch one of those ‘world’s …iest’ programmes on TV. There might be a lot of talking before and after, but the actual violence lasts seconds at most.

So how do we spin that out for half a chapter? The old ‘it seemed to last forever’ trick is part of it, but even that is just a part of a wider point, which is that it is often what is going on in the characters’ heads that is more important than anything. If time seems to be slowing down for them, or if they are noticing an abnormal amount of detail (by which I mean that you’ve gone into an abnormal amount of detail) then that tells us something about them, rather than just what’s happening.

The other point that this demonstrates is that writing is not real life. Yes, I know, it’s fiction, but even in non-fiction, it’s not real life. It’s a representation, through which you’ll show all kinds of things and make all kinds of points. Mine (I think, this has rather got away from me) is that the next time you write a blast, a brawl, or any other brief moment that nevertheless runs to several paragraphs, ask yourself why you’re doing it, and exactly what effect you’re trying to achieve by doing so.

6 comments:

Christine Rains said...

Interesting post. I have a lot of those moments in writing. I never thought about the fact that in real life, they would be very brief, but they could last a whole chapter in a book.

Francene said...

I like this example. You're quite right of course.
We should drag the moment before on ...
Band!
Drag the moment after on ...

L.G.Smith said...

I think I run off on brief blasts all the time. :)

Jaimee Hunter said...

I see your point, Stu. I had a mental picture of No. 5 speed reading all of the books in Ally Sheedy's house (random 80's movie reference) while reading your post. Thank you for sharing!

Dawn Embers said...

Very good topic for today. You really gave me something to think about. I can't think of any examples in my current writing but I'm sure I could find some and may add this in my notes to consider for editing/rewriting. Nicely put.

andi-roo-pookins said...

@Jaimee --- Johnny 5 is alive! :)

Stu, as a new writer I very much appreciate your action tip. Something to consider (what am I trying to do here?). Thanks!

Andi-Roo /// @theworld4realz
http://www.theworld4realz.com/
theworldforrealz@gmail.com