Okay, this week, I seem to be on a moving kick (get it? moving? kick? no? wait–I have more…). I’m learning all sorts of interesting things about the way my human brain works while my human body is in motion or standing up, versus sitting down, and I’ve started noticing the movement of my characters as well.
This might be a mite more technical and “under the hood” than I usually get–most of the time, Worldbuilding Wednesdays are more conceptual–stuff to think about while you plot or draft. I’m a big advocate of the school of thought that says you can only “teach” so much writing up to a point, and the best way to learn is by doing. But putting my own body in motion made me more aware of which words I choose to convey my characters in motion. “She stood and walked over to the door” conveys a lot of actions…but at the same time, it drags. “She left the room” goes a lot snappier.
Depending on your own personal writing style, and the style of the story you’re writing (and neither of these, in my humble opinion, can be taught–they have to be discovered the same way you discover your own stride), you may want to opt for the former. You can evoke a rich tapestry of imagery and intentionally slow a scene down for effect by choosing different words for your scene “blocking.” There are writers who do this very well. I’m one of those writers who starts out this way, though, but the stuff that I write does not lend itself to ponderous fits of wordiness describing motion.
I put characters in action situations–the last thing I need for the pacing is to slow things to a crawl while I describe how she rose from the chair, spied the door, and put one foot in front of the other in its general direction until she reached it, then moved her hand to the knob and turned, then pulled on it. Unless it opens with a push and she’s going to be mortified by not being able to figure out a door.
Humor is also a good reason to opt for the long-winded. “SLOWLY I turned…STEP by step…INCH by inch…” until, eventually, you find yourself on the banks of Niagara Falls defending yourself from a tale-telling stranger who’s beating you to death before the end of the story, and worse–crumpling your hat.
Specific blocking of scenes in description can mean the difference between being able to portray something physical in the way you want it, and having it flop. Also, as a side note, you can get a LOT of unintentional humor in, say, a love scene, if you’re not clear on your blocking–or how many hands you’ve got and what they’re doing. 😉
By the same token, short comedy beats can be a lot funnier. Especially if they’re paired with a verbose straight-man to the short-beat of the punch line. Witness the effect from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” rendered here in Danish Plastic Awesome.
Links for the Long-Winded
Abbott & Costello