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Character, Scenes, Dialogue
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Q



Joined: 19 May 2004
Posts: 297
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Chuck Palahnuik has the coolest reveal style. A snap shot here, an ironic comparason there, a cloth swatch, a quirk...put in sparingly from chapter to chapter letting the blanks fill in slowly. Like he's holding the camera, using extreme close ups in a couple of areas and maybe one wide shot where you can make out blurry shapes.

The slow reveal, Jinga-style.
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Post Mon Aug 09, 2004 7:03 am   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Goudron



Joined: 03 Aug 2004
Posts: 2570
Location: near Cleveland OH
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chris wrote:

Yes, of course it's possible to not describe the protagonist, it's been done, but I can't think of a good example right now. Wait...

Oh yeah, Lamb. (Although he did have a name.)


Now see, I didn't even recall reading descriptions or not reading descriptions of any characters in Lamb, but I have a picture in my head of what everyone looked like. I'm guessing that's a good thing, so good job Wink
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Post Mon Aug 09, 2004 9:30 am   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
john palmer
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a character description strategy  Reply with quote  

quoting author guy:

- what I think is unfair is to describe a character after you've let the story go too far. I remember reading a novel by T.C. Boyle called Water Music about 20 years ago, where the narrator tells the story, and he's some sort of gun-bearer or other African-type servant to the Bwana main character, and at about 100 pages or so, he sort of casually mentions that he's short and weighs like 300 lbs. I was so pissed off. I had already formed a complete picture of the character in my head, and that wasn't it. Anyway, Boyle is an awfully good writer, so I assume he did it for effect, and not by accident, but the effect was that it pissed me off, and I didn't trust the narrator for the rest of the book. (That's a bad thing, by the way.)

Personally I get nervous about putting in too much description of a character too early. I'm afraid that it will slow things down too much and that the reader won't remember the guy's height, weight, etc. anyway unless it's something really unusual and hooks in with the action somehow, so what I've been doing, most of the time, is to use little hints to nudge the readers' perception of the character in the direction that I want it to go, so that there will be no clash when some details come out later. Really obvious example: someone who "lumbers" out of a room is going to conjure up a different picture in the reader's that someone who sidles, or scampers.

Just a thought...


john palmer

Post Mon Aug 09, 2004 8:38 pm   
chris
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Joined: 02 Mar 2004
Posts: 3833
Location: People Republic of Northern California
Re: a character description strategy  Reply with quote  

john palmer wrote:


Personally I get nervous about putting in too much description of a character too early. I'm afraid that it will slow things down too much and that the reader won't remember the guy's height, weight, etc. anyway unless it's something really unusual and hooks in with the action somehow, so what I've been doing, most of the time, is to use little hints to nudge the readers' perception of the character in the direction that I want it to go, so that there will be no clash when some details come out later. Really obvious example: someone who "lumbers" out of a room is going to conjure up a different picture in the reader's that someone who sidles, or scampersr


Sounds good to me. Yes, descriptive verbs are a good thing, but if you're using descriptive verbs you're probably in third person and can say something like, lanky, or dark, or something people can cling to. I'm not sure it's ever good to stop the action to describe a character unless another character is really looking at them, or unless you are showing off. (And I am the last person in the world to tell you not to show off. I'm all about showing off. ) If you have a copy of Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash around, read the open description of the Deliverator -- the bulletproof pizza deliver guy. It's brilliant, and although it's fairly detailed, it accomplishes a lot. (I'm going from memory, so it may not be that detailed, but I rememberthe impact it had years later, so it must have been good.)

Ahh, here it is, on Amazon, click through until you get to the actual first page of the book: http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0553380958/ref=sib_dp_pt/002-8226432-9058442#reader-page

Post Tue Aug 10, 2004 1:44 am   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
palmer



Joined: 30 Mar 2004
Posts: 1324
scene and sequel  Reply with quote  

chris wrote:
Look, I'm loathe to critisize Mr. Brown...The pacing is good, but...You can't argue with over 8 million copies in hardcover.


I'm going to try...

I hope you'll pardon me for editing your post so ruthlessly.

I read a book on writing -- Scene and Sequel, I think it was -- that dealt with just about every plot pacing trick you can shake a stick at, so far as I know, and Brown used them all! It kept me turning pages like a motherfucker, but it did not leave me satisfied.

I wonder if one can become too obsessed with writing a "page turner"?


John Palmer

Post Thu Aug 19, 2004 7:59 am   View user's profile Send private message
Lauren



Joined: 07 Mar 2004
Posts: 1582
Location: Massachusetts
absolutely  Reply with quote  

Quote:
From John Palmer: I wonder if one can become too obsessed with writing a "page turner"?


Oh, yes. Yes they can. And publishers eat it up and encourage it. I see so many books that we describe as "gripping, fast-paced, keeps you turning pages"... Which pretty much means I won't read it. (Huge exception: Michael Connelly.) I'm a snob about "commercial fiction" because I feel like it gets dumbed down. So many books out there could be so much smarter, but the author writes for people with the attention spans of gnats. Grrr.

I bought the Da Vinci Code to see what the hype was all about. I enjoyed it for the story, the chase and the mystery, but the writing itself annoyed me, for all the reasons we've discussed here - dialogue, characterization, and - like you said, John - plot pacing devices. Dan Brown did *something* right, because a lot of people liked the book.

I can also tell you that Random House did a very smart thing - not only did they get their own sales reps talking about it, they mailed ARCs to reps at *other houses* and got them talking. This book had legs before it even hit the shelves.
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Post Thu Aug 19, 2004 8:49 am   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website AIM Address ICQ Number
Mercureality



Joined: 01 Sep 2004
Posts: 18
a lot of people like...  Reply with quote  

A lot of people like a lot of things that are functionally crappy, or poorly done. Pop music springs to mind - we've recently seen a parade of interchangeable teenish blonde pop-stars. They don't have much talent, nothing to offer but whats been offered in abundance before, but they're marketed well. Unfortunately, marketing and craft really don't have to travel hand in hand. In fact, they are often found peering at each other over muddy foxholes and waiting for the rush through no-man's land. It's pretty rare that good books, or music, or art - get the marketing nod. It's easy to shove twinkies down the throats of the culinarily uninitiated, as the average consumer is hardly a practiced gastronome. People would rather have contempt for 'elitists' because it's easier to deride someone who has developed a complex appreciation for something than it is to invest the effort into developing same appreciation yourself.

If enough highly visible people say that something is good, then the populace will believe that it is good, and they will read it/watch it/listen to it because everyone else is, and they can take pride in their 'good taste', having supped at the grand table everyone else is feasting at, and making the appropriate appreciative noises. Even if they're eating tripe.
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Post Sun Sep 19, 2004 6:59 pm   View user's profile Send private message
Kate R
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DaVinci Code  Reply with quote  

I read the DaVinci code before there was all of this super-hype about it, and I just remember being wowed at the information in it - one of the reasons I loved Fluke so much. When I was a kid I used to read a lot of Nancy Drews, and I thought it kind of read like that, with the main character being all super-sleuth and infallible. My brother, who hates to read, loved that book, and all of Dan Brown's books because they're simple like that and read more like a movie, which is probably his appeal.

Post Tue Sep 20, 2005 5:56 pm   
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