Sun 24 Jul, 2022 09:17 am
Writers: Do your characters saunter? How often do they do that? I've decided to allow them to walk, prance, or whatever. Not comfortable allowing them to saunter. I used it a time or three in my first western novel but came to regard it as cliche and lazy to use. It never occurred to me to use it in non-western writing.
I don't think I've ever used the term in fiction writing.
This feels a lot like dialog tags, where the more varied they are, the more they draw attention to themselves. And with dialog tags in particular, the less conspicuous they are, the better.
So I feel that, unless it matters to the story (i.e. limping, running, jumping, and sidling are different because they mean different things from walk), I just go with walk. No strolling, no ambling.
And there's always "sashay"!
Only along the promenade with an independent air.
For a lot longer than I want to admit I had no idea how to move my characters about. How to get them into or across a room, for instance. It presented to the narrative a wall that had to be gradually overcome with subsequent rewrites until it had to be left alone. I can't tell you how many hours I spent working at it. Reading other writers didn't help that much because I was slow to catch on.
She flounced out of the room.
She stormed out of the room.
She edged out of the room.
She crept out of the room.
I like these descriptors
You could always say things like: He crossed the room to the armoire... He made his way over to the ....
He made his way over to the ....
That's one I used too much. I only spotted it when proof reading.
Yeah... it helps to write out a list of alternatives to what you feel you over-use.
I edited scientific journal articles and grant applications for several professors for about 20 years and it's more difficult to be precise there. When they say something is 'commonly' found or whatever, you can't just substitute 'usually', for example. There are certain terms/words that are acceptable. They really just have to rewrite their sentence so as not to use that term. It's tricky and takes a lot of thought.
I edited scientific journal articles and grant applications for several professors for about 20 years...
I didn't know that. Editing technical reports and instruction manuals was always a dream of mine...mostly because so many of them are abominable.
He minced his way into the spotlight.
He moseyed out to the coral.
He shuffled up to the podium.
He slunk into the night.
He snuck into the pantry.
I hope none of the 'abominable' ones were edited by me! ha ha - actually, it was a dream job - I loved every minute of it. The problem is, however, ever since, I edit everything I read.
We read about writers on drugs or alcohol who produce great works. When I first undertook to write I drank a lot and smoked. I began dozens of stories but couldn't finish one. What worked for me was quitting the alcohol and tobacco, but only once I adopted a healthful diet. That didn't make me automatically a good writer. But suddenly I could complete stories, even some begun fifteen years before. There was still much to learn. I am about to turn 80 in less than two months and I'm still learning.
He slipped on the banana peel sliding across the newly-waxed floor concussing on the opposite wall.
It might be a bit much unless this is Family Guy.
yes but do they long or yearn?
They are about average and they are not mine.
How do you determine how much detail to include in a scene? Do you paint an elaborate picture or do you allow the reader's imagination to fill it in?
I got kicked out of Goodreads. It's okay, because I found that it's too much bother to do what they expect an active member to do. For some years I've just been going there to rob quotes for my Daily Quote thread. The other day I tried to log in, but they requested I change my pin number. They said they sent a code to my email. But there was no code. After repeated tries on different days I concluded they don't like me no more.
It depends. Making a brand new world with a brand new alien species means there's got to be a lot of detail. But it also means that at least a few things are recognizable in some way. So maybe the alien squeaks like a mouse or has skin the color of Juicy Fruit gum. Something—so the reader isn't lost.
Locations which are well-known need very little introduction. 2019 Chicago? Just get the characters on the right street.
Locations which are known but the time is far enough in the past or the future? Then they need more. So, your 2099 San Antonio now has a space elevator to the moon. Or your 1833 London has someone leading a lame horse by the bridle.
For describing people, I used to fall into just going with hair and eye color. But of course we're all a lot more than that. I've also been working to not info dump. So -- here's a character.
She got up and stretched, running her fingers through messy bottle-blonde hair with steel gray roots about four centimeters long.
And here's a different one (different universe). I can tell it needs editing.
Lowell’s guest wore a black silk top hat with a black band, and a matching suit and shoes, with a black cloak thrown over his suit. Ceilidh could see neither his tie nor his face, though, as he was wearing a white silk handkerchief in front of his face. She saw light blue-gray bloodshot eyes but nothing else of his face. For a moment, she thought back to her first day in America, to the Civil War veteran, the man with the gruesome facial wound, the product of a minié ball, most likely. So perhaps the guest had a similar wound? It seemed as plausible an explanation as any. As for his attire, she considered the last person who she had seen attired in all black, the first mate on the Atlas, Mr. Quill.
She put on her bravest face and her sincerest-looking smile. “How do you do, sir,” she said, making sure her faked English accent was as authentic as she could make it. “My name is Katherine Lee Charles. Please call me Kay, sir.”
He barely acknowledged her presence, just inclining his head slightly. She glanced at Lowell. “Sir,” she asked the judge, “does our guest speak the English language?”
“He does.” Lowell turned to the guest. “You’ll have to remove your hat at some point. So you may as well do it now, and get it all over with.” The guest shook his head, and turned away. “And you should speak as well. Kay here is a model of discretion. You can trust her to neither repeat nor gossip about anything she sees or hears, either here or in your chambers.”
The guest turned back to them and put his hands up to touch the front of his hat and handkerchief veil with bony, veiny fingers. She swallowed and steeled herself for what she was sure was to come. The guest slowly and carefully removed his hat and veil, revealing a close-cropped head of steely gray hair, short sideburns, and a lined face, all bony and angled. While he was a bit corpse-like in aspect, he had no facial injuries at all. The veil seemed utterly unnecessary.
It depends is also my answer. In Taking Census I give as few details as possible. I don't even describe the main character, except to note at the end that his normally purple face has turned white. I love this one but haven't gotten anybody else to agree with me.
In The Moloch Eaters I take a completely opposite tack -
It is evening of a long, trying Sunday. Driven by insomnia, driven by my acute isolation, I spend hours walking on the beach after sunset, toiling like a bug over the deep Long Beach sand. A toenail clipping hangs over my shoulder. I ramble on to Toenail Clipping, about bad teeth and bad food, complaining that the rent’s too high, or my blood pressure’s too low. He makes a good companion, this sliver that is the moon. He never talks and never gives with heavy sighs when I go on too long about a particular subject. I suppose it’s rather mean to call him “Toenail Clipping.” He doesn't mind. I call him anything; he sticks with dog-like loyalty. He just wants to hang. But, unlike a dog, he lacks the power to alert me should someone move up behind me.
I spin, alarmed, because I hear the padding footsteps of someone jogging toward me from the water’s edge. I freeze, weighing the situation for possible danger. We see a gangling figure of a male start to flail his arms as he plunges into the dry, soft sand. He gets in my face in the time it takes to slow and quit wind-milling those arms. By then it’s too late to throw up my hands to block him. He gets nose to nose and stands panting. I discern big square teeth, a great mustache, a swarthy grin. “I’ll be damned,” I tell Toenail Clipping; “it’s Doc Ramos.”
I first met Doc on the campus of Long Beach City College, with the initial attraction being that we both wanted the same girls. But, the politics caught us up. After only a few months we simply walked away from there, caught up in a quirky time. We were off to be two clowns playing the cosmic circus of the 60s - albeit clowns with sad overtones and urgent unfunny messages. We went East to base our operations in New York. There, we got tear-gassed and incarcerated, but life was grand and we did make our statement for brotherhood and ending the war. Along the way we blew a little pot, but prided ourselves on being clean otherwise. When the days of protest drew to a close we went our separate ways. He developed a passion for Mexico. I eased into the sediment here on the coast.
Doc draws me into an embrace. “I missed you, Denny the wizard,” he says through his teeth, looking into my eyes with eyes as black and bottomless as the holes of time.
“Me too,” I add stupidly.
We pause, each waiting to see where we go from here. Doc’s panting is slowly easing. He looks at me in an odd little way that says he’s heard of my doctor’s prognosis, but he doesn't know whether to mention it. I catch my gaze on the great ship that’s moored directly behind him. It’s the Queen Mary, secured as close to the shore as practically possible. I see pensive, patient Toenail Clipping high over the Queen Mary, waiting in vain for me to rejoin him. I slide my eyes into Doc’s sad stare, feeling a bit sorry for him. “Don’t worry, Doc; I’m holding stable. I've a few alternative programs to sample yet.”
Doc shakes his head. “You’re going to lick it.”
“Yep; I am. Let’s go to my place. I've got to piss.”
“Hang it out here.”
“We’ll go to my place.”
“You writing lately? I don’t see a new book in nearly three years.”
“I have pieces of books in boxes. Hell, I’m no good for work anymore. I’m living on savings and dribbling-in royalties. What brought you to Long Beach?”
“Looking for you, Denny the wizard; looking for you.”
“Until the first of February I lived in L.A. How did you know to come here?”
“I wrote to your brother to find out if you’re kicking. He told me how you've taken to always walking this beach.”
“After thirty years, you just came to visit?”
“Well -” Doc stops in his tracks and jambs a cheroot between his square teeth. He chips a wooden match with a thumbnail until it ignites. My eyes ride the flame to the cigar tip and down the shaft to Doc’s teeth. I notice how stained those teeth are, and that there is a chip out of one. When I last saw them they were still white and clean, in gums that held them as steady as posts in concrete. I note the creased face, the loosening jowl, and I realize, he has aged, same as me. We are both sixty-plus. Two old fucks with broken teeth. I clap his shoulder as he moves ahead again.
We scale a grade that peaks against the gray wall of a sidewalk. We gain that plateau with its high street-side curb and go left to cross Long Beach Boulevard at the intersection.
“So; how’s Mexico?”
Doc chews the cheroot, meditatively. “Painful; desperate; beautiful; maddening; inspiring - It’s very spiritual.”
Doc flips his smoke into some palmettos growing in front of a stucco building. The building’s outside lights go on. Despite what Doc has said, I privately conclude that it’s something more than a simple visit that brought him here.
Doc goes on about Mexico. “Me? I don’t work. I am like an itinerant preacher. I roam the country, talking about the same things I did during the protest days, only adapted. At first it was hard. They thought I was a lazy hippie. They didn't trust me. But I was running with Anglos so much I forgot how to be with my own people. So I told them that. I humbled myself to the most menial existence until they felt pity and began to like me. Now when I come to a town the poorest of the poor offers to share everything they have with me. There is so much need there. Sometimes I have to leave there and that’s the hardest part. I got to recharge the batteries, Denny.”
“Do the authorities bother you?”
“Oh, yeah. I spent ten months in jail. But they could never find me guilty of nothing. So, they let me out.”
“You’re the only one that hasn't changed, Doc.”
“That is where you are wrong. That’s a bunch of bull. You’re still the same. You just got disconnected.” Doc takes a turn in front of me and stops. “Do you have a car, Denny?”
“I have a Taurus wagon.”
“You know, you don’t look too good. How do you feel?”
“Aw, I’m all right. There’s a certain strain to being alone in this. But I’m okay. I’m strong.”
Doc digs in his shirt pocket, fishes out another cheroot and fiddles with it. It’s nearly too frazzled to be smoked.
“Doc; why are you really here?”
“Seriously - I have to get home, to be with Mama before she dies.”
“What are you planning to do; hitchhike?”
“I got on the phone with Dale and Carl. They want us to stop on the way to see them.”
Dale and Carl. Our two running buddies from the days in New York. Now they both are married to twin sisters from Fresno and are living there. I don’t know that we have anything in common anymore.
“Us?” I shake my head. “Don’t count on me, Doc. I don’t go anywhere. Anyway, I can’t think when I got to piss.”
“Yeah; let’s get on to your place. Now I got to piss too.”
We approach from the driveway, coming up to the Taurus. It sits, dappled by a mercury light that shines from above through a chinaberry tree growing too close to the house. Heavy dust hides most of its sheen. It appears in the darkness to be black, but in fact it’s indigo. It’s so neglected looking because it is. Doc runs a hand across the hood, streaking the dirt. “I got here by bus,” he says, wiping the hand on his pants.
My house is old, with falling gingerbread, peeling paint and crumbly shingles on the low pitched a-frame roof. Too much rain and humidity are ruining all that wonderful craftsmanship. The landlord seems not to care. Inside, the house meets one’s expectations, if they are not high. The sheet vinyl floor shows wear where the sub floor is loose. Dirty beige walls , low ceiling, with a fan light that strains to exude a yellow glow. I’ve furnished with gaudy furniture and outlandish do-dads to counteract the depressing pall.
Doc quick strides ahead of me to get to the commode first, unzipping and pointing in a fluid motion so that an unrestrained stream begins to flow into the pot.
Crap! My bladder’s sides strain like a water balloon. “Hurry, Doc; I can’t wait any longer.”
Wordlessly, Doc keeps pissing.
“Doc - ****.”
I power walk through the kitchen. The doorknob rattles when I give it a violent turn. I throw the door open; then, in the fenced-in enclosure, where a barbecue pit is nearly lost in an overgrowth of weeds, and the nasty little mosquitoes whet their vampire noses, I hang it out. At last, the piss flows, to a chorus of warbling angels.