Seven: Who Went Where?A Lesson by Meredith Greene
The Importance of Scene & Character Direction.
Scene and dialog 'directions' are a bit difficult to get right. Verbosity is easily attained, but even worse is a bad habit of under-describing what is going on. In the latter case the audience is left hanging without a clue of where the character is located, where they are looking, who they are talking to or how they got to a particular location in the first place, let alone the 'why'. In a more movie-prone culture, the concept of word-borne-direction takes a back-seat, so to speak, for on a TV-screen or Movie screen the audience can see all the pivotal information for themselves, thus rendering the Shakespearean narrator rather unnecessary.
Happily, books are a different animal than film. Due to the rather unique facet of requiring only sight--or hearing if read aloud--to be enjoyed, books can retain all the former lessons learned by great writers past and subsequently are the fuller for it. The fact remains that despite the advances in cinematic technology, 90% of the time a film adapted from a good book is still not as good as the book itself.
Regarding direction, please remember that it is unbelievably easy for a writer to forget that they, themselves, see the book from beginning to end... but the reader does not. The writer knows how the main character got from A to B in their own mind, but when the scene is written the reader may wonder aloud "How did they end up there?"
A great deal of direction problems emerge in the form of "who said what", where the reader is confused about which character said which line of dialog. Writing dialog seems at times tedious, mostly due to the increase in punctuation required and also the number of times one writes: ‘he or ____ said/inquired/responded/yelled/etc’. However, despite the deceptively mundane aspect of all these ‘so-and-so said’ tags, they are quite important.
For example, in a rather recent and popular supernatural teen book series there is a scene in a hospital room where several characters are standing; at times, the reader loses track of who says what, simply because the writer either forgot to attach a name to the dialog or simply omitted to do so in order to save on the word count. There are also times when the main character narrows her eyes at someone but we don’t know at whom this gesture is directed; we can guess but clarity is conspicuously absent from the prose, repeatedly; such is the epitome of lazy writing, where the writer has not bothered to paint a clear picture for the reading public, for whatever reason of their own.
To avoid the lack of--or incomplete--direction in your book, consider your scenes and the actions of your character as if you cannot see at all; a person without sight needs more details than ‘she went over there’ in order to picture the scene correctly; your readers have similar goggles from which to view your scene, armed only with the information you have injected into your prose. Thus, viewing your scene in a ‘sightless’ manner allows the writer to grasp how important direction is, which details are necessary and which can be safely omitted.
Added on August 31, 2011
Last Updated on August 31, 2011
AboutAuthor, columnist, freelance writer, book reviewer & poet. I review non-fiction books for The San Francisco Book Review & The Sacramento Book Review publications. Read my free course Top Ten Ti..