Monday, January 23, 2017

Techincal Difficulties // your readers should need shock blankets

I live! So school has been eating my life away, more or less. I could give you all the normal, but unfortunately true, excuses for my absence.


 Did You Miss Me? #Moriarty #Sherlock Series three just ended and I already can't wait for series 4!!!!!!



 But let's not dwell on my absence and instead talk about writing.

Because writing rocks.

["Ashley, what the heck is your title doing?!"
What makes you think I know? I certainly didn't put that there. . .
Yeah, okay, I did. *Moriarty shrug*
Just go with it.]

Let's think about those scenes wherein the character is startled by something. A thing happens without forewarning. You know, suddenly. I often see the surprise given away through the wording.
Like this

Before Darcy could reach the door, it opened and slammed her in the face.

Or worse

Darcy was about to open the door when it opened of its own accord and slammed into her face. 


The words "Before Darcy could" clearly indicates that SOMETHING is going to stop her. And whenever you read a sentence worded with "[someone] was about to [do something]," you know that the character will not go through with what they are "about to do," or else the writer would've had the character "do it" instead of "about to do it." Something is going to interrupt the character, good or bad, small or big, funny or scary. The unexpected is going to happen.

"Ashley, why does that matter so much?"

Well, now we're expecting it. And if we're expecting it, it's not so unexpected anymore, is it? 

"Okay, yeah, but we don't want to jolt the readers."

 Darcy reached for the door. The knob turned by itself, and slam! Darcy staggered back and cried out. Tears blurred her vision and pain throbbed in her nose.


 Literally me. Between 26 seconds of new Sherlock last night, finding nearly naked Hiddleston pics from Only Lovers Left Alive, and the upcoming announcement tomorrow regarding the New Doctor, I'm a fangirl mess!


Why not shock or "jolt" the readers?
[I hate that word, "jolt." But it's commonly used by writers. Whyyyy?]

If you want to give the reader the POV character's experience, then why warn the reader? You're not going to warn the character. If the character is shocked, then shock the reader. Sure, they'll experience some confusion at first, but then so will the character. And as things clear for the character, things will, or should, clear for the reader too.

It's okay to jolt your reader, to take them off guard. If your intent is to have them experience the story firsthand like your characters, then do it. Especially if you're writing close POV. 

Just make the surprise happen like surprises always happen. Without preamble. 


 .


Mildly related to this, be wary of using "suddenly" often. [It's a small pet peeve of mine. So I'm totally not biased.] If something happens suddenly, then there ought to be no time to say "suddenly." Using "suddenly" is a bit like telling us how it happened instead of showing us how it happened. You know?

But as always, there's two sides to this. Maybe you don't want to give the reader the POV character's immediate experience. Maybe you're writing in omniscient POV. Maybe you want to distance your reader from the character. Maybe you want the reader to observe the character's disorientation with full knowledge of what's going on. 


 .


In such cases, giving the readers warning signals might work to your advantage. 

It's not about the right way to write, it's about the right way to write your story. [Which is how we should view most writing "rules." You know, if you ask my small opinion.]

In my last post, I considered writing about the advice I usually give when beta-reading. But instead of writing some post with an odd number of points on it, I could just break it up into multiple posts. You know, and have a writing tips series titled Technical Difficulties because I have no idea why other than it sounds cool. So yeah, this is that. Hope you liked it! Good day. 


I have this insane desire to get an orange blanket to wrap myself in while I watch The Empty Hearse for the first time. I think I will need it...:


What do you think? Is it okay to surprise the reader in some cases? What you do you regularly do to warn the reader or not warn the reader? Any tips?

12 comments:

  1. Oh, this is great! I never even thought about this, but I'm going to keep it in mind for my own writing. I agree, you *should* jolt the readers if the POV character is jolted! Like you said, obviously there are exceptions, but if you're trying to make your reader experience things through the character, then this is great advice, and your example with the door was so much better with the slam! Yeah, it's disorienting for a moment, but that's because it's disorienting for the character too!

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    1. Awesome! I'm glad you liked it! XD I'm glad you liked the door slam example too.

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  2. I do this way too often. Showing instead of telling, or giving things away too soon.
    I like how you gave writing advice and merged it with Sherlock, inspired!

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    1. Haha XD Sherlock is the best way to convey any kind of advice, right? Glad you liked it!

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  3. Hmmm, you know I've never even thought about this. I'll have to look over my MS and see what I've been doing, because I haven't really been paying attention. (Oops.)

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    1. Yeah, I don't often pay much attention during the first draft either. I just throw words at microsoft word and it underlines everything in red. The editing stage is when things get serious. *smirks*

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  4. Yes! I completely agree. Whenever I write 'suddenly', it always sounds so ingenuine and removed, sort of. I think the audience loves to be in the present with the narrator. Whenever I use 'suddenly' and other warnings like that, its mostly when I'm writing in third-person - I guess first-person feels more personal?

    I heard of this thing called Psychic Distance, by John Gardner, like narrative distance. I think the 'shock' factor (I don't really like the word 'jolt' either, I always picture an electrocuted horse) can only be preserved in close narrative distances when phrases like 'before she could...' are removed. Great point. :)

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    1. Right, warnings like that work when you want to distance the reader. Like in most third person. (So I regularly prefer close third person because I'm weird.) Gosh, yes! Warnings in first person do feel so ingenuine. Because how could a first person narrator KNOW unless he or she is telling the story in retrospect?

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  5. Oooh I like this! And I agree *nods* it's best to not tell the reader what's coming. And I had to break myself out of the habit, because I think it's like a subtle one most of us writers fall into and don't even realise? I do it SOMETIMES though. I don't think it's something to be totally eradicated. But I do hate the sentences are like "but it didn't happen how she thought it would" BEFORE we see what didn't happen. Like, no. Let us discover the story. No spoon feeding.

    Also A+ sherlock gif usage. :D

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    1. I totally agree! It is a very subtle thing that most people don't realize. And yeah, it's not something that needs to be annihilated with a fire torch. Some of it's good, just at the right times and in the right doses, yeah? Agh, I do hate spoon feeding.

      Thanks you! ;)

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  6. I love this. I definitely prefer to be shocked by the writer rather than warned that something is coming. Great writing tip and welcome back!

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    1. Me too! I love when authors shock us! And thank you. :)

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