Sunday, April 22, 2007

Technical Topic -- Buffer Words

There's stuff we don't have to say.

what is described in visual terms, the POV character saw.
Every sound mentioned ... the POV character heard.
All thought and opinion happened in the POV character's head.

We can, if we wish, leave out the 'buffer words' like, 'he saw', 'she noticed', 'he felt', 'he came to the conclusion that', 'he remembered', 'he decided', 'it was his opinion that'.

– The crocodile turned lazily in the bathtub.
instead of ,
He saw the crocodile turn lazily in the bathtub.

– Lightning hit the citadel,
instead of
He heard lightning hit the citadel.

– She combed the werewolf's long brown hair,
instead of,
She decided to comb the werewolf's long shaggy hair.

 – This eggplant is a major mistake,
instead of,
He just knew this eggplant was a major mistake.

– Nobody made seaweed biscuits like his mom,
instead of,
He'd always believed nobody made seaweed biscuits like his mom. 

– The alien landing in '87 was just this bad,
instead of,
He remembered the alien landing in '87 was just this bad.

– She opened the knife drawer.  She must carry a knife tonight.  A large sharp one.
instead of
She opened the knife drawer.  She decided she must carry a knife tonight.  A large sharp one.

By leaving out 'buffer words' we streamline the prose. We connect the reader directly to the experience of hearing, seeing, touching, smelling.  We put the reader so deeply in the POV the character that the character becomes, herself, invisible.  We refrain from reminding the reader of the vessel of perception.  The reader becomes that direct vessel, perceiving the fictional world without buffer or intermediary.

If it matters that someone heard or saw or reached out towards ... we can add this. And if we have not been helpfully informing the reader that, 'Hey, look, Inga is seeing this or hearing this'  ... the reader will now perk up and take notice when we say 'Inga heard ...' The act of hearing has just become significant.

1 comment: