Sunday, December 04, 2011
Technical Topic -- Just a minithought on Show and Tell
I'd rather talk about basically the same concepts by calling them 'Here&Now' and 'Being Elsewhere'.
When the POV character is immersed in the sensory components of the scene or is involved in on-going action or is speaking dialog that deals with what's right there underfoot in the scene -- that's being in the Here&Now.
When the POV character is talking or thinking about stuff that's not going on at the moment in front of him, he's gone Elsewhere. The character does this when he's adding backstory or infodumping or describing what happened last week or to his cousin who lives in Altoona or thinking about what he might do in the future and stufflikethatthere.
John picks up the toast and bites into it, tasting jelly -- Here-and-Now
John burns his mouth on the hot coffee -- H&N
John remembers his mother made good coffee -- Elsewhere
John hits Maurice over the head with a hammer -- H&N
John sees Maurice fall down dead -- H&N
Three hours later John describes the murder to Mary -- E
John thinks about the morality of murder while driving home -- E
John is afraid he's going to get arrested and hides under the sink -- H&N
John buys bleach to clean up the murder scene - H&N
John and Thomas plan to bury the body --E
John and Thomas bury the body -- H&N
In general, I try to stay in the Here and Now of the scene, because that's where the story is happening.
It's all very Zen, y'know. If I stay with the POV character and he's immersed in what's going on around him, the reader gets to move through the scene and watch it unroll, event by event. Everything is solid, sensory, relevant to this fictive instant, logically successive in time, each emotion related to the next action, showing motivation that forms minute by minute. The reader is caught in a stream of events that pulls him along.
Whenever I take the reader Elsewhere, I relegate the experiences to second hand. I pull the reader out onto the bank to show him birches and willowtrees. They may be interesting, but they are static. He's plucked out of the story. No longer dragged along by it.
Somewhat, this is the difference between information and story action.
I get all philosophical here and ask myself about the nature of fiction.
The fictive experience does not lie in the knowledge of events. It's being part of the events.
That said -- there is a place for just plain laying down information. You have to do it.
But don't mistake conveying information with putting the character inside the ongoing story, which is your main objective.