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Telling yourself the story is the worst kind of trap because from your POV it works. All you need do is mention that such-and-such happens and the image rises in your mind, complete with ambience, history, protagonist’s motivation and mood, and all the things that make life, and your story, real. But does it do that for a reader? Take a single line, stolen from your story: “The curtain to the act closed and the conversations began.” You read those words and you’re there, viewing the scene from some personal viewpoint. You know, before you begin to read, if it’s opera or theater, highbrow or low. And that matters to ambience. You know if we’re in London or Dogpatch, and if the women in the audience are wearing wigs or cool-aid red hair. You know if the single person we’ll focus on is sitting in a box, in the nose-bleed section, or on a blanket in front of the town’s summer theater venue. How can a reader “see” what you see without knowing what you know? One single line of prose and you’re already diverging, sharply, from your reader’s perception of what’s happening. And because you’re not aware that you are, you’ll make no effort to correct the situation, but will proceed as if there’s a 1:1 connection between your personal visualization and a reader’s perception, gained from the prose. So when you say, “The conversations began,” you, knowing the society, the venue, and the performance, have context. But do I? The problem with intent is that it never makes it to the page. Only our words do, along with the emotion inherent to those words. So, we know why a character fees as they do, and how it shades their viewpoint and behavior. But to a reader, people we don’t know are talking about things that have no context from our own POV, and doing things for unknown reasons. So in answer to your question, I don’t think it’s necessary to think about the audience. I think it’s necessary to place that reader in the character’s mind so deeply that they know his/her world as intimately as you and they do, and know nothing but what that character is focused on in any given moment. The character lives in a tiny slice of time they call “now.” As we all do. And as a reader I’m not seeking to learn a fictional history, or read a chronicle of events. That’s nonfiction. I don’t want things explained, either. That’s boring. I want to fall in love, not hear that your protagonist did. I want to worry and I want to have someone to cheer for. I want to know what’s happening, not what happened. I don’t want to be told, “she heard.” I want to hear what she does, as she does. I want to know the character’s world as that character knows it, so I can analyze the situation myself and decide what I would do in their place. Then, if you’ve done your job well, that’s exactly what the character does, and I can say, “See? I told you so.” Or better yet, have the character do something I didn’t think of that makes me say, “Brilliant. I wish I had thought of that.” But read a transcription of someone telling themself a bit of fiction? Living the character’s life sounds like more fun ;–)
• The image in my mind never made it onto the page. But it really shouldn’t, for two reasons. First, is that if you use 1000 words all you do is give the reader a static picture, and a fraction of what the character sees in an eyeblink. You cannot, cannot, cannot give pictures on the page, and trying to do so is a rock on which many stories founder. But the second reason is the more important one: she isn’t paying attention. It’s her story, not yours. So why would I, as someone reading her story care that there are velvet chairs if she takes them for granted? Narrow the focus to what matters to her, specifically, what has her attention, what it means to her, and what she plans to do about it. Think emotion and reaction, not facts and plot points. So, you might say, “The curtain came down on act one and Lady Ashley leaned back in her chair.” That would tell me she’s relaxing. You could say, “The first act curtain dropped, and without the distraction of the singers/actors/etc., Lady Ashley’s thoughts turned back to xxxx.” Take a look at these two articles. They may help: http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/art/scene.php http://www.be-a-better-writer.com/scenes-and-sequels.html The first article is one way of giving the reader the feeling that there’s a scene-clock steadily ticking, to give the impression that time is passing in the story. For an illustration of how that works, I have a new short romance piece posted here: http://jaygreenstein.wordpress.com/2012/06/14/508/ It makes use of the motivation/response unit technique outlined in the first article, though if you’re not familiar with the technique that’s not obvious. What is, is that the scene clock doesn’t stop, and the action isn’t stopped for editorial comments or digressions, so as to keep the reader as an active participant, rather than simply a member of the audience, drowsing in the third row. • I wrote the story one scene at a time to seduce an investment banker I met online. With success I hope. But that aside, it sounds like an interesting basis for a story, especially if you add in that the banker is actually… Hmmm…
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