How much detail?

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  • #16
    Re: How much detail?

    GucciGhost: The scene in itself is just a detail. Story goes something like this: Main Character has been forced into exile. He has been given the name of HOUSEOWNER and been told to visit him. He also has a password to make himself known. But he is in a foreign city and knows nothing about HOUSEOWNER. Finally he has found the right house. He has been knocking on the door but nobody opens until the row in the street brings HOUSEOWNER out and gives Main Character a chance to say the password, which will have effect.

    ComicBent: I rewrote some stuff according to your advice:

    Two carts moving in opposite directions meet just outside the house. The alley is too narrow and with a crash their wheels hook onto each other. A loud argument erupts.

    DRIVER A
    What in hell are you doing?

    DRIVER B
    Back up, you blockhead!

    DRIVER A
    Can't you see the street is too narrow?

    DRIVER B
    It's your ****ing cart that's too wide! There are rules about carts, you know.

    MAIN CHARACTER goes to the door, lifts the brass knocker and lets it drop. A small hatch opens and half a face is seen, hostile eyes staring at him. Before he can say anything, the hatch slams shut.

    The row between the drivers continues in the street. They are getting angrier. A small crowd has gathered to witness.

    DRIVER A
    Your mother was a hamster!

    DRIVER B
    Now that's a criminal insult! You all heard him!

    MAIN CHARACTER drops the knocker again, harder. The hatch opens, a snort can be heard, and it closes again.

    People in the crowd are cheering the drivers on. The noise is quite loud.

    DRIVER A
    You're the criminal and I'll have you before a magistrate!

    DRIVER B
    Good, then you'll have to pay for the damage to my cart!

    Again, MAIN CHARACTER raises his hand to the knocker, but before he can touch it the door is thrown open, forcing him to jump aside.

    In the doorway stands HOUSEOWNER, an enormously fat man, red-faced and angry. He shouts at the two drivers, shakes his fist.

    HOUSEOWNER
    Stop this riot immediately! Get yourselves away! Or I'll have you flogged in the town square!

    The drivers go silent, look at HOUSEOWNER for a moment, then resume their shouting match.

    DRIVER A
    There, you see! You're causing a riot. Back up before the city watch get here!

    DRIVER B
    No, I'm gonna wait until that old nag you're using as a horse drops dead. Shouldn't take more than a minute.

    HOUSEOWNER walks to the nearest cart and rocks it so forcefully that the driver falls off his seat, into the dirt.

    The crowd and the other driver cheer and laugh at him. The fallen driver grabs some mud from the street and throws it at the other driver, who climbs down. They start a fist fight.

    HOUSEOWNER shakes his fist at the drivers.

    HOUSEOWNER
    Scoundrels and hooligans!

    He turns around and goes back into the house. Just as he closes the door, Main Character shouts:


    Better?

    Comment


    • #17
      Re: How much detail?

      I still don't super get this.

      You're not gonna like my thoughts because I think you have some major problems here. Take 'em or leave 'em, but I touch on a few.

      Two carts moving in opposite directions meet just outside the house. The alley is too narrow and with a crash their wheels hook onto each other. A loud argument erupts.
      Opposite direction implies they're moving AWAY from each other. It should be something like "Two carts barreling toward each other, neither man slowing." You could play with this to make it sing more "Old English road rage" or something. The other stuff I bolded, you don't need it. You don't need to tell us an argument erupts, we'll figure it out when they begin YELLING.

      What in hell are you doing?
      Look out for wasted lines we don't need and that say nothing. Go straight into the argument. That line is implied by their actions.

      It's your ****ing cart that's too wide! There are rules about carts, you know.
      Did they swear in Old English times? I don't get that choice considering the rest of your dialogue is so mild.

      Are there rules about carts? If so just tell us what they are. "The rule of the land is your cart must be no wider than the width of 3 cows." Or whatever. Get specific. And use the language they would use.

      MAIN CHARACTER goes to the door, lifts the brass knocker and lets it drop. A small hatch opens and half a face is seen, hostile eyes staring at him. Before he can say anything, the hatch slams shut.
      Once I got to here I'm like "Wait why are we not seeing this from the protagonists POV?"

      Your mother was a hamster!
      Was this a common insult back then? It doesn't super strike me as funny if that's what you're going for.

      Between this argument the HOMEOWNER continually raises a knocker. Isn't the knocker on the outside of a door? Your framing here has me confused about the location of this character.


      Stop this riot immediately!
      This is not a riot. A riot would be if the towns people all picked up sticks and stones and began pummeling each other and the buildings around them and starting fires etc. You correctly state in the next line that it's a "shouting match."

      They start a fist fight.
      You don't START a fist fight. "A fist fight breaks out." Or "A fist is thrown." Or "A brawl erupts."

      Your narrative and dialogue are very, very mild. Too mild and polite IMO. It's not jumping off the page. The dialogue could be much more witty and snappy. I'd take a serious look at it and think of ways you can make it do that.

      Ultimately, for me, this scene is far too long seeing as nothing really happens. This scene could be summed up as "Two guys argue and another guy tells them to stop." Okay, what is the payoff for watching this?
      Bruh, fukkin *smooches*! Feel me? Ha!

      Comment


      • #18
        Re: How much detail?

        GucciGhost: Thanks. Your grammar- and word remarks are right; I'm not a native English speaker and mistakes will occur. I don't quite understand what you mean by "seeing it from the protagonist's POV". Also, I'm not sure what you mean by that narrative and dilogue are "mild" - could you give me an example of how to make it hotter?

        Let me explain a bit more about the scene. Main character is trying to find a person (Houseowner) who can help him. He has directions and a -password- to let Houseowner know where he comes from. Houseowner is a rich man and something of a recluse.

        Main Character has found the house and knocks on the door, but some servant inside looks out through a hatch and thinks he is a beggar, because he has been walking for a week and is a bit dirty. So the hatch closes.

        He knocks a second time with the same result. The fight between the drivers in the street has only one function: it makes noise which annoys Houseowner and makes him come out, which gives Main Character an opportunity to identify himself with the -password-.

        But the brawl between the drivers is not important in itself. Any dialogue is there just to show that they are making noise. We don't really need to hear what they are saying, and the version I produced last night tends, I feel, to draw too much attention to them and their brawl.

        The scene has a humorous note in that Houseowner is somewhat ridiculous. Adding more dialogue for the drivers can add to the humor but, as someone remarked, makes the whole scene more like a Monty Python sketch. Even without the hamster.

        So I get back to the initial question: perhaps actual dialogue is not needed here. Or very little. I can change it so the crash between carts happens after Main Character has knocked twice, this will shorten the brawl and Houseowner can appear almost immediately after it begins.

        Comment


        • #19
          Re: How much detail?

          Merlin -- are you the real merlin --- because your posts are magic in that I don't understand how they're done or what happened.

          Comment


          • #20
            Re: How much detail?

            Originally posted by Merlin View Post
            GucciGhost: Thanks. Your grammar- and word remarks are right; I'm not a native English speaker and mistakes will occur.
            Gotcha.

            Originally posted by Merlin View Post
            I don't quite understand what you mean by "seeing it from the protagonist's POV".
            What I mean is that now that you've explained it more, everything we see should be from your main character's eyes. The first thing we should see is him walking up the road glancing at a "word" scrawled on say, a tattered piece of burlap (or whatever was common back then). He's glancing at various houses in a way that we GUESS that he's trying to find a particular home. But we don't yet know that this word mean to him. This gives you something to "pay-off later once you REVEAL that the word is a "password."

            Originally posted by Merlin View Post
            Also, I'm not sure what you mean by that narrative and dilogue are "mild" - could you give me an example of how to make it hotter?
            Mild... Like using the word "blockhead" and "hamster" as your insults, and just generally they way they speak. If you're gonna go this long on dialogue it's got to have witty twists and turns.

            Originally posted by Merlin View Post
            Let me explain a bit more about the scene. Main character is trying to find a person (Houseowner) who can help him. He has directions and a -password- to let Houseowner know where he comes from. Houseowner is a rich man and something of a recluse.
            I didn't GET that from your pages, due to your POV issue.

            Originally posted by Merlin View Post
            Main Character has found the house and knocks on the door, but some servant inside looks out through a hatch and thinks he is a beggar, because he has been walking for a week and is a bit dirty. So the hatch closes.

            He knocks a second time with the same result. The fight between the drivers in the street has only one function: it makes noise which annoys Houseowner and makes him come out, which gives Main Character an opportunity to identify himself with the -password-.
            I didn't GET that from your pages either. All of this needs to be made CLEAR to the reader. And if you MUST draw this out this way. You have to.

            1) Make it clear we're seeing it from the protagonist POV
            2) Make the dialogue HIT HARD (more witty, engaging)
            3) Pay it off.


            Originally posted by Merlin View Post
            But the brawl between the drivers is not important in itself. Any dialogue is there just to show that they are making noise. We don't really need to hear what they are saying, and the version I produced last night tends, I feel, to draw too much attention to them and their brawl.
            See where I'm going with that? Your own breakdown of your scene is basically "We don't need it, it's not important."

            There's GOT to be a POINT to EVERY scene. We have to NEED the scene or you should CUT it.

            Originally posted by Merlin View Post
            The scene has a humorous note in that Houseowner is somewhat ridiculous. Adding more dialogue for the drivers can add to the humor but, as someone remarked, makes the whole scene more like a Monty Python sketch. Even without the hamster.
            I'm not getting the humorous note. Gotta hit the humor harder and be more witty with it. And again, PAY IT OFF. How could you pay this off after you fixed everything else and COMPRESSED it?

            Here's one way. The HOMEOWNER could tell our guy "Those bastards do that every week." Twist our expectations while paying off the scene. You need something to button up every scene.

            Originally posted by Merlin View Post
            So I get back to the initial question: perhaps actual dialogue is not needed here. Or very little. I can change it so the crash between carts happens after Main Character has knocked twice, this will shorten the brawl and Houseowner can appear almost immediately after it begins.
            Yes, shorten it. Compress it, as is you put far too much FOCUS on it for it being irrelevant. Make the scene relevant and integral to the story.
            Bruh, fukkin *smooches*! Feel me? Ha!

            Comment


            • #21
              Re: How much detail?

              Thanks GucciGhost. What you say is wise. Again, I'm not a native and don't understand the meaning of "pay it off" in this context.

              Comment


              • #22
                Re: How much detail?

                Originally posted by Merlin View Post
                Thanks GucciGhost. What you say is wise. Again, I'm not a native and don't understand the meaning of "pay it off" in this context.
                You got it!

                Here's a bad analogy:

                Imagine a magician places a coin, a toothpick, an apple and a glass of water onto a table. Then he removes his hat, displays it to the audience showing that there's nothing inside. He places the hat onto the table next to the other items. He then bows and exits the stage.

                Now let's see the same scene "paid off"...

                The magician places a coin, a toothpick, an apple and a glass of water onto a table. Then he removes his hat, displays it to the audience showing that there's nothing inside. He places the hat onto the table next to the other items. This time he reaches inside the hat and pulls out a rabbit. He then bows and exits the stage.

                Now let's see the same scene compressed to remove elements we don't need/aren't relevant... and try to "punch it up!"

                The magician removes his hat, displays it to the audience showing that there's nothing inside. He places the hat onto the table. This time he reaches inside the hat and pulls out 3 carrots. The audience, shrugs "Meh..." Without a word the magician reaches back into the hat pulling out a rabbit, then another, then another. The 3 rabbits feed on the carrots. He bows and exits the stage.

                POINT: The "pay off" is the "pulling the rabbit out of a hat" moment of any scene. And notice that we removed elements that DISTRACTED us from his TRICK. Otherwise, the audience will assume these items come into play as being IMPORTANT. When we learn that those items were irrelevant we feel duped. Also notice that we play with EXPECTATIONS. People may expect 1 rabbit but not 3, yet in hindsight it makes sense it would be a rabbit.

                ps... the carrots are probably too big a foreshadow as to where it's going, but you get the point: Take away things we don't need, add things we do need, subvert expectations. Then compress.

                Hope that helps!
                Last edited by GucciGhostXXX; 09-24-2019, 06:00 PM.
                Bruh, fukkin *smooches*! Feel me? Ha!

                Comment


                • #23
                  Re: How much detail?

                  GucciGhost, thanks, I get it. This was exacty the conclusion I arrived at after writing the extended dialogue for the cart drivers: they are just a distraction and I'm giving them/it too much attention.

                  The "pay off" in this scene is the appearance of the Houseowner. To use your analogy, he is the rabbit.

                  Thanks all who contributed. This has been a learning experience!

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    Re: How much detail?

                    I'm going to add to the "pay off," conversation because it's actually a really great topic and a skill that EVERY writer needs to be able to execute well.

                    This is a two hander. There is always a "set up," and a "pay off." The main reason for set ups is to provide solid story reasons for an action happening within the story. In order to make an action, situation or incident "believable" and not "contrived," it has to have a good set up.

                    So if we set up a character skillset and they use it again later when they are under pressure it won't feel that it's all of the sudden and too convenient that the character can actually pull off the action. Every story has set ups and payoffs.

                    Examples from film:

                    THE MATRIX: Skillset set up and pay offs

                    During the training session between Morpheus and Neo, we are shown at length that the team has the ability to DOWNLOAD any skillset that can be accessed by the user inside The Matrix [Morpheus and team members]-- this is the set up.

                    Later, when they are trapped on the roof with no escape, there is a military grade helicopter on the roof. Neo asks, "can you fly that thing?" Trinity says, "I don't know, let's see, Tank?" Tank inserts the appropriate program, Trinity GLITCHES, and she says, "I can now." She gets in the helicopter and flies away. That's the pay off. The audience believes it, because it was set up previously.

                    Set ups and pay offs have a lot to do with story rules.

                    Here's an example of a dialogue where there are TWO story set ups and pay offs:
                    Set up one:
                    Morpheus tells Neo he is the one. "You have to believe." Neo asks, "Are you saying I can dodge bullets?" Morpheus, "I'm saying that when the time comes, you won't have to."

                    Set up two:
                    Morpheus tells Neo, "In the Matrix, if your body dies in there, it dies out here. If the mind believes you are dead, you're dead." This is a great story rule, because it establishes real danger and raises the stakes to life and death. If there was never any risk in the Matrix and our Heroes were invincible, we'd never really fear for their safety.

                    We see Neo on the rooftop as he faces off with Agent Smith in the famous "bullet time" scene where Neo does indeed dodge bullets. First pay off to set up one.

                    This scene has another pay off to set up two, Neo also gets shot, which is a pay off to set up two, if you die in the Matrix you can die in real life. The result is that we fear for our hero's life.

                    These two story rule set ups pay off huge at the very end of the film. First, we know that Neo does not believe he is the one. He has a final face off with three Agent Smiths and they annihilate Neo with massive amounts of bullets and he falls-- because part of the set up rule is, "When you believe, you won't have to dodge bullets."

                    As we watch Neo falter and finally lose his battle our emotions are so heightened that we DON'T KNOW if he will survive... he dies and this is the first pay off for set up two, but then he rises again. Trinity whispers in his ear that he can't die, because-- "the Oracle told me that I would fall in love and that he would be The One (another story rule). I love you Neo."

                    Back in the Matrix, to the astonishment of the Agent Smiths Neo rises from the dead and this time, when the mass of bullets come his way, Neo holds up his hand and stops the bullets mid-air.

                    Back on Morpheus' ship, Tank asks, "what's happening?" Morpheus responds, "He believes." And these are two VERY POWERFUL pay offs because they were so well set up in the context of the story world.

                    I'm not using EXACT word for word examples here, but you get the idea.

                    If your character needs to be able to fly a helicopter you have to set it up in the first act, or sometime well before the character needs that skillset.

                    Independence Day: Character set up and pay offs.

                    The heroes are an alcoholic crop duster, a President that used to be a navy pilot, and Will Smith's character flies the alien space craft because he is a fighter pilot who has experience in a dog fight with aliens. We believe they can do what the story requires because their characters are set up.

                    Interstellar: Story world set up and pay off

                    The story world rule establishes that if you travel in space both cryo sleep and a planet's gravity well WILL slow time for the travelers, while their families on earth will age exponentially faster.

                    Cooper promises Murph he will return and says-- "when i see you again, we might be the same age." Once we know the story rule about how time moves differently in different circumstances in the entire movie, our dread is amplified when they go into cryo sleep or when Cooper and his team are trapped on the giant water planet.

                    The first pay off is when Cooper returns from the planet and he receives the only message he ever receives from his daughter Murph. It's her birthday and she reminds him that he promised to return, and that today they would be the same age. It's heartbreaking. Then it's paid off again at the very end when Cooper is rescued from the tetris or whatever the construct was called, and he comes back.

                    The final pay off is that he keeps his promise and finally returns, but she is on her death's bed, an old woman having lived a full life surrounded by her own family. She survived her loss of her father and continued on to build a legacy that saves mankind. None of that could have happened if Copper hadn't left.

                    I think its a worthwhile exercise to look to film, screenplays and one's own work to examine set ups and pay offs and how to make them stronger and more effective to elicit an emotional response as much as establishing the story rules that work with the narrative to tell a well told story.

                    Every writer has a different process. When I rewrite, I take a red or blue pen to a hardcopy of my script and make sure that every story question I've created in the narrative has an answer and that every set up has a pay off or pay offs.

                    So if you need a character to do something in act 3, you have to set up that skill or rule in act 1.

                    Sorry for the long post.
                    FA4
                    "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      Re: How much detail?

                      Thanks for your teaching and analysis. At this point in my writing, I have a character who is set up in a couple of ways. His skills come in useful to solve some situations. But at the finale of the story, three important characters have turned against him. None of them can be defeated with the skills he has. I need to give him a way out of the trilemma, and one that needs to have been set up before. This will change the story. But now at least i know what I am missing.

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