Becoming and Blocking

 

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I love:  becoming.

Through writing, I can become other characters in situations I would never experience in real life.  Perhaps this is why fanfiction is so pervasive.  We long to enter those existing universes, whether Dagobah, Gotham or Sunnydale, and live vicarious adventures along with Luke Skywalker, Batman and Buffy Summers.

Inventing my own worlds is even more satisfying, because I don’t have to follow someone else’s rules.  With a police procedural there are certain realities I can’t escape even using dramatic license.  But my current WIP has a supernatural element where anything is possible.  Fantasists should know all about this.

My theatrical experience makes me more likely to approach a character the way an actor would, by thinking about motivation, gestures, etc.  I’m still learning how to incorporate these traits into a story in a meaningful way.

I’ll even rehearse dialogue, speaking it as I wash dishes or clean house, if I have a particularly sticky exchange to work out.  People don’t talk in books the way they do in real life.  Writers should leave out all the ums and you knows.   Reading/speaking your dialogue helps you make sure it conveys the right information and doesn’t sound stilted.

So maybe in real life, I’ll never run away from the cops, or fly on gossamer wings, or save Batman from the Joker (or Joker from the Batman!).  So what?  I can do it in my stories.  Anytime, anywhere.

——

I hate:  blocking.

Mostly used in stage plays, blocking is establishing movement and spatial proximity of characters.  Who stands where, where do they move?  Can Bob hear Margaret from downstairs?

Let’s say you’re writing a book and you have a scene going on inside a house with multiple people moving around at the same time, such as a party or emergency.  You need to establish where they are in space.  If the scene has no dialogue, like a fight, it’s even more important.

I found when writing a pivotal sequence in Rose’s Hostage that people could not do what I had pictured because the inside of the house looked waaaaaay different in my head than it would have in real life.  Like this:

Drawing by Elizabeth West

The red X’s are stationary people.  Blue is Libby, purple is Joshua.  They had to come from upstairs, which isn’t even in this drawing!

This is only a fraction of what goes on in that sequence, and it’s toward the end.  I had to move people around so they couldn’t see or hear each other at certain moments.  It helped that it’s an older house with narrow doorways.

But the real-life layout severely restricted the characters’ movements, while in my head they had a room the size of a gymnasium. I feel for stage managers and directors.  I’ve done this theatrically and it SUCKS.  I’m damn good at it, though, I must say.  That doesn’t mean I like it.

I recommend making a diagram like this if you can.  It’s much easier to block the action.

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4 thoughts on “Becoming and Blocking

  1. Blocking gets exponentially more difficult with every additional character you add to a scene. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t given away my Barbie collection–would have been handy to have them around to help me block scenes.

    Enjoyed the post — thank you!

    • LOL oh I never thought of that. You know, I love to make miniatures. I should make some little room mock-ups of my settings and move some clothespins around in them or something.

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