Write Lightning is a blog from writer Deb Thompson.
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Mon, Oct 02 2017

Unseen characters

We recently had a chance to attend a live music performance with friends. It was all wonderful, but one of the songs was a duet in which the male singer was supposed to be apart from his female partner for the first part of the song, coming out into the open only later in the piece. There was brief joking between the conductor and the male singer, and then the singer put a hand on the fabric-wrapped tent pole as if he was hidden behind a tree. We all laughed because he was perfectly visible, but he managed to make the situation work with his voice, acting skills and his body movements as he finally came out from behind the tree that wasn't really there at all. We were with him. We were on his side.

When we tell stories, we sometimes elect to omit certain details about a character until later in a story. Sometimes it works better to keep certain details in the forefront of the reader's mind. At other times, revealing those details in a sudden moment well into a story can enforce sympathy/empathy. It can even give the reader more reason to dislike a character. We might not let the character give us this information, but instead let other characters' dialogue or the action itself spell out the added details.

In the case of our singer, we had to allow him his moment of breaking character in order to give us enough information to understand his placement in the scene and to pull us a bit closer into suspension of disbelief so that we could go on to enjoy the rest of the performance. It's similar to the sort of thing an actor does when they turn abruptly from their placement in a scene and proceed to speak directly to a live audience or a camera (or twirl a mustache to elicit boos, in the case of a villain in a melodrame). It often startles us, but it's also very effective in taking us to new heights in terms of accepting the truths behind the story.

posted at: 15:02 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

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Stealin' copy is as bad as horse-thievin'
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