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Watch those pronouns

Switch Blayde

I just came across this. It's the first sentence of a chapter.

When she did finally awaken from her nap, she stretched voluptuously and then glanced to the side of the bed.


If you don't want to confuse your readers, use a proper noun to orient them. Unless the reader just turned the page from the previous chapter, how would they know who "she" is?

robberhands
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

If you don't want to confuse your readers, use a proper noun to orient them. Unless the reader just turned the page from the previous chapter, how would they know who "she" is?

I didn't read it but as a reader I wouldn't mind as long as she is identified within the next few sentences.

I'm more confused about her activity. 'She stretched voluptuously'? How did she do that?

JohnBobMead

@robberhands

'She stretched voluptuously'? How did she do that?


Hard to describe, but you'd know it when you see it.

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@JohnBobMead

Hard to describe, but you'd know it when you see it.

Exactly! But I don't see anything. He/she could also have have written 'she picked her nose erotically'.

Switch Blayde

@robberhands

I didn't read it but as a reader I wouldn't mind as long as she is identified within the next few sentences.


I guess I'm more impatient? LOL

I had to stop and wonder who "she" was. I could have kept reading because her name was mentioned shortly, but if the reader has to stop, the author did something wrong.

Why not simply use the proper noun?

As to 'She stretched voluptuously', it's filled with adverbs and purple prose. It's from a novel-pocketbook. That's how they wrote back then.

robberhands
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

Why not simply use the proper noun?

Sometimes I start a new paragraph just like that, too. I do it intentional, and would assume the author of this story did so as well. Just for a short moment I want the reader to guess who the unidentified character is before I reveal it shortly afterwards. The purpose is to force the reader to imerge a little deeper into the story by engaging his imagination.

...she stretched voluptuously...

I hate such lines. It's the laziest form of writing. The author wants to convey a strong impression but all he invests is one blurry adverb.

Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

I just came across this. It's the first sentence of a chapter.
When she did finally awaken from her nap, she stretched voluptuously and then glanced to the side of the bed.
If you don't want to confuse your readers, use a proper noun ...

As an editor, if I came across anything like that as the first sentence of a chapter, or even after a scene break, I would certainly recommend that the first pronoun should be replaced with a proper noun.
Even if I agreed with the author's explanation that there was no possibility readers could be confused about who the pronoun referred to, I would reiterate my recommendation on the grounds that the relevant question is not 'will readers understand it?'; it is 'is there any reason for not using a name there instead?'

Dominions Son

@robberhands

Sometimes I start a new paragraph just like that, too.


Usually not a problem, but how often do you start the first paragraph in a new chapter that way?

Replies:   robberhands
Ross at Play

@robberhands

Just for a short moment I want the reader to guess who the unidentified character is before I reveal it shortly afterwards. The purpose is ...

As an editor I would say, "You know what you are doing. It is not my role to argue with your artistic choices." :-)

robberhands

@Dominions Son

Usually not a problem, but how often do you start the first paragraph in a new chapter that way?

I hope you don't expect me to go through everything I've written and count the scenes. I did start a new chapter like that a few times. 'A few times' meaning maybe three or four times in about a hundred written chapters.

sunkuwan
Updated:

@robberhands

Sometimes I start a new paragraph just like that, too. I do it intentional, and would assume the author of this story did so as well. Just for a short moment I want the reader to guess who the unidentified character is before I reveal it shortly afterwards. The purpose is to force the reader to imerge a little deeper into the story by engaging his imagination.


I hated this with Peter F. Hamilton. His novels have a buttload of different POV's. And if the setting doesn't gave it away in the first sentence, you could speculate which character arc this was for SEVERAL paragraphs.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Geek of Ages

I would replace the second "she" with her name (that is, the subject of "stretched"), because that's the primary clause of the sentence.

robberhands

@Ross at Play

"You know what you are doing. It is not my role to argue with your artistic choices." :-)

Yep, that's what my editor says as well, even with the same silly smilie at the end. If you find it laughable, just say so!

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

It's the first sentence of a chapter.

I agree with your point, but would add my opinion that authors should apply identical principles for the first paragraph after a scene break as they do for the first paragraph of a chapter.

REP

My first cut at Sauce for the Gander started out with 'She' being introduced as the MC's wife in a flashback, but not clearly identified. The last chapter finally identified 'She'. 'She' was not identified for about 12 paragraphs. The chapter was a dinner party where 'She' was the keynote speaker and I used those 12 paragraphs to set the scene.

My editor said the last chapter was a bad way to end the story, so I scraped that chapter and took the storyline in a different direction.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Ross at Play
Updated:

@robberhands


If you find it laughable, just say so!


My silly smilie was not meant to imply any continuing disagreement. I meant it to imply I was satisfied and genuinely had nothing left to say.

Switch Blayde

@REP

started out with 'She' being introduced as the MC's wife in a flashback, but not clearly identified.


I have no problem with being vague when it's called for, but in this case the reader was supposed to know who "she" was. And if you had just turned the page from the end of the previous chapter, you would.

But when you take a break from the novel, I would guess most people do it at the end of a chapter. It's a little different when you pick up the book again.

I would guess when you begin a chapter or scene, you should orient the reader as soon as possible as to who the POV character is for that scene (assuming 3rd-limited), the time, and the location.

I'm weak on the time because I don't detail that out in my head. So the next chapter could start the next day or a week later. I should pay more attention to that.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Wheezer

@Switch Blayde

When she did finally awaken from her nap, she stretched voluptuously and then glanced to the side of the bed.


Considering that voluptuous is a body type, I would think that anything the woman did, she would do so voluptuously - even if she were sitting on the toilet taking a crap. ;)

awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

I have to wonder why the author chose to put a chapter break there.

AJ

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Ross at Play
Updated:

I have no problem with the author using of "stretched voluptuously". The Ox. Dict. uses those exact words in an example sentence.

1 (formal) in a sexually attractive way with large breasts and hips
* She was voluptuously feminine.
2 (literary) in a way that gives or is connected with physical pleasure
* She yawned and stretched voluptuously.

Even for readers who are unaware of the word's second meaning, their imaginations will produce the effect the author wants.

Replies:   robberhands  Joe Long
Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

I have to wonder why the author chose to put a chapter break there.


I guess because it was a change in time. I don't remember, but she must have fallen asleep at the end of the previous chapter.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
robberhands

@Ross at Play

Even for readers who are unaware of the word's second meaning, ...

I am aware of the words meaning, but I dislike it nonetheless. It's lazy writing at it's worst. What does such a 'description' tell us? An author establishes someone as desirable and he further on only needs an adverb to attach to her actions and voila, she erotically sweeps the floor.

Replies:   Ross at Play
richardshagrin

@Switch Blayde

proper noun


If the character isn't "proper" She fits right in to most SOL stories. Maybe not the no sex ones.

Ross at Play

@robberhands

I dislike it nonetheless. It's lazy writing at it's worst.

What would you do instead? How would you convey the meaning "stretched in a way that gives physical pleasure"?

robberhands

@Ross at Play

What would you do instead? How would you convey the meaning "stretched in a way that gives physical pleasure"?

That's not the point. There is no scene in the history of literature which became erotic, sensual, or voluptuous because the author used such an adjective or adverb. Even the author of a story can't tell a reader what he has to find erotic. The reader decides what he perceives as erotic and an author can't force it by simply applying a label. Those adverbs/adjectives are useless in this context and thus superfluous and annoying when used.

When she did finally awaken from her nap, she stretched her voluptuous body and then glanced to the side of the bed.

That's the same scene but now the reader can decide if he finds the image sensual or not and no one tried to force a decision on him.

awnlee jawking

@robberhands

she stretched her voluptuous body


That's a longhand form of 'she stretched voluptuously' and, with the extra detail, leaves the reader with less scope to imagine their own erotic version of the scene.

I don't share your prejudice against an important part of the English Language, and I prefer the original author's version.

AJ

Replies:   Ross at Play  robberhands  REP
Ross at Play

@robberhands

Look up the second meaning in a dictionary!

The author was not providing a description of her body; they were providing a description of an action.
The word was not being used to mean erotic with large breasts; it was being used to show the action of stretching was being done for the physical pleasure it gave.

I compare this to your argument about the word diaphanous. In both cases the word chosen had the precise meaning the author wanted - but would probably oblige many readers to look up a dictionary to find out that meaning.
There are many less-obscure synonyms available for diaphanous. Can you think of any suitable synonyms for the second meaning of voluptuously - not what you continue to misinterpret it to mean?

My only question about the word choice is how much do I trust the author. If I trust they are not so incompetent they would describe a stretch as being big-breasted, I will realise I do not fully understand the meaning of the word, which may prompt me to look it up in a dictionary.

Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

she stretched her voluptuous body
... That's a longhand form of 'she stretched voluptuously'

No, they mean very different things. The word has a second meaning entirely related to giving physical pleasure.
My guess is that meaning has become somewhat archaic these days. I'm curious about when the book was written.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

suitable synonyms for the second meaning of voluptuously


sensuously: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sensuous

robberhands

@Ross at Play

not what you continue to misinterpret it to mean?

I don't think I misinterpreted anything. The author used voluptuously to describe her action.

Voluptuous: full of delight or pleasure to the senses ;conducive to or arising from sensuous or sensual gratification.

I described a body and simply used the same adjective. My focus was the reader's impression, not whether the woman derived any pleasure from stretching on her bed.

Compare it to a typical line you find in many stories. 'She sensually licked her lips'. Does it make it any more sensual because the author told you so? If the scene and context isn't sensual from the viewpoint of the reader, the adverb doesn't help. If the scene is perceived as sensual by the reader, the adverb isn't needed.

Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

I'm curious about when the book was written.


1972

robberhands

@awnlee jawking

I don't share your prejudice against an important part of the English Language ...

How did you come to this conclusion? I have nothing at all against the adjective; I criticize the use in a particular context.

awnlee_jawking

@robberhands

'She sensually licked her lips'. Does it make it any more sensual because the author told you so?


Yes. That's the whole point. Otherwise she could have been licking her lips because they were chapped.

AJ

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@awnlee_jawking

Yes. That's the whole point.

No, it's not; that's simply obstinate. The set up and context is what makes a scene sensual for a reader, not the use of a single adjective. 'She picked her nose' doesn't become a sensual act just because you attach 'sensually' as adverb to 'picked'.

Geek of Ages
Updated:

It is necessarily the case that something described as sensual by the narrator is meant to be sensual to the reader?

robberhands
Updated:

@Geek of Ages

It is nessecarily the case that something described as sensual by the narrator is meant to be sensual to the reader?

Everybody has a personal view on what he perseives as sensual, erotic, arrousing ... So, of course it's not neccessary. I'd say it's even impossible to achieve for an author. You can write about an observer or participant of a scene and happily use all those adjectives/adverbs to describe his impression.

But why labeling something as sensual when the reader can decide for himself if he finds it sensual? It's a prime example for telling versus showing with the added difficulty that there is no common perception for erotic.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@robberhands

Compare it to a typical line you find in many stories. 'She sensually licked her lips'.

I see a big difference.
The word 'sensually' there would, in many contexts, be redundant, and I would consider that lazy writing.
The word 'voluptuously' is providing additional information describing an action.

I described a body and simply used the same adjective.

If you are suggesting changing the adverb into an adjective makes a significant difference, I think that's complete crap.

My focus was the reader's impression, not whether the woman derived any pleasure from stretching

I think your focus changes what the author intended. I think their intent was to show she derived sensuous pleasure from stretching - not that it was erotic.

I actually think either indulgently or sensuously would have been better word choices, but I would not describe a less-than-perfect word choice as 'lazy writing of the worst kind'. The word means precisely what they wanted. If some alternative is better it is only because readers may assume they know what the word means when they do not.

robberhands
Updated:

@Ross at Play

If you are suggesting changing the adverb into an adjective makes a significant difference, I think that's complete crap.

No, I did not suggest that, and yes, it would be total crap.

I think your focus changes what the author intended.

Yes, and I explicitly stated it.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@robberhands

I understand your point now and have nothing more to say - except that this time the silly smilie does imply continued disagreement with your opinion. :-)

Geek of Ages

@robberhands

But why labeling something as sensual when the reader can decide for himself if he finds it sensual?


My question still stands: I'm challenging the underlying assumption of this question.

(Also, women read stories, too)

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@Geek of Ages

I'm challenging the underlying assumption of this question.

Then you have to tell me what underlying assumption that is.

Replies:   Geek of Ages
Dominions Son

@robberhands

But why labeling something as sensual when the reader can decide for himself if he finds it sensual?


Okay, show us how you would show lip licking being sensuous.

Geek of Ages

@robberhands

That when the narrator describes something as X, it is meant to be X to the reader.

Switch Blayde

@robberhands

when the reader can decide for himself if he finds it sensual? It's a prime example for telling versus showing


Just the opposite. Telling the reader it's sensual is telling.

Replies:   robberhands
Switch Blayde

@Geek of Ages

That when the narrator describes something as X, it is meant to be X to the reader.


I would agree if you change "describes" to "states." Using an adverb states it as fact.

Describing how she acts sensually without using the adverb "sensually" is showing and the reader has to come to the realization she's sensual.

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Dominions Son


Okay, show us how you would show lip licking being sensuous.


Sue walked up to him with the tip of her pink tongue peeking from between her lips.

"Do you know what I'm in the mood for?" she asked, batting her eyelashes.

Her tongue poked out again, this time swiping her bottom lip from one corner to the other leaving a wet glint.

Replies:   Geek of Ages  PotomacBob
robberhands

@Switch Blayde

Telling the reader it's sensual is telling.

Obviously - and that was my position all along. So why is it 'just the opposite'?

Replies:   Switch Blayde
robberhands

@Geek of Ages

That when the narrator describes something as X, it is meant to be X to the reader.

That seems to be an astute assumption, but what's the challenge? I don't doubt an author's intention, I doubt the efficiency of particular adjectives/adverbs to convey an author's intention.

Ernest Bywater

I'd rather watch the amateur nouns, because they're more fun to watch than the pros.

awnlee jawking

@Geek of Ages

If the narrator describes something as sensual, the reader is free to imagine whatever they like in order for it to be sensual. If the narrator goes into the minutiae of how they imagine the sensuality is implemented, they risk alienating readers who have different opinions.

AJ

Replies:   robberhands
awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

If you are suggesting changing the adverb into an adjective makes a significant difference, I think that's complete crap.


And yet time after time we see the view promoted on this forum that commonplace noun plus description (adjective) is good writing whereas commonplace verb plus description (adverb) is bad writing.

AJ

Replies:   Switch Blayde
robberhands

@awnlee jawking

If the narrator describes something as sensual, the reader is free to imagine whatever they like in order for it to be sensual. If the narrator goes into the minutiae of how they imagine the sensuality is implemented, they risk alienating readers who have different opinions.

I fully agree. If you use such adjectives as veils or in a short summary there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. For example:

'They spent a sensual night together' or 'He watched the erotic display of the dancers on stage before he left the strip club'.

However, many stories on SoL go into detailed description of sexual activities and use these adjectives/adverbs too - mostly redundant. I abuse the example Switch provided to emphasize what I mean: 'Her tongue poked out again, this time erotically swiping her bottom lip from one corner to the other leaving a wet glint.'

In cases like this, the adverb doesn't add anything to the scene; it's superfluous and rather weakens the impression the author intended.

If you replace in Switch's given example the entire sentence with 'she erotically licked her lips' you distort the structure of the scene - the first part written detailed but then suddenly using such blurry shortcuts.

Geek of Ages

@Switch Blayde

That's a ridiculous amount of purple prose to avoid a simple sentence. And ultimately give the reader less information—not to mention requiring other context clues.

Is she licking her lips to be sensual (since some people apparently find it so—I do not), or because she has dry lips, and the two points are meant to juxtapose against each other? (Assuming the eye-batting is also sensual, instead of her trying to get dust from her eyes)

What does the narrator (or, if the narrator is being omniscient-ish, the character whose thoughts are being narrated) think of the event? We don't know. We're left with having to guess at what anyone thinks about the situation.

You're describing events like a camera, not like a person.

awnlee jawking

@Geek of Ages

You're describing events like a camera,


Interesting you should say that.

The point of art is not merely to replicate like a camera but to interpret and emphasise - that's what the lecturer said on a Botanical Drawing Course, but I believe it to be a valid generalisation.

My initial inclination is that it applies to creative writing too.

AJ

robberhands

@awnlee jawking

The point of art is not merely to replicate like a camera but to interpret and emphasise ...

In fictional writing, the entirety of the story is a product of the author's imagination. The writing style used doesn't change it.

Replies:   Geek of Ages
Geek of Ages

@awnlee jawking

I think you and I are of a similar philosophical bent on this issue.

Geek of Ages

@robberhands

The writing style used doesn't change it.


It absolutely does. That's part of the discussion on Voice as it pertains to a narrator. The writing style differences between say, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time gave drastic influences in how the reader understands and reacts to the story.

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@Geek of Ages

The writing style doesn't turn fiction into factual reports. Using quotations to tear a statement out of context is bad style.

Replies:   Geek of Ages
Geek of Ages

@robberhands

No one is claiming it does make it a "factual report". You said that the writing style used doesn't change the story; I pointed out that such a statement is absolutely ludicrous.

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@Geek of Ages

In fictional writing, the entirety of the story is a product of the author's imagination. The writing style used doesn't change it.

That's the statement you partly quoted. Nowhere did I claim the writing style doesn't change a story. What you pointed out is a figment of your imagination.

Replies:   Geek of Ages
Geek of Ages

@robberhands

Here is the full quote:

In fictional writing, the entirety of the story is a product of the author's imagination. The writing style used doesn't change it.


It seems very much to me that the antecedent for that last "it" is "the story". So yes, that is what you claimed.

Switch Blayde

@robberhands

So why is it 'just the opposite'?


I was responding to:

when the reader can decide for himself if he finds it sensual? It's a prime example for telling versus showing


Because if the reader decides for himself (rather than be explicitly told) it's showing.

Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

And yet time after time we see the view promoted on this forum that commonplace noun plus description (adjective) is good writing whereas commonplace verb plus description (adverb) is bad writing.


First, not all adverbs are bad. But there are situations where they can be replaced with better writing.

Second, the use of adjectives should be minimized. Too much and you have purple prose. Sometimes they're not as effective as describing what the adjective represents. For example:

Instead of writing: "The tall man entered the room."

It might be better to show that he's tall, like: "The man ducked through the doorway as he entered the room. Everyone near him jumped back."

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

Instead of writing: "The tall man entered the room."


I don't see the adverb ;)

The man tallly entered the room?

(That's one for Ross - will CMoS etc permit an adverb made from 'tall'?)

AJ

Switch Blayde

@Geek of Ages

That's a ridiculous amount of purple prose to avoid a simple sentence. And ultimately give the reader less information—not to mention requiring other context clues.


It's not purple prose. Purple prose is flowery descriptions, like a lot of adjectives. It's showing.

Is she licking her lips to be sensual (since some people apparently find it so—I do not), or because she has dry lips, and the two points are meant to juxtapose against each other? (Assuming the eye-batting is also sensual, instead of her trying to get dust from her eyes)


It was a couple of sentences taken out of the context of the story. Showing isn't replacing one sentence with another. There would be a build-up to this that would let the reader know the intention of her dialogue, eyelashes batting, and licking her lips.

What does the narrator (or, if the narrator is being omniscient-ish, the character whose thoughts are being narrated) think of the event? We don't know. We're left with having to guess at what anyone thinks about the situation.


An omniscient narrator knows all so he could tell what she's thinking. Without that narrator, if the guy is the POV character, he doesn't know what she's thinking. That builds tension in the story. That's a good thing.

You're describing events like a camera, not like a person.


Exactly. That's what showing is all about. When you watch a movie, there's no narrator telling you what you're seeing. The viewer lives the story through the action and dialogue (the camera).

REP
Updated:

@awnlee jawking


That's a longhand form of 'she stretched voluptuously'


A woman may have a voluptuous body, but that does not mean she is stretching it in a voluptuous manner.

ETA: The OP stated she stretched voluptuously. That does not mean she had a voluptuous body.

Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

Instead of writing: "The tall man entered the room."

I don't see the adverb ;)


It was in response to:

And yet time after time we see the view promoted on this forum that commonplace noun plus description (adjective) is good writing


I gave an example of when it might be better not to use an adjective.

Crumbly Writer

@robberhands

I'm more confused about her activity. 'She stretched voluptuously'? How did she do that?

And from who's perspective? Who 'stretches voluptuously' for themselves? That's a perception from an observer, so it leaves more readers wondering who the hell is observing her than it would who she is. Is he a boyfriend, husband, perv, alien, or is he even a he?

By the way, I begin many chapters (but not books) this way, launching into dialogue before identifying who's involved. It's a way of 'engaging the reader quickly,' before introducing the details of the scene. In and of itself, it's not a bad technique, but it's an easy process to abuse.

Replies:   Geek of Ages
Geek of Ages

@Switch Blayde

Without that narrator


You can't have a story without a narrator. Even video stories have camera work, which takes over that role. What does the camera show or not show? What does it focus on? Same difference. (I hesitate to use "narrator" to describe that because in film, "narrator" refers to voiceover narration, which isn't very common these days, but crops up from time to time)

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Geek of Ages

@Crumbly Writer

who the hell is observing her


The narrator.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

A day late and a dollar-and-a-half short, once again, but ...

As to 'She stretched voluptuously', it's filled with adverbs and purple prose. It's from a novel-pocketbook. That's how they wrote back then.

There's a place for adverbs and 'prosaic' language, but this is clearly out of context. 'voluptuously' isn't something you do yourself, it's something an observer labels you with, so it's clearly not applicable here (i.e. the author had no clue what the word actually meant (or implied) when he wrote the passage, which immediately puts you on notice to beware of both the book and the author).

Crumbly Writer

@robberhands

Sometimes I start a new paragraph just like that, too. I do it intentional, and would assume the author of this story did so as well. Just for a short moment I want the reader to guess who the unidentified character is before I reveal it shortly afterwards. The purpose is to force the reader to imerge a little deeper into the story by engaging his imagination.

As mentioned before, I agree, but ... for any writing 'technique', there are generally ways to implement them. You rarely start a sentence like this with "she", as it does force reader to ask "Who the fuck is she, and why the fuck do I give a damn?"

When I use this approach, I jump directly into dialogue, only establishing who's speaking once they've established the context of their conversation (i.e. what issue they're discussing). However, you don't start with: "He called her". a third-person Omni narrator should KNOW who everyone in the story is, and unless the entire opening chapter was cut and pasted from another chapter, you'd expect the narrator to explain WTF was speaking!

Geek of Ages

@Switch Blayde

Exactly. That's what showing is all about. When you watch a movie, there's no narrator telling you what you're seeing. The viewer lives the story through the action and dialogue (the camera).


I think this is a fundamental philosophical difference, then. I think of film and prose to be extremely different sorts of media, and trying to make one like the other is folly.

In prose, the only thing the reader has is what the narrator provides. The narrator has to provide context and interpretation to give the reader something to latch on to.

In film, the camera provides that same context, but has the benefit of capturing body language and subtleties of gestures that lend to their interpretation without needing additional voice work.

Those additional visual channels are lost within prose. By necessity, prose has to fill in those gaps somehow.

For example, in a film, when someone raises a hand, you see the manner in which they did so, and the gesture they're making as part of that hand-raising, which allows for the cultural interpretation of that gesture.

Simply saying "he raised his hand" does not convey that much information in prose. On the other hand, "he raised his hand in a Nazi salute" does—and in a far more effective emotional way than spending a bunch of words telling the reader exactly where the character's hand is and what it's doing, and leaving it for them to realize it's a Nazi salute.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Geek of Ages

What does the camera show or not show? What does it focus on?


In a movie, that's a combination of the screenwriter and director. The writer writes it; the director interprets it. The author is that person in a story.

Replies:   Geek of Ages
Switch Blayde

@Geek of Ages

who the hell is observing her

The narrator.


No, the POV character.

Geek of Ages

@Switch Blayde

(Those were rhetorical questions to point out the parallels)

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

As an editor I would say, "You know what you are doing. It is not my role to argue with your artistic choices." :-)

It doesn't always help for an editor to argue how a story is written, instead it's better to 'advice' the author, so they realize what potential issues they're facing. Again, forewarned is forearmed. If you consciously decide to flaunt the conventional wisdom, that's very different from doing something incredibly stupid simply because you never knew any better.

It's easy to jump into dialogue: "Hello, is Nancy there?" However, you want to invoke curiosity, NOT confuse your readers. Thus you'd start by identifying the person, but then identify who the hell Nancy is later.

Geek of Ages

@Switch Blayde

Only if the narrator is following a POV character.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Geek of Ages

"he raised his hand in a Nazi salute"


When did I say that wasn't to be done?

Replies:   Geek of Ages
Crumbly Writer

@sunkuwan

I hated this with Peter F. Hamilton. His novels have a buttload of different POV's. And if the setting doesn't gave it away in the first sentence, you could speculate which character arc this was for SEVERAL paragraphs.

Which is why it's often more essential to establish the context before identifying the individual characters. Still, there's no cause to purposely confuse readers when there's nothing to be gained from it.

If someone answers the phone, they may not know who's on the other end, but when you say "She stretched ...", you're NOT starting with a dramatic element, there's NO mystery, and you're only showing you have no clue how to construct a scene.

Switch Blayde

@Geek of Ages

Only if the narrator is following a POV character.


It's always the POV character.

In 1st-person, it's obvious. After all, the 1st-person narrator is the POV character.

In 3rd-limited, it's the POV character. It's basically the same as 1st-person except for the pronouns. You tell the reader only what that character knows, sees, thinks, feels, etc. The scene is through that POV character. It can be an unreliable character. In my novel "Last Kiss," the boy is the POV character. In the beginning, the reader sees his gf's mother as a rich, stuck-up bitch. Why? Because that's how the boy (POV character) sees her. Then, through his interaction with her, he sees her differently so the reader sees her differently.

In omniscient, the POV character is the all-knowing narrator.

Geek of Ages

@Switch Blayde

When did I say that wasn't to be done?


It's an example of telling, not showing, which is what you've been railing against.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

I would guess when you begin a chapter or scene, you should orient the reader as soon as possible as to who the POV character is for that scene (assuming 3rd-limited), the time, and the location.

I had to look through a few chapters to find just how I approach it. From a recent (soon to be posted on SOL) story:

"So you'll be okay for the next hour or two?"

"Yeah, we'll be fine," Abe assured him. "Meg wants to scrub herself clean, which should take a while. After that, she's excited about going grocery shopping with the money you gave her."

Phil chuckled. "She's some kid. I thought she'd want to squirrel some away, but you'd assume she'd want ice cream and cake too."

This new chapter (#3) jumps directly into the action, even though there IS no action, but first establishes the context (they're discussing a meeting of some kind), establishes who the speaker is speaking with (more context) in the second line, and finally identifies the original speaker in the third. Most readers can figure out who's speaking mid-way through the second paragraph, but starting with an ongoing activity sucks the reader into the action. Something someone just waking up can't do!

It's not always about identifying the speaker upfront, but it is about establishing the context the reader finds themselves in.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I guess because it was a change in time. I don't remember, but she must have fallen asleep at the end of the previous chapter.

Probably in the middle of a love scene—or during a conversation central to the plot! 'D

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

What would you do instead? How would you convey the meaning "stretched in a way that gives physical pleasure"?

The verb is question is purely in the mind of the observer, not determined by the woman herself. So before you can use "voluptuously", you've GOT to identify who's observing her, even if you don't identify the woman herself (such as a scene where a peeping Tom is observing someone through a curtain). Otherwise, the word has no purpose in the sentence/paragraph/story. The word in similar to "interestingly". Interesting to who? Who gives a damn? Certainly not the reader, unless you give them a reason to care!

Replies:   Ross at Play
Switch Blayde

@Geek of Ages

When did I say that wasn't to be done?

It's an example of telling, not showing, which is what you've been railing against.


First, you don't show all the time.

And using an adjective like that isn't bad. I'm not even sure it's telling. I can't imagine writing a story without adjectives.

Replies:   Geek of Ages
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Okay, show us how you would show lip licking being sensuous.

"Sensuously liking your lips" implies an observer finds it sensuous, and the person doing the licking intended that effect. However, the advert is completely meaningless if we don't know WHO either party is, of WHY either finds it sensuous.

For many, watching a strange, fat, middle-aged broad trying on shoes in a shoe store is sensuous, but for most of us, it's boring as shit! At the same time, a woman sensuously liking her lips wouldn't be sensuous to a gay man. So identifying the observer and the observed is vital to using these adverbs!

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

who the hell is observing her

The narrator.

No, the POV character.

That's definitely NOT established in the passage, which is the point.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

The man tallly entered the room?
(That's one for Ross - will CMoS etc permit an adverb made from 'tall'?)

No, CMoS does not permit that. It says 'tall-ly' must be used instead - with a hyphen to avoid creating a word with three consecutive letters the same.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Geek of Ages

@Switch Blayde

First, you don't show all the time


I agree. And that means there are times when simply using an adverb to describe an action is perfectly okay, and not to be expunged in every instance. The more words you use on something, the more the reader focuses on it, and there are times when you just don't want to focus on an action, but provide it as backdrop.

Now, if all an author is doing is using verb–adverb constructions, then by all means, rail upon them to change. I'm not defending the poor writing that overuse brings. I'm simply pointing out that it's still reasonable in some cases to use, even when it's a subjective adverb.

As in many things, it's about balance.

awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

No, CMoS does not permit that. It says 'tall-ly' must be used instead - with a hyphen to avoid creating a word with three consecutive letters the same.


And I wallyly wrote it without one!

Thanks.

AJ

Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

The verb is question is purely in the mind of the observer, not determined by the woman herself. So before you can use "voluptuously", you've GOT to identify who's observing her, even if you don't identify the woman herself (such as a scene where a peeping Tom is observing someone through a curtain). Otherwise, the word has no purpose in the sentence/paragraph/story. The word in similar to "interestingly". Interesting to who? Who gives a damn? Certainly not the reader, unless you give them a reason to care!

I cannot be certain which, but those comments are either way over my head, or your argument has serious flaws.
I read it, and re-read it, and my smell test tells me you've probably taken a useful idea and pushed it to an extreme where it becomes absurd. It appears to me you are making assumptions about what matters to readers and I don't believe those assumptions are correct.
* *
I have a question for DS: are you aware of any evidence that readers give a damn about whatever it is that CW is saying is so important?

robberhands
Updated:

@Ross at Play

I cannot be certain which, but those comments are either way over my head, or your argument has serious flaws.

I think it's a matter of perception. CW, the same as me, looked at the scene in question from the viewpoint of an observer. You look at the scene from the viewpoint of the woman. The definition of "voluptuously stretching" allows both points of view. You view it as a self-gratification action of the woman on the bed. CW and I view the action as determined by an observer, not by the woman.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play
Updated:

@robberhands

I think it's a matter of perception.

Thanks for that comment.
It helped me understand but hasn't changed my conclusions.
I am trying to by like a wishy-washy agnostic regarding "show vs tell": I know I don't really understand, and I'm not sure I believe, but - just in case - I want to act like a believer, because I have seen the advice from so many whose opinions I trust.

Replies:   robberhands
Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

I have a question for DS: are you aware of any evidence that readers give a damn about whatever it is that CW is saying is so important?


The only reader I can speak for is me. For me at least, it would be a minor issue at worst.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Dominions Son

The only reader I can speak for is me.

Fair enough. Thanks for the comment.

robberhands
Updated:

@Ross at Play

I am trying to by like a wishy-washy agnostic regarding "show vs tell": I know I don't really understand, and I'm not sure I believe, but - just in case - I want to act like a believer, because I have seen the advice from so many whose opinions I trust.

Although it sometimes sounds like it, 'showing' versus 'telling' is no religion, so you don't need to believe in it. No story ever was written solely by 'showing', and even Victorian prose had elements of 'showing'. The taste of time apparently favors larger parts of a story in a showing style ( or technique, as Switch would call it). But how much of a story to write this way is anyone's personal taste.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@awnlee jawking

And I wallyly wrote it without one!

'Wallyly' is redundant. Non-wallies use 'wallily'.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@robberhands

But how much of a story to write this way is anyone's personal taste.

... AND, I suggest, should be dependent on the writer's experience.

I often have the feeling that experienced writers often forget what was needed to reach their current level of skill. They tend to advise others to do what they (try to) do, without thinking about whether it is even possible for others.
My guess is that the results are likely to be disastrous if an inexperienced author attempted Full Monty showing, and they're better off not bothering about it for parts of the story which are not essential to the development of their characters.

Replies:   robberhands
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

No, the POV character.
That's definitely NOT established in the passage, which is the point.


Sure it is. I'm not sure which "she" you're referring to.

In the novel-pocketbook OP, it's the omniscient narrator.

In the lip licking one, it's the POV character watching her.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
robberhands

@Ross at Play

I often have the feeling that experienced writers often forget what was needed to reach their current level of skill.

I'm certainly no experienced writer. I use 'showing' whenever I deem it favorable. It's my story after all. I don't think it's different from anything else you do with your story. Story plot, structure, characters, their development; all of your story is based on your decisions as the author. I don't think 'showing' vs 'telling' deserves more caution than any other decision.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
awnlee jawking

@robberhands

No story ever was written solely by 'showing'


The older classics almost exclusively tell rather than show. Showing is a relatively modern trend - I interpret it as a revolt against the 'history book' method of storytelling which, after all, is boring.

I'm quite happy with telling providing it doesn't come across as boring.

AJ

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

I cannot be certain which, but those comments are either way over my head, or your argument has serious flaws.
I read it, and re-read it, and my smell test tells me you've probably taken a useful idea and pushed it to an extreme where it becomes absurd. It appears to me you are making assumptions about what matters to readers and I don't believe those assumptions are correct.
* *
I have a question for DS: are you aware of any evidence that readers give a damn about whatever it is that CW is saying is so important?

No, I doubt readers will EVER notice the difference. But as authors, who feel obliged to use words correctly, it's important to realize the difference between an observers reactions and those that might exist with no observer (ex: "She picked her nose lazily").

The distinction is one which would only matter to scholars debating the meaning of words, but I think it still bears on the discussion, as I'd never use "voluptuously" without identifying an observer.

There's an implied 'intent' in the adverb (i.e. it's a teasing action), which without context, is largely meaningless.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


There's an implied 'intent' in the adverb (i.e. it's a teasing action)


My guess is it was intended to tease the reader.

Don't forget, it was an omniscient narrator.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Sure it is. I'm not sure which "she" you're referring to.

In the novel-pocketbook OP, it's the omniscient narrator.

Apparently, it's a personal issue for me, but I can't picture an omniscient narrator describing someone as "voluptuous", unless they're physically attracted to her. Again, there's a certain implied suggestiveness between the viewer and the observer in the term (which you won't find in a word like 'languidly'). If the narrator is lusting after the woman as the story unfolds, maybe. But if the narrator is supposedly telling the story years later, really?

But then, it looks like robberhands and I are reading more into the word than the rest of you are.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Crumbly Writer

@robberhands

I'm certainly no experienced writer. I use 'showing' whenever I deem it favorable. It's my story after all. I don't think it's different from anything else you do with your story. Story plot, structure, characters, their development; all of your story is based on your decisions as the author. I don't think 'showing' vs 'telling' deserves more caution than any other decision.

Re: the previous comment about author experience. Experience is what typically tells an author WHEN they can apply showing, NOT whether they should or not. That's an individual choice. Also, 'showing' is nothing new. The best authors in the 1800s were quite adept at showing, though their stories were much more detailed (more telling overall) than most modern stories. I think it was Mark Twain who first famously commented on both the value of showing and the dangers in using too many -ly adverbs. So it's certainly not a new writing phenomenon.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

I think it was Mark Twain who first famously commented on both the value of showing


Twain said: "Don't say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream."

Chekhov said: "Don't tell me the moon Is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass."

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

it looks like robberhands and I are reading more into the word than the rest of you are.

Look up a dictionary. The word has two quite distinct meanings.
One meaning is simply to indulge the senses, with no connotations whatsoever about anything erotic, sensual, suggestive, or being restricted to females. It is perfectly valid to say 'a cat stretches voluptuously'. My cats stretch voluptuously all the time.
I assume that is what the author intended here. The more common meaning of the word does not make sense to me the way it was used, but the other meaning makes perfect sense.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

One meaning is simply to indulge the senses, with no connotations whatsoever about anything erotic, sensual, suggestive, or being restricted to females.


One of the definitions of sensual is the same thing.

From dictionary.com:

adjective
1.
pertaining to, inclined to, or preoccupied with the gratification of the senses or appetites; carnal; fleshly.
2.
lacking in moral restraints; lewd or unchaste.
3.
arousing or exciting the senses or appetites.
4.
worldly; materialistic; irreligious.
5.
of or relating to the senses or physical sensation; sensory.

6.
pertaining to the philosophical doctrine of sensationalism.

Ross at Play

@Dominions Son

One of the definitions of sensual is the same thing.

That is irrelevant to the point I was making.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

5.
of or relating to the senses or physical sensation; sensory.

Alas, that's what I get for not checking the dictionary every time I post a forum message! I stand corrected. I still wouldn't use the term in that context, mainly because it has such a bad reputation from the cheap lurid porn from ages past, but it is a legit usage.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

I still wouldn't use the term (sensual) in that context, mainly because it has such a bad reputation from the cheap lurid porn from ages past, but it is a legit usage.

I wouldn't use 'sensual' in that context either. I would prefer 'sensuous' instead if I intended no sexual or erotic connotation.

This is what the Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage has to say about the distinction between the two terms.

sensual, sensuous
Sensuous was coined by John Milton in 1641 in order to avoid "certain associations"—to use the OED's phrase—of the much older word sensual. Sensuous seems to have existed only in Milton's works until Coleridge unearthed it in the early 19th century. Once it had been set in circulation, it became used quite commonly, and since its meaning was not far removed from some meanings of sensual, it began after a time to attract attention in usage books, many of which now distinguish between the two words.
The consensus of the commentators, from Vizetelly 1906 to the present, is that sensuous emphasizes aesthetic pleasure while sensual emphasizes gratification or indulgence of the physical appetites.
The distinction is true enough within one range of meanings, and it is worth remembering. The difficulty is that both words have more than one sense, and they tend often to occur in contexts where the distinction between them is not as clear-cut as the commentators would like it to be.

The definition DS quoted reflects the fact that the two terms are used interchangeably by some, but that does not mean that careful writers should not retain the distinction between them in their usage of them.

Joe Long

@Ross at Play

Even for readers who are unaware of the word's second meaning, their imaginations will produce the effect the author wants.


I was taking pictures at a football game last week. There was one lovely young lady sitting in the visitor's stands, and I had a shot where she had lifted her arms, hands behind her head, breasts thrust out and high - and she was looking straight at me. It is quite voluptuous - and out of focus, but I couldn't bring myself to hit the 'trash' button. It is one hot pose.

Replies:   JohnBobMead  Bondi Beach
awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

It's normally attributed to Chekhov, although another source suggests Flaubert, and it's possibly a reaction to the straitjacket of the Victorian narrative style of storytelling.

There's even a 'show don't tell' page on Wikipedia (spit).

AJ

richardshagrin

@awnlee jawking

And I wallyly wrote it without one!

So like Molly would be Mollyly?

Replies:   Ross at Play
garymrssn

@robberhands

'She stretched voluptuously'? How did she do that?


She stretched arching her back and pushing her breasts forward.

That is the image that comes to my mind. It is also the image that my Google Image search returned.

Replies:   BlacKnight
PotomacBob

@Switch Blayde

Ice cream! She wants ice cream! Now that I see that, I want ice cream, too!

Ross at Play
Updated:

@richardshagrin

So like Molly would be Mollyly?

Indubitably, if you need an adverb meaning 'in the same manner as Molly'. However, it would be 'Mollyish' if you needed an adjective meaning 'with characteristic(s) similar to those of Molly'. The situation is a bit different with the common noun, 'wally', which requires a change of the y to an i before appending the ly suffix, giving 'wallily' - but beware of doing that with the suffix ish: 'walli-ish', or horror of horrors, 'walliish', would both be very wallyish mistakes to make.

BlacKnight

@garymrssn

That is the image that comes to my mind. It is also the image that my Google Image search returned.


I just tried this, and got a baffling set of images related to the Soviet Union. WTF Google?

JohnBobMead

@Joe Long

It is quite voluptuous - and out of focus, but I couldn't bring myself to hit the 'trash' button. It is one hot pose.


Not all works of art are in sharp focus. Sometimes they are even enhanced by being blurred a bit. Sounds like you got a winner.

Bondi Beach

@Joe Long

It is quite voluptuous - and out of focus, but I couldn't bring myself to hit the 'trash' button.


Faster autofocus.* Stat.

bb

*Or nimbler fingers on the focus ring. Wide-ish angle and prefocus works, too. (Yeah, I know this wasn't a post on camera technique ...) It's a shame to miss documenting such direct voluptuousness.

Replies:   Joe Long
Joe Long

@Bondi Beach

Or nimbler fingers on the focus ring. Wide-ish angle and prefocus works, too. (Yeah, I know this wasn't a post on camera technique ...) It's a shame to miss documenting such direct voluptuousness.


I've got 35x optical zoom and 20 megapixel resolution. I need to study up on the different exposure settings. When I change to a new subject it does sometimes have problems focusing on the first shot, but is fine on subsequent, until I switch subjects again.

If anyone wants to see it drop me a PM. Everyone is fully clothed as it's outdoor, public photography.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Joe Long

I've got 35x optical zoom and 20 megapixel resolution. I need to study up on the different exposure settings. When I change to a new subject it does sometimes have problems focusing on the first shot, but is fine on subsequent, until I switch subjects again.

If anyone wants to see it drop me a PM. Everyone is fully clothed as it's outdoor, public photography.

With most things photography related, most photographs are handling blurring of images in post-processing (i.e. in Photoshop), rather than in how they take the photograph. Not only do you have more flexibility, but it's easier and you can correct it later if necessary.

With most camera autofocus, it's essential to focus on an object (rather than the overall picture in general, or the sky in particular). That should solve most of the initial autofocus problems, and also correct the overly dark images which might result.

Replies:   Joe Long
Joe Long

@Crumbly Writer

With most camera autofocus, it's essential to focus on an object (rather than the overall picture in general, or the sky in particular). That should solve most of the initial autofocus problems, and also correct the overly dark images which might result.


If all else fails, read the instructions.

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