Working on a novel revision, I realize that I need to refocus the relationship between two characters. The question is where to start.
Grand Entrance for Your Character
I once heard the late Sid Fleischman talk about the importance of giving a character a Grand Entrance. Think about a stage play, where a character sweeps onto stage commanding the attention of the audience. It’s a first look at the character and sets the tone for everything that follows.
Actions. First, I’ll look at the action verbs. A story is almost always contained in the verbs. Too many “to be” verbs (is, are, has, had, am, etc.) and the story is flat, uninteresting. Action verbs characterize and I want to sharpen the characterizations while setting up the relationship differently. It’s not that the ACTION — what the character DO — will change much. But the meaning of the actions will take on a different tone.
Sensory Details. Likewise, the choice of sensory details will be crucial: visual, auditory, tactile, gustatory (taste) and olfactory (smell). For example, if you want to talk about a romantic relationship, you might describe a guy with these details: musky smell, soft curly hair, rough baritone voice, brush of his lips and –well, let’s forget the taste one for now.
On the other hand, a more platonic relationship might be sweaty smell, greasy hair, clear voice, firm handshake and –well, taste just doesn’t work here, either.
I’ll be looking at the actual choice of words carefully. I don’t expect that the scene’s actions will change much, but the reader should get a very different feel for the character relationship.
Of course, all of this relates to a slightly different tone set up in the relationship. Tone is that underlying attitude that characters have toward something that comes out in the language choices of the writer. I don’t want romance here, but an honest, growing friendship. I’ll use action verbs and sensory details to change that tone in this scene of Grand Entrance. If I can nail it here, it should act as a touchstone as I revise the rest of the novel.
From Rejection to Acceptance
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