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November 6th, 2005
06:29 pm
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A wordsmithing dilemma
I'm not officially participating in NaNoWriMo this year. I am, however, spending the month writing. I've been working on a TTU story off and on for several months now, and I was hoping I could try finishing it in lieu of penning a novel from scratch.

Now, I like writing. (I'm not bad at it, either, many would say.) Plain text can dance across the page as vividly as (insert bad metaphor here involving John Travolta or mariachis). Words, mere words, can spark imaginations and move people to dreaming. They're powerful things.

Sometimes, though, trying to communicate with them can strain your brain.

I have a clear and powerful idea of a particular scene I want to include in this story. The problem is that I'm having a difficult time translating it from thoughts to words without losing the major impacts of the scene.

Were I scripting a movie, I'd have a pretty good idea of how to block it out. Were I writing a graphic novel, I could translate it fairly easily. But into nothing but words? I can't unpack it effectively enough for my tastes. The flow of a text story is (by definition or custom) linear. That's the problem.

Let me see if I can illustrate it here:
[If I could explain this dialogue in plaintext, I wouldn't need to make this post]

How do I effectively capture the simultaneity of the outbursts, their intertwinedness? How do I get across the sense of two voices in one? Which word do I write first when the entire point is that there is no "order" to them? Hacks like "YnEoS" are worse than linearizing the dialogue, and practically everything else I can think of loses the main idea on the way to the keyboard.

Current Mood: blankwordful
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From:baxil
Date:November 8th, 2005 01:09 am (UTC)
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Thanks for the recommendation. Kady handed me The Demolished Man last night. The esper dialogue made my head hurt. I finished the book in one sitting.
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From:kistaro
Date:November 7th, 2005 03:44 am (UTC)

Sorry about the burned vertical space; <left> and <right> are getting stripped out.

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His skin parted with little resistance
and

the dam


broke


"YES!"


"NO!"


A voice exploded


A voice exploded


in triumph,


in despair,


roaring between


making his


his ears.


head ring.

(Deleted comment)
From:premchai21
Date:November 7th, 2005 03:45 am (UTC)
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I suppose two columns would be overmuch?

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From:delcan
Date:November 7th, 2005 04:07 am (UTC)
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Overlapping, different-colored text, I think, is a particularly strong way of getting it across. If you could somehow pull it off in a typed format...
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From:thrames
Date:November 7th, 2005 04:44 am (UTC)
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His skin parted with little resistance...And the damn broke.

"(YES!)(NO!)" A voice exploded (in Triumph)(in Despair)(roaring)(making his)(between)(head ring.)(his ears.)



That's my solution, at anyrate. I'd say it's a hell of a lot more simple than other methods, however, I'm not sure if it is as effective as other methods would be.
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:November 7th, 2005 07:24 am (UTC)
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How about something like:
"    NO!   A voice exploded in despair,
 YES!   "  making his head ring.
A voice
exploded
in triumph,
roaring
between
his ears.

This uses the "Cheers" trick of positioning two words at lower left and upper right, thus making it ambiguous which one to read first. (I call it the "Cheers" trick because Ted Danson & Shelley Long's names were displayed like that in the title sequence.)
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From:balinares
Date:November 7th, 2005 11:19 am (UTC)
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I like the 'splitting' effect there. Perhaps it could be pushed even further...

YES!  
  NO!
A voice exploded
in triumph,    
    in despair,
making        
        roaring
his head ring.            
            between his ears.



Or whatever. *lame formating skills here*
From:lhexa
Date:November 7th, 2005 12:16 pm (UTC)
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One possible solution: come to an epiphany and realize that the modern comic book format suits you far better than the traditional fantasy novel. Then either learn to draw or snag someone who can.
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From:baphnedia
Date:November 7th, 2005 01:29 pm (UTC)
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What do you mean, learn to draw! I think his drawing is fine!
From:lhexa
Date:November 7th, 2005 04:42 pm (UTC)
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Oh, come on! His draftsmanship is terrible. And like so many other furry/Otherkin artists, he seems averse to drawing backgrounds.
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From:baxil
Date:November 8th, 2005 12:26 am (UTC)
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That seems like a lot of judgments to make from two panels of stick figures whipped up quickly to make a point.

Not that I consider myself an artist. But I think if you're going to criticize my draftsmanship (guilty as charged) or compositional laziness, you should at least have the decency to consider some of my actual work.

(Hmm. I thought I had more art online than that. It must have disappeared in the server crash this January. Another thing to re-upload someday ...)
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:November 8th, 2005 01:09 am (UTC)
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Unless of course lhexa is just making a joke. It's hard to tell sometimes. This is why I disagree with people who refuse to use smilies or say "just kidding".
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From:baxil
Date:November 8th, 2005 01:16 am (UTC)
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...

On reflection, you're most likely right. I think it was the argument that threw me. Two people in an ironic argument is pretty much indistinguishable from two people in an actual argument, after all. ;-p
From:lhexa
Date:November 8th, 2005 09:19 am (UTC)
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:P
From:lhexa
Date:November 8th, 2005 09:19 am (UTC)
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Heh, sorry, it was indeed a statement made in irony. I would've thought the absurdity of judging the technical merits of a stick-figure mock-up would have been obvious, but the way I worded it made the "criticism" seem too real.
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From:baxil
Date:November 9th, 2005 03:54 am (UTC)
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No harm done; sorry for the misunderstanding. :)
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From:baxil
Date:November 8th, 2005 01:00 am (UTC)
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I'm not nearly hubristic enough to compare my skills to Neil Gaiman's, but my situation, I think, is similar to his.

My (his) chosen medium is words. Sometimes the story is best told using them alone; sometimes the story may benefit from a collaboration of media. I think I could probably write (not create) graphic novels with roughly the same skill that I could write traditional ones; but that's because, at heart, it's still working with words.

When I draw, I find that frustrating my translation efforts more than when I write. It takes longer, it comes out more crudely. (I suspect Gaiman would say the same.) The advice to find a co-creator is well taken. It's also not always that simple.

No matter what medium you work in, sometimes it will get in the way of the story you want to tell. My dilemma here's an example of that. But the big question is always what will help your story come out with the least obstruction.

For this particular scene ... yes, absolutely, it would be easier as a graphic novel. The rest of this particular story? Perhaps not so much. Part of effective creativity is knowing when to use what tools you have at your disposal.
From:lhexa
Date:November 8th, 2005 09:26 am (UTC)
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I get what you mean: I've read enough graphic novels to know that it's difficult to handle long dialogues well, without turning them into alternating soliloquys (er, have 'y' yet?). And becoming comfortable with a new format, and finding someone willing to put your vision into imagery, are humongous challenges. How about a compromise: selected scenes, or even just one or two scenes, drawn out, alternating with regular text?
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From:baphnedia
Date:November 7th, 2005 01:28 pm (UTC)
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Do one in regular quotes and type, and use italics for the other. You're drawing is very cool - it's not often that I see art of such upstanding quality. Did the peice take you long?
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From:baxil
Date:November 8th, 2005 12:30 am (UTC)
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Yes, every one of the four lines was thoroughly and carefully planned.
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From:baxil
Date:November 8th, 2005 12:37 am (UTC)
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And it is also making my head hurt that there appears to be an actual argument in this thread about the quality of my art. It's a pair of stick figures. It's not even a pair of OOTS-quality stick figures.

I don't mind the topic drift but let's at least rein in the irony.
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From:copperwolf
Date:November 7th, 2005 03:44 pm (UTC)
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My two cents: of those suggestions posted before I read this, the only formatting trick I like is two columns. The interleaving, the parentheses and others just confuse me as a reader.

My first inclination would be to take my best shot at describing it as you would if you were telling the story verbally. "...and the dam broke: two voices roared between his ears simultaneously, making his head ring. 'NO!' cried one, despairing. 'YES!' the other exploded, in triumph."
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From:necama
Date:November 8th, 2005 06:00 am (UTC)
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Or, you can try other text formatting tricks:

YES! NO!

A Voice a voice Exalted exploded in triumph in despair roaring between his ears making his head ring.

I don't know if this is the effect you're after; it makes the triumph read more as the dominant thought. If you're after perfect dualism, then you might play tricks with dashes and elippsis and type face or inflection:

YES!--
...No!.

A voice--
A voice...
--exalted--
...exploded...
--in triumph--
...in despair...
--roaring between his ears.--
...making his head ring.

I have to admit liking the second solution for longer passages that talk to each other; these thoughts are merely independant, though. I like the first in the sense that one thought is echoing the other.
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From:zuki_san
Date:November 8th, 2005 06:56 pm (UTC)
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Your Icon!

Your ICON!

It references that flash movie! That so very, very, very amusing little flash video called "End of the World," or possibly "The End of the World."

And turns it into Nanowrimo-ness.

Oh Em Geez, as they say.

Your awesomeness rating (already pretty high in my silly little lurking its-not-hero-worship-I-swear mind) has just gone up several more notches.

...I wish that I could provide some additional insight into ways to render the puzzle you've presented us into text format. However, most of the half-formed ideas that occured to me while reading your post were fleshed out by other people already. Rather than repeat others, I'll just say nothing. I generally try to avoid wonky formatting when writing, because I suspect I have no idea where the line between "effective and dramatic" and "tacky" is. Furthermore, the line tends to get up and move around. So I'll add a hatch mark of agreement to copperwolf's suggestion, of doing the best to render it as one speaking would.

Mostly, however, I'm rather. curious as to what is, was, and will be happening to that person you've illustrated for us.

Oh, and in awe of your icon. I am loving the icon.
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From:baxil
Date:November 9th, 2005 03:51 am (UTC)
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Icon credit goes to lesleykajira, and I wholeheartedly agree. (I saw it via here.)

The person I'm illustrating writing about ... well, the short answer is, he dies. It's the long answer that makes the story worth reading. Hopefully it'll be ready to wrap up by month's end.
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