Monday, March 10, 2014

Gawking Characters


Do you know what it feels like to 'finally' get something? To finally understand something or understand 'why' you do something.

This happened to me once in 7th grade math class. I just didn't get all the lines, points etc. of this strange math we were being taught. I got up my courage and timidly raised my hand. My teacher, Mrs. Ashley, came to my desk and explained it to me. It was like a string was pulled and the bulb clicked on. I understood it!

I never really thought about gawking characters before. But out of the blue, another bulb has clicked on and I now understand what makes a narrator a gawking character.

Simple - It is when the narrator tells the reader what happens in a scene instead of letting the reader experience it directly.

Search your manuscript for words such as: saw, smelled, felt, heard, realized, watched, taste, etc.

If you can - get rid of them!


These may not be the best, but here are a few examples:


Before:
Mr. McMillion’s pickup truck barreled across the field toward them. They clapped and yelled when they saw the old blue Ford. It came to a halt near the cave, 
After:
They clapped and yelled. The old blue Ford came to a halt near the cave,

We don't need to tell the reader that the characters saw what they saw. Just write what they saw.

  
She saw the old store, boarded up and empty. She felt the bright sunlight that surrounded it. She smelled the green grass and decaying wood.
The old store, boarded up and empty, stood before her. The bright sunlight warmed her bare arms. A gentle breeze carried the scent of green grass and overpowered the mustiness emanating from the once popular meeting place .

Before:
they looked ahead of them and saw a small spot of bright sunlight in the distance
After:

they looked ahead of them. A small spot of bright sunlight appeared in the distance.

Before:

She watched him scamper into the hillside and disappear. 
After:
He scampered into the hillside and disappeared.

We don't need to say she watched the rabbit. Had she not been watching, she couldn't have told us that the rabbit scampered into the hillside and disappeared. Just write what she watched.

Before:

It’s just a mouse, she thought.
After:

She ignored the squeaks of a mouse coming from behind the wooden box. 

 You don't usually need to identify who the thought belonged to. If it is from her point of view, who else's thought could it be?

Before:

January ate a piece of the cobbler. The sweet taste of berries brought a smile to her face.
After:
January ate a piece of the cobbler. The sweet berries brought a smile to her face.

When she ate the cobbler, we already know she tasted the berries.

Okay, I know this is something most of you already know, but I decided to blog about it anyway. There may be some of you out there who hasn't 'got it' yet. And if there is, I hope this post, put in layman's terms, helped you to understand it better.

I found when editing my manuscripts that I use the word saw way too much.  Which word is your weakness?

Feel free to give us an example in your comments. 


Posted byJanet Smart  on Creative Writing in the Blackberry Patch.






4 comments:

  1. I love this, especially all of the examples! Now, I need to go to check my WIP for any of these gawking characters.

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    Replies
    1. Hi, I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I like examples, too.

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  2. Enjoyed your examples, Janet. I think even though we understand this concept we do not always do it when writing. Showing versus telling - always a good thing!

    Have a great week! :)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Karen. Enjoy your week, too.

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Thank you for your comments. I love comments!