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Filing in the gaps

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Velka, Nov 14, 2015.

  1. Velka

    Velka Sage

    Now that I've reworked my WIP (cutting chaff, tightening plot lines, etc) I've found myself with some gaps between events where I need a scene or two to get the story from point A to point B. I know how I want to fill them, but ugh, I'm finding one in particular very hard to write.

    I need a scene between my two MCs that helps them get to know each other. They've met before, did some stuff, but now they're embarking on a journey together. Before this neither of them was sure they'd really have anything to do with each other after the previously mentioned stuff was done. Now they both know, and mostly accept, they're in it for the long haul together. They're travelling by horseback and stop to camp for the night. This is where they start sharing some of their personal info with each other. I know the main points I want them to reveal to the other, and what I want them to still hold back.

    My problem is, every time I write it and then reread it I find I'm writing their conversation and interactions as being far too, well, friendly. They should be still unsure, perhaps nervous, not so open with the other, but I've been with these two so long, and have written soooooo much after this that has them as solid friends/partners that I can't seem to rewind my headspace back to the 'growth' part of their relationship.

    Any advice on how to get me to see them as virtual strangers to each other again?
  2. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

    Could they have a fight and something personal slips out?

    Maybe they get drunk and it starts out as competing war/scar stories but turns into sharing history?

    Could something happen at the camp that forces them to bond a bit more (fighting off some wild creature or bandits or something) that makes them work together and open up to each other?

    Maybe they learn they share a common acquaintance or enemy from their childhood?
    Velka likes this.
  3. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    Add a third character, a temporary companion, just for that scene. An obnoxious jackass sort who prompts them to reveal the stories.
    Velka likes this.
  4. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

    Think very hard about what they know about each other at this point in the story, and nothing else. What have they seen the other person do? What have they said to them? Create a solid image of their impressions so far--including any preconceptions and assumptions that they have reason to drag in.

    If they are near-strangers, their relationship is likely to be less about an exchange of trust and more, well, selfish. What do they want from each other? What is their purpose? Line up their dialogue with their motivations, and don't make them more interested in "getting to know" each other than they would reasonably be. If they're physically attracted to one another, or if they've struck it off on a topic of common interest, that'd be a reason for genuine curiosity about each other. On the flip side, if they're just stuck with each other with an extended period of time, their interest in each other might be more obviously forced, an effort that's more likely to backfire on the questioner if they cross the boundaries of familiarity or get too close to a sensitive point.

    Try having one of them misread what the other's saying, and take some negative implication from their words. Try having the POV character think about saying something, but not speak because they're not sure how it would come across. Try to have one of them edit their speech a little to appear in a better light, if that's in character.

    That's more sort of about making them sound like strangers... To make them grow naturally closer, try to get to that moment we've all had where they happen across a shared interest, a person that they both know, or a shared experience from their past. If they have something to talk about that they genuinely care about, they're more likely to be warm, open, and natural in their dialogue, and that might get you closer to their familiar camaraderie.

    Heh, sorry for the rambling, but I hope that sparks an idea or two.
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2015
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  5. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    Maybe you don't need another scene. Maybe you just need to modify a previous scene. Obviously they had to make a choice to travel together, maybe that's where they can begin to learn about each other.

    If that can't be done, one thing I'd warn against is don't just have them sitting and talking. Talking heads is very difficult to make interesting. Have them be doing things, and you can springboard off of that. One of them can be tending their horse. The other can be reading/cooking/etc. If these two people don't know each other, then they'd want to keep busy.

    Just sitting with someone you're uncomfortable with is not something that would naturally happen if there are other things one can be doing. Take for example people nowadays are using the smartphone as a way to avoid uncomfortable conversations and moments.

    Now how do strangers interact? Generally they talk about general things that are relatively safe, weather, the nice scarf you're wearing, stuff that's external.

    How do old friends interact? The ask about their personal lives, their interests, etc, internal stuff.

    Now the trick is to get from talking about that external to the internal in a natural way through the interactions or non-interactions. You're going to have to find the icebreaker. Since you're going to want this to be entertaining, you're also going to have to find the conflict in the scene, which can be this icebreaker, or at least cracker.

    As mentioned above, you can have them argue. With what I've said, there are a gazillion things that you can have them disagree about. And in that disagreement you can reveal may things about your characters and their personalities, not just backstory.

    Is a characters overly logical, overly emotional, can't admit they're wrong, etc.

    Remember a lot of good friends started out hating each other.
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2015
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  6. Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner Scribe

    Heh, I do this a lot. :)

    What I've found helps is to throw in some conflict - make them argue. And think carefully about your character arcs as to where they begin, and how they will develop.
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  7. K.S. Crooks

    K.S. Crooks Inkling

    When they ask each other questions try having the other respond by subtlety or blatantly changing the subject to talk about what they want. Or have their answers to questions be vague or incomplete. Change the words they use to make their answer less clear and possible to be interpreted in more than one way. Since the characters have only recently decided to work together perhaps there can be some conflict concerning which goal takes priority or who is in charge. Hope this helps.
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  8. Velka

    Velka Sage

    You are all so awesome, thank you! This is a lot to digest over my first cup of coffee, but it has my wheels spinning in so many wonderful ways.

    Perhaps this is an opportunity to have her try to push him, he resists, but she can see how it causes small cracks in how he presents himself. Ooo, now that I'm thinking out loud here, I like that. It can set up how the later fights/arguments get him to drop the bullsh*t and be honest with himself and her.

    Three pivotal scenes between them at later points in the book have them argue and physically fight as a means to get them to be honest with each other. They're both unhinged in their own way, but he is very good at hiding it/keeping control over his emotions. She, on the other hand, is much less concerned with keeping up appearances and knows she can get him to drop the act by pushing him to that point.

    I also like the suggestions of having them misinterpret what the other is saying, or the motivations behind their question. I think using this angle will help me restore the feeling of being strangers between them again.

    I use this a bit later on their journey as a means to create a bonding experience.

    Another person won't work here, but I do have a delightful obnoxious jackass waiting for them when they reach their destination.

    You are absolutely right. I need to spend more time looking at these two up to this point, instead of allowing interactions in future events cloud my view of them.

    This can work as my jumping off point for conflict between them in the scene. She is of the opinion that since she's stuck with him, she might as well try to get to know him and make it pleasant. He is still resentful of the partnership and overall unsure of what to do with her.

    Yes, yes, and yes. I already have the action beats planned as a way of showing what is important to them/things that make them feel comfortable in an uncomfortable situation.

    This has been the crux of the problem, continuing the smooth arc from where they were before this scene and where they are at the beginning of the next.

    This is a great idea for bringing in an authentic disagreement between them.

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