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How do I Describe This?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Xaysai, May 22, 2013.

  1. Xaysai

    Xaysai Inkling

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    First of all, I had an awesome idea for a character, but every time I come up with something I think is awesome, I find out that it's already been done, so I need to know if I can do this.

    Second, I need to know how to describe the underlined hand gesture in the following scene from my current WIP:

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    “No Master Baltz, there is a rather-” the guard paused for a moment, as if searching for the proper word, “peculiar man downstairs requesting an audience with you. I tried to send him away, but he was quite insistent upon seeing you.”

    Baltz raised his hand and waved the guard away. “I do not wish to be disturbed this evening, did I not make this clear?”

    The guard looked down at the floor. “Sir, he said it’s urgent.” He cleared his throat before adding, “sir.”

    The Illusionist snorted and rolled his eyes. “Of course it’s urgent, Rogers. Why wouldn’t it be?"

    “He asked me to give you a message, sir. He said you would know what it means,” he paused.

    “Well, I can hardly wait to hear it.”

    “He said that General Uxbridge’s army has been raised.”

    Baltz eyes widened, his jaw hung slack. “You described this man as peculiar? How so?”

    “His robe, sir.” The guard ran a hand around his chest. “The colors shift and flow like molten rock.”

    You should not have trusted him then, and you most certainly shouldn't trust him now.

    He looked back to the center of the room where the illusion of his younger self had hung. “Send him up.” The thought was enough to sober him. “Immediately.”
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The man in question is a pyromancer, and I want his robes to shift and change colors of oranges and reds as if it were actually made of lava, and I want the guard to gesture with his hands to illustrate that the colors in the fabric are moving or "flowing", but I am failing to come up with a description for the hand gesture.

    Thanks in advance for your help!

    Dan
     
  2. danr62

    danr62 Sage

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    First, I want to say that this reads much better than your previous version.

    As for the gesture, maybe:

    The guard moved his hand across his chest in a wave like motion.
     
    Xaysai likes this.
  3. Araktor

    Araktor Dreamer

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    The gesture- The guard looks wildly at the Illusionist and makes a slight waving moment across his chest. "They shift and flow throughout his robe. It is just strange...
     
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  4. JSDR

    JSDR Scribe

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    Hey Dan -
    Cool effect for the character.
    RE the hand motion - I'd actually suggest keeping it as simple as possible: The guard smoothed a hand down his chest.
    Here's why: The description he says right afterwards: "The colors melt and flow like molten rock" is magnificent. It's awesome. Let me take *that* awesome image out of that whole paragraph instead of trying to picture a dude waving his hand all crazy in front of his chest.

    HTH,
    J
     
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  5. Twook00

    Twook00 Sage

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    Perhaps take it out entirely? As far as clarity, I think the gaurd's description of it does well enough.

    Otherwise, maybe something like:

    Or...


    Or simply...

     
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  6. Xaysai

    Xaysai Inkling

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    I appreciate all of the suggestions, and I understand the recommendation to take it out altogether.

    I guess I really feel like there should be a beat tag in there, and since the guard seemed very mystified by the movement of the robe, he might try to pair a gesture with his explanation to punctuate the "peculiarity" of it.
     
  7. danr62

    danr62 Sage

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    I think this would make for a sufficient beat:

    “His robe, sir.” He hesitated. “The colors shift and flow like molten rock.”
     
  8. Xaysai

    Xaysai Inkling

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    Dan, it's funny that you replied with this because I just settled on something very similar:

     
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  9. JSDR

    JSDR Scribe

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    It's a great line with a great rhythm. This is how I read it:
    His ROBE sir. Those COLors. They SHIFT and FLOW like -" he paused, "MOLten rock."

    Now here's my issue with how it's punctuated and using the word "paused" as the beat. It's a little heavy-handed, like "just in case the dear reader didn't understand the significance of what's going on, there's 3 markers to make sure."

    1. The emdash at the end of the third sentence in that dialogue line already signifies a pause/break/beat of silence/ broken dialogue line.
    2. Just in case it's not clear though, there's literally a break in the dialogue line to insert the attribution.
    3. Just in case it's really not clear enough that the literal break in the dialogue line and the emdash mean a pause, the word "pause" is in there.

    So, three things being used to accomplish what one thing could do.

    Why is the guard pausing?
     
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  10. Xaysai

    Xaysai Inkling

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    These are all great points, and I think you nailed how I envisioned the guard saying it.

    I felt as though the motion of the colors in the robe were so surreal or odd to the guard that he needed to pause mid-sentence to consider exactly how to finish the sentence in order to properly describe it, almost in disbelief.

    I thought about how I would seem trying to describe something which I didn't fully understand to someone who might not believe me (or maybe even I didn't believe).
     
  11. JSDR

    JSDR Scribe

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    Ok, cool. I sort of got that with what you were trying to do.
    Now let's take a step back and take a look at the bigger picture.
    Plant the guard *in* your world. I feel like, from the previous attempts, you are *you* the writer, trying to describe what the guard is doing.
    How about putting yourself *into* the guard - I mean, complete immersion - to see/feel/convey what he might be thinking/feeling.

    Here's what I mean.
    How it reads now is he's just a normal ol' generic guard lifted out of normal ol' generic fantasy opening.

    How is this guard special to *your* world?
    I think we can look at his relationship to the main character, the current POV character, to see perhaps what the MC expects to see? Or perhaps, the opposite? Which would let the reader infer half a dozen things about the guard, about the guard's relationship with the MC, the guard's relationship with your unique fantasy world. You can accomplish all this *plus* get the beat you're looking for by exploring and showing what makes your world unique, different, from every other story.

    What would the MC notice in particular? What can you reveal about the MC by showing what he understands he sees, versus what else can be generically described?

    Frex:
    If the guard is young or new or scared of the MC, and perhaps the MC holds all his servants in contempt?-
    "His r-robe, sir." The guard made a non-sensical gesture with his trembling hands. "The colors shift and flow like m-molten rock."

    Perhaps the guard is an old veteran who couldn't care less about whether the MC understood?
    "His robe, sir. The colors shift and melt like..." He smiled crookedly and shrugged. "Like the iridescence of oil on water."

    Anyway, HTH :)
    J
     
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  12. Guru Coyote

    Guru Coyote Archmage

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    A lot of useful points have been made here already, I don't really have anything new to add, BUT let me share my initial thought anyway:

    You, the writer, don't know what kind of hand gesture to make (describe) to illustrate how the colors move... maybe the guard wouldn't either? I get the sense that this guard in perplexed by the way that robe's fabric behaves... so I'd put that into the narrative.
     
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