POSITIONING CHARACTERS IN YOUR STORIES


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Getting your characters into position can be a royal pain. This hit home for me earlier this week when I had six characters and a dog all in front of a house and had to get them all into said house. In real life, some of them would naturally be talking to each other, so I had to work that in, as well.

I only know one good way to do this, and that is to visualize exactly where everyone is at all times, and write down exactly what you see in your mind’s eye.

Of course, it will then have to be fined-tuned. Probably several times. Nowhere else is clarity more important than letting the reader know where your characters are, except to let the readers know who is speaking. (A topic/rant for another post.) Have you ever seen a character teleport from a chair one minute to a bar stool the next? Or from one room to another, or even from one map location to another? Writers call that whiplash. Your readers need to visualize what’s going on as if watching a movie in their heads. So, it’s a good idea to get into the practice of writing it from what you see in yours.

But there’s also a major caution involved with this. Don’t describe every tiny detail. You may write every detail down in your rough draft. Character gets into car, fastens seat belt, turns on ignition, puts car in gear, adjusts sunglasses, tunes the radio, checks mirrors and pulls out of the garage and hits the remote to lower the garage door. Um, no. Character gets in car and drives to destination. The point is, your reader doesn’t see him in his house, and in the next sentence, he’s in the grocery store. You may decide to have him tune into his favorite radio station and get some astonishing news or listen to a favorite song. You may mention one or two interesting or pertinent things he sees along the way. But be careful. Use only details that add to the story itself or to characterization. The rest is filler, fluff.

I admit, it’s a fine line. Notice how your favorite writers move their characters from one place to another and see if you can do the same. And notice what annoys you about how other writers do it and avoid doing that yourself.


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