Today we’ll be looking at a passage posted by my loyal blog reader, Daan. As we’ve been doing for the past week, I’ll analyze those pesky “Motivation-Reaction Units”. But first, a couple of quick questions came up today:
I have a part in my story where after being deep in the woods, my characters travel to a big city subway station. Should I show all this traveling if there’s no conflict in it? Also, should I summarize the fact that they traveled in a paragraph or so at the beginning of the subway scene? If not, should I allude to it throught other things (ex. the main characters rides there on the back of a motorcycle; i was thinking that i could say that her legs were sore from the long ride).
Randy sez: No. Maybe. Maybe.
Julie asked another question:
is there any point at which not telling the reader about traveling becomes excessive. I know it can work the other way around, but it seems like just having the characters be one place and another place the next chapter would confuse the reader….
Randy sez: Maybe.
If the reader can figure out the transitions, then let her do so. If she needs to know, then tell her. But a lot of times, she really doesn’t care. If there is no conflict during the journey, then there’s really no point in dwelling on it.
Daan posted this segment:
“I don’t no why everybody is bleating about the crime statistics in South Africa,” Tim said. “Two weeks ago the Minister of Safety and Security labelled the escalation of crime as one of the legacies of apartheid. We all know that Mr Deputy.”
Simon shifted in his chair. Complacent fool! The old political face saving crap. If one of those political bigshots would contract haemerroids, he is sure to blame it on apartheid.
The Deputy Director frowned. “So far you are not being exactly helpful Tim. We are looking for solutions here, not excuses.”
Simon nodded his head, grinning.
“Let’s hear what young Simon here has to say.” the Deputy said.
“Thank you Sir. During the past few weeks I gave all these issues a great deal of thought.”
“Yeah?” Tim sneered. “And what brilliant conclusions did you arrive at Mr. Rodin Skosana?”
“Watch yourself Timothy,” Simon said. “Just because I have ten times more brains than you, doesn’t mean you have to be rude to me.”
Randy sez: I’m confused. There are at least 3 people in this scene, or as many as 5. Here are the ones I can identify:
2) Minister of Safety and Security
3) The Deputy Director
5) Rodin Skosana
The larger problem here is that everybody is being quite rude to each other and I don’t know why. Simon is the POV character, and I should presumably like him. But right now, I’m not sure if I do. Simon is as rude as the others, and I don’t know enough to know whether his scorn for the others is justified.
I think the passage would read better if the arrogance were toned down a bit. I’m thinking right now of a scene late in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE in which Lady Catherine shows up at Lizzie Bennett’s house late at night and demands to know the truth of rumors that Lizzie is soon to wed Lady Catherine’s nephew, Mr. Darcy. The entire conversation is, on one level, mannerly and civil. But beneath the surface, it’s war. This is called subtexting. I would like to see a bit more subtexting in Daan’s scene.
OK, loyal blog readers! What do you think? Am I right here, and if so, how would you rewrite this to be more civil and yet the same level of conflict?