Tag Archive - Time and Perception

Scene Structure: Scenes as Segments and Capsules of Time

For this week’s Throwback Thursday, we’re looking at excerpts from past posts on Live Write Thrive that tie in with our exploration on scene structure.

From Show, Don’t Tell—But How?

Sol Stein, in his book Stein on Writing, says, “Twentieth-century readers, transformed by film and TV, are used to seeing stories. The reading experience for a twentieth-century reader is increasingly visual. The story is happening in front of his eyes.” This is even more true in the twenty-first century. As literary agent and author Donald Maass says in Writing 21st Century Fiction: “Make characters do something that readers can visualize.”

We’ve heard it countless times: show, don’t tell. Sounds simple, right? Wrong. There are a myriad of choices a writer has to make in order to “show” and not “tell” a scene. Writers are often told they need to show, which in essence means to create visual scenes the reader can “watch” unfold as they read. Continue Reading…

Show, Don’t Tell, How Time Is Passing

“Show, don’t tell.” Novelists know this mandate. But there are many different ways to “show,” and now that we’ve spent the better part of a year exploring how movies “show” scenes, you have a much wider and deeper understanding of ways you can show your story unfolding. In last week’s post, we took a look at the quality of time, and saw how it’s all about the perception of the individual. And so characters in a novel can also have moments in which time seems to slow down or speed up, or take on some odd or surreal quality.

Just How Do You “Show” Time Passing?

An unimaginative novelist may say something like “for Jane, time slowed to a stop as she waited hour after hour to hear news of her son” or “Time seemed to speed up as Ralph kept glancing at the clock, worried he’d never finish that report on time.” Telling a reader what time feels like to a character is ineffective and lacks power. It also doesn’t show what it looks like. How would you show time slowing down? Well, think about what it feels like to you when you are waiting anxiously for something.

We all know the expression “a watched pot never boils.” It actually does, but if we stare at it for a few minutes, we start noticing lots of little things, like the way the bubbles form at first slowly on the bottom of the pot, then grow bigger and start rising faster to the surface. We might notice when the steam starts forming like wisps of ghosts and hovering over the surface of the water. We might hear the clock ticking in the background, the neighbor’s dog howling. The golfers across the street laughing and whacking at golf balls (well, I live on a golf course, so this is what I hear from my kitchen). Continue Reading…

Altering Time and Perception in a Novel

Films have so many fascinating ways to alter time and perception. They can use techniques to make action slow way down or even freeze (or even have only part of the frame frozen in time while other elements are still moving). They can make time appear to be moving at wild speeds. We’ve all seen time-lapse images of flowers opening or the sun arcing across the sky. Such is the milieu of filmmaking. So we’re going to take a look at how filmmakers do this, and then explore ways novelists can accomplish a similar effect in their scenes. Continue Reading…