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Interpretation by visual description   [message #70993] Fri, 05 February 2016 01:29 Go to next message
WestcliffWriter is currently offline  WestcliffWriter   United Kingdom

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Ok, so tonight I am in a philosophical mood and it got me thinking about something. I was thinking about all the stories I have read with all different male teen characters. So the more I think about it the more all these characters are essentially the same right? I mean, they might have different colour hair and there will be some tall, some short, some fat some thin, some... yeah you get it. But my primary point first of all is that they will all be a male in their teens and usually be gay.

So although we will read about all different characters through different plot lines, essentially the boy in the story is always going to be the boy in the story. So how do we make it different? and why do we not get bored. For anyone who has read my books... what makes Jack different from Corbin, or Joey different from Jordan and so on...

I want to do a little experiment here to see what you all think about 2 boys who are the same, but in different scenarios. They will the same age, same facial features, same height... In fact they are EXACTLY the same apart from if I say otherwise in my description. Now, when I say I want you to think about them, I want you to think about your perception of them when I put them into a scene, while always remembering they are the same in every way.

For the purposes of this little experiment we will name the boys' Jack and John.

This is a totally open discussion so just put anything you like, there is no right or wrong. I just want to see what the power of perception can do when surrounding something the same, with something different!

Ok here we go... I am going to write the same scene twice but slightly different and I want you to respond with how each of them made you feel. I have my own answers already but I wont say them until I hear some others.


John:

John, 15 sits on his plain white single bed sipping on a glass of warm milk. there is a half eaten cookie next to him which rests on a bedside table, complete with a dim lit lamp. There is a radio playing in the background which John listens to propped up in a corner reading a hardback annual. His soft blonde wavy hair drops down to half cover one of his blue eyes which compliment his rosy red cheeks. John lightly hums to himself as he reads, a cool gentle breeze making him shiver a little. The bedroom carpet has seen better days but is still rich in colour and looks soft and inviting.

Jack:

Jack, 15 lays on his bright red Manchester United themed double bed, supping a bottle of coke through a straw which he puts down. There is a half eaten bag of crisps next to which rests on a bedside table complete with a bright football shaped lamp. Kiss FM is playing in the background while Jack listens, laying with his feet half way up the wall, a Nintendo DS clutched in his hands. Jack's short brown spiky hair shines in the artificial light as he blinks those deep brown eyes sat above some freckled cheeks. Jack makes drum and symbol noises while playing his game, as a warm gentle breeze floats into the room making him a little clammy. On the floor is real wood floorboards upon sits a deep pile red rug and a cat can be seen sleeping soundly on top.


So, same boy essentially, just different hair and eyes. The room is the same size and different decor.

So how did you feel about boy John and boy Jack? What were the differences between them? Even though they are the same, did you like one over the other? Did you sense different personalities just because of the room or the hair/eye colour. Did you maybe feel sorry for one? did you feel perhaps they were from a different era... or did one of them just seem less well off.

You may have totally different views and that's the fun in this. Please indulge me as I am really fascinated to hear anyones thoughts.

West :) 

[Updated on: Fri, 05 February 2016 01:29]

Re: Interpretation by visual description   [message #70994 is a reply to message #70993] Fri, 05 February 2016 04:10 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Smokr is currently offline  Smokr   United States

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I'm not sure if this is what  you mean, but Jack is more interesting. At least, the details of his story make it more interesting. I know more details about his situation than John's, and that makes the paragraph more interesting and engrossing to me.

John just has a radio playing, while Jack is listening to a station that identifies the type of music.
John is reading an unidentified book, while Jack is playing a Nintendo DS even though I don't know exactly what game.
John's bed is boring, while Jack's is well-described.
John has a dim lamp, while Jack has a well-described one.
Jack's body position is more well described.
Jack's physical description is more detailed and uses better wording style.





raysstories.com
Re: Interpretation by visual description   [message #70996 is a reply to message #70993] Fri, 05 February 2016 10:50 Go to previous messageGo to next message
timmy   United Kingdom

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It comes down to "A boy like me" or at least a boy I can identify with.

It also depends on whether the boy is to be our hero, or our villain.

Each boy is not identical, but even the different physical descriptions woudld not matter. WHat you have hit on is show vs tell.

Every piece of description is either showing me something or telling me something. When I form my own picture by being shown it is far more vivid than when you tell me things. You have shown me an angel and a devil. You have told me some of their attributes, shown me others. I would prefer to have been shown everything.



Author of Queer Me! Halfway Between Flying and Crying - the true story of life for a gay boy in the Swinging Sixties in a British all male Public School
Re: Interpretation by visual description   [message #71003 is a reply to message #70994] Sat, 06 February 2016 00:39 Go to previous messageGo to next message
WestcliffWriter is currently offline  WestcliffWriter   United Kingdom

Toe is in the water
Location: United Kingdom
Registered: May 2015
Messages: 74




Quote:
Smokr wrote on Fri, 05 February 2016 04:10I'm not sure if this is what  you mean, but Jack is more interesting. At least, the details of his story make it more interesting. I know more details about his situation than John's, and that makes the paragraph more interesting and engrossing to me.

John just has a radio playing, while Jack is listening to a station that identifies the type of music.
John is reading an unidentified book, while Jack is playing a Nintendo DS even though I don't know exactly what game.
John's bed is boring, while Jack's is well-described.
John has a dim lamp, while Jack has a well-described one.
Jack's body position is more well described.
Jack's physical description is more detailed and uses better wording style.



--

So this is interesting Smokr, because you have gone for the environment description much more than the boy himself. I assume due to the more detailed environment in Jack's case, this in your eyes has made him more interesting and possibly more appealing? (shall we say).

That is fascinating and not what I expected to hear. In answer to your question 'is this what i mean?' Well yes, as I said there is not right or wrong in any thesis.

Thanks for your comments Smile
Re: Interpretation by visual description   [message #71004 is a reply to message #70996] Sat, 06 February 2016 00:42 Go to previous messageGo to next message
WestcliffWriter is currently offline  WestcliffWriter   United Kingdom

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"Quote:"
timmy wrote on Fri, 05 February 2016 10:50It comes down to "A boy like me" or at least a boy I can identify with.

It also depends on whether the boy is to be our hero, or our villain.

Each boy is not identical, but even the different physical descriptions woudld not matter. WHat you have hit on is show vs tell.

Every piece of description is either showing me something or telling me something. When I form my own picture by being shown it is far more vivid than when you tell me things. You have shown me an angel and a devil. You have told me some of their attributes, shown me others. I would prefer to have been shown everything.

--

Yeah many authors fall into telling people thing. As a reader who now writes I am very conscious of doing that even if I do 'slip' sometimes. I note how an environment can alter our feelings towards a person, and that is very revealing. Even for instance if we were to put identical twins into different rooms we will still feel biased towards one or the other I suspect.

[Updated on: Sat, 06 February 2016 00:42]

Re: Interpretation by visual description   [message #71005 is a reply to message #71004] Sat, 06 February 2016 00:49 Go to previous messageGo to next message
WestcliffWriter is currently offline  WestcliffWriter   United Kingdom

Toe is in the water
Location: United Kingdom
Registered: May 2015
Messages: 74




Just a couple of the many thoughts I have of my own.

1) I actually think Jack is a more content kid with all his mod cons. Now I have this comparison I actually feel a little sorry for John because I now have Jack to compare him to.
2) If I had read John's scene as a standalone I probably wouldent have thought much if it, but having read Jack's confident pose, clicking away on his DS, it actually makes John appear like he could be a nervous child. Again this is because I can now compare.

So, even though the boy is essentially the same person I feel an environment can have a huge impact on how you feel about a person as Smokr (perhaps accidently) proposes. 
Re: Interpretation by visual description   [message #71007 is a reply to message #71005] Sat, 06 February 2016 09:05 Go to previous messageGo to next message
timmy   United Kingdom

Has no life at all
Location: UK, in Devon
Registered: February 2003
Messages: 13454



"Quote:"
WestcliffWriter wrote on Sat, 06 February 2016 00:49Just a couple of the many thoughts I have of my own.

1) I actually think Jack is a more content kid with all his mod cons. Now I have this comparison I actually feel a little sorry for John because I now have Jack to compare him to.
2) If I had read John's scene as a standalone I probably wouldent have thought much if it, but having read Jack's confident pose, clicking away on his DS, it actually makes John appear like he could be a nervous child. Again this is because I can now compare.

So, even though the boy is essentially the same person I feel an environment can have a huge impact on how you feel about a person as Smokr (perhaps accidently) proposes. 

--
In our Guide to Successful Writing, I cover the use of all the senses. That includes imagination. So a visual description per se cannot work. One piece shows us more environment, and it is the environment, the forcing of us to observe the environment, that makes the difference. 

The more you show us of the location the better we understand the character. And yet, if the location appears all in a rush, we stop reading. Picture yourself on a Ghost Walk, a bit of street theatre, and observe the guide. He dresses in macabre clothes to set the imagination running and tells stories about each location and the ghost. He doesn't say "This one's haunted by the ghost of a baker." He describes the baker and the way he died. He brings the dead baker to life. He names the baker and, instead of describing the man, describes in a way that involves you, the circumstances surrounding him and his demise.

In short, he paints a picture with words around his characters. Sometimes you see his brushwork, sometimes you need to stand back to see the image. He makes you work hard to be part of the tale. His sentence structure changes as he nears the climax of his tale and his breathing vanishes as he tries to keep excitement flowing. At the peak, he pauses. You imagine what happened next.

That is the craft of the writer. For, make no mistake, the Ghost Walk Guide is a writer, except with his voice.

[Updated on: Sat, 06 February 2016 09:05]




Author of Queer Me! Halfway Between Flying and Crying - the true story of life for a gay boy in the Swinging Sixties in a British all male Public School
Re: Interpretation by visual description   [message #71016 is a reply to message #70993] Sat, 06 February 2016 20:54 Go to previous messageGo to next message
ChrisR is currently offline  ChrisR   Costa Rica

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It suggests to me that John is from the 1880s (warm milk? egad! Ye Olde Farmer's Almanac in hand?) and Jack from the 1950s (bottled coke with a straw? Hello The Beave!) I guess the music and Xbox mitigate that somewhat, but not much and too late.

Both of the descriptions strike me as Too Much Information. When I read a story I often let my mind fill in the characters' appearance by combining their actions with my own childhood friends. (Gee whiz! That sounds just like what Dougie used to do. Hmm. Dougie: short, sort of plump, short dark brown hair. Check.) The author doesn't need to fill in the details.

If there's something unique to the storyline, perhaps it's different. "Jimmy's curly red hair could be spotted two blocks away," followed later in the tale by "Sure enough - there came Big Red racing up the street."

Certainly, quality authors use descriptive clues to aide in identification. ("Those squeaky shoes were no sneakers!" or "Mickey noted that the handwriting was slanted the wrong way for a lefty!") Maybe in the sample presented, John could even be tracked by the smell of the warm milk which justifies the clue. But if that's what he drinks, let us discover it through conversation:

<>
John asked his mom for some warm milk.
Jack turned up his nose. "You drink that crap? Oops. Sorry, Mrs. Jones."
<>

You've just informed your audience of which boy might have a greater tendency towards being the neighborhood rascal than the two bedroom scenes. (And I know Johnny Jones isn't much of a creative name, but if Jack had called her Mrs. Sprat we'd all be terribly confused.)

Overall, less is more. Think of the images you get when you read Casabianca. ("The boy stood on the burning deck...") [http://endtimepilgrim.org/boystood.htm]. Even though the only description given is "in his waving hair" I can picture him clearly. And it likely differs from the next ten peoples' images. (I mean sure he's in the navy, but cabin boy? father's servant? midshipman? powder monkey?)

The downside of being too detailed is somewhat the opposite. I'd likely think to myself, "Oh great. That's a perfect description of my childhood nemesis Billy Bobkin. All I remember is what an ass he was. No way is he good-guy fodder."

Almost worse is those who give WAY too much detail, such as both metric measurement and honest-to-gosh real measurements. "The boy stood 5.25m (1'6") tall." I mean please - we're not all totally ignorami. Especially don't use "approximately" and then go out 9 decimal points. Geesh!

My bottom line? Minimalism. What your characters do, where they go, blah, blah, blah, the old 5W2H from Journalism 101 - THAT will keep me enchanted.

And I sincerely thank all of you who do that voodoo that you do so well.
Re: Interpretation by visual description   [message #71027 is a reply to message #71016] Sun, 07 February 2016 11:48 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Nigel is currently offline  Nigel   United Kingdom

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WestcliffWriter, I'm going to disagree with your premises.  Jack and John coincide by being teen boys.  We can only assume from the preamble that they are gay, not stated in the quotations.  Otherwise they are clearly different people with different backgrounds and different futures.
Hugs
Nigel



I dream of boys with big bulges in their trousers,
Never of girls with big bulges in their blouses.

…and look forward to meeting you in Cóito.
Re: Interpretation by visual description   [message #71031 is a reply to message #71027] Sun, 07 February 2016 19:18 Go to previous messageGo to next message
WestcliffWriter is currently offline  WestcliffWriter   United Kingdom

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"Nigel wrote on Sun, 07 February 2016 11:48"
WestcliffWriter, I'm going to disagree with your premises.  Jack and John coincide by being teen boys.  We can only assume from the preamble that they are gay, not stated in the quotations.  Otherwise they are clearly different people with different backgrounds and different futures.
Hugs
Nigel

--

Nigel! Great spot, and yes I left out their sexuality on purpose. From the replies you are the first to notice that. However, although now mentioned, you did state that you presumed they were gay? John maybe, but Jack? hmm.

It's interesting and this thesis of how they are the same but different is at the centre of my little experiment. Should they both be from the same time period we can lean towards thinking John maybe of a higher odd of being gay than Jack. But look at John from the 50's say (like ChrisR mentioned) and then compare him to present day Jack? Now maybe not so.

West
Re: Interpretation by visual description   [message #71157 is a reply to message #70993] Tue, 01 March 2016 03:17 Go to previous message
Geron Kees is currently offline  Geron Kees   United States

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I thought the contrast you posed between the two boys was interesting. It's easy to say that the two characters are essentially the same, in that they are both 15, both in their rooms, and both doing their own thing. Their sexuality is not mentioned, and one can infer whatever one likes. John comes across as the more likely of the two to be gay, though only stereotypically, as we both know that gay has no one true form. It is merely the writer's words that convey the possibility: His soft blonde wavy hair drops down to half cover one of his blue eyes which compliment his rosy red cheeks. His sexuality may be in the way he is described as soft, sensual. A contrast to Jack's short brown spiky hair, which simply sounds harder, and thus more male.

Of course, all characters in all writings are essentially the same, in that they are human beings, and really, gender and preference don't matter so much other than as a motive for either joy or conflict. They're all people.What differentiates one of these boys from the other are their life experiences, and the way they interact with them. The people in their lives, and they way they interact with them.

I can infer from John's description that he is perhaps something of an introvert, a bit of a conservative, and a son of a family whose finances have seen better times; but at the same time a boy reasonably content with what he has. Life is maybe a little threadbare at times, but not without it's small pleasures. Music is important to him, both as a companion and a mood setter. Reading is important, for the same reasons, and as a form of entertainment and mental occupation. He comes across as the more innocent of the two boys; his life experiences may be mostly from the things he reads. He may - or may not - live in a more northern climate, or it just could be a cool time of the year. Also, the time is open to question, as there is nothing present in the description to place this scene in any particular era save the lamp and the radio, which allows for a scene from any time within the last hundred years.

I can infer from Jack's description perhaps, but not quite, an opposite view. He expresses a bit of an extroverted personality, and certainly seems to be comfortable, financially. His tastes are more colorful, more commercial; he is interested in fashions and trends. Sports fan, gamer, follower of the world outside. Jack, simply by the way he is described as "laying with his feet half way up the wall" marks himself as being comfortable with the less conventional, and shows the relaxation of one living within a reasonably stress-free household. The Nintendo placed the scene in fairly current times.

Music is also important to Jack, but he participates in it as a fan and it's value to him is chiefly as entertainment - though underneath he may fancy himself a drummer (I supposed you meant drum and cymbal noises), although there is nothing in the scene to indicate he has pursued it to any extent. The climate here is described as warm and a little humid. That could refer to a more southerly habitat, or it could, again, just be the time of year. The presence of the cat indicates perhaps a little more depth to the character, maybe; cats are not known for suffering the foolish, and it takes a bit of internal specialness to bond with one.

These are just my opinions, of course. But I enjoyed being asked to express them.

[edited to add para breaks. it came in as a great wall of text. Hope I guessed right. I can read it now! - timmy][/font-size]

[Updated on: Tue, 01 March 2016 07:37] by Moderator

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