Do you ever find yourself blocking your novel? Positioning everything in your scene either upstage right or downstage left or right centre or upstage centre? Do you ever hold your thumbs together to form a block with your hands in which you envision your scene…so that you can ensure it’s visually pleasing and correct as you imagine it?
Do you ever accidentally write in a character leaving the stage? Entering the stage? Stage whispering?
Do you ever write END SCENE at the end of a chapter or SETTING at the beginning of one?
You may be suffering from playwriting fever. A novel is NOT a play and a play is NOT a novel. This advice is more for myself than for anyone else. I tend to work the play of my novel in my head while I’m writing the novel. It makes me consider every single word of my dialogue—which is a great thing—but it also slows me down at times and makes me forget to write the prose between the dialogue.
Stage blocking can help when writing a novel. Truly…it can. You should try it sometime. It allows you to see if the picture you’re creating is going to work, if everything you’re writing is possible/viable. But it can also get in the way. You can’t cross that line where you forget you’re writing a novel. Things get stifled if you actually write your scenes like you’re blocking them. There is no poetry in the act of stage blocking. That’s probably why it’s all parenthetical in a script. In a novel, you have to make sure everything flows…not just your dialogue.
Again, this is advice for myself. I sometimes forget this…as I enjoy playwriting almost more than I enjoy novel writing. Sometimes it’s hard to turn the playwright off.
By all means, position your characters properly within your scenes. But remember not to spell it out. You’re not telling actors where to stand…you’re carrying your characters through an imaginary world which your readers have to reconstruct effortlessly. Readers are not going to read the stage directions. They’re going to float through your novel…see what you tell them to see. The trick is to get it into their heads without them knowing it’s there. Effortless scenes…not—character A is here and character B is here, okay go…read.
This concludes today’s lesson/reminder to self. Next I should tackle – If you’re going to fling your characters off of tall buildings, there is no need to fling yourself from such precipices in order to write the flinging accurately.