I begin a piece by saying "They stood opposite each other" and don't reveal whose pov it is/ the MC for a couple of lines, so I can establish the setting briefly. May aim is to drive home the point that there is a confrontation, and I don't really like "John faced opposite Biff," which I guess technically works better. But the feel is off for me.
Posts: 2195 | Registered: Aug 2006
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Both of the examples are static action. No dramatic action is stated, though implied, it's not developed as such in the two snippets. Preferable, dramatic action doesn't necessarily require movement or establishing the characters' orientation toward one another. "Faced opposite" is almost a tautology. Facing implies the characters have squared off and are looking directly, totally fixated, and intently at each other.
In body language, facing off is a confrontational gesture. Other nonverbal cues might demonstrate the nature of the emotions involved. Facing off is essentially a squared posture, not a rounded posture with tentative, brief, or askance looks toward each other. Emotions like nonverbal communication come in clusters. In confrontations, the emotional clusters are aggression-anger countered by trepidation-fear, flight or fight responses. Holding the arms away from the body to appear larger and ready for action, twisting in place to edge on and front on, bending at the waist, flexing ankles, knees, elbows, and wrists, head held high with the nose pointed above the opponent's but not so high that the neck is exposed, stamping feet, clenching fists, hard-eyed glares, heavy breathing. Game on.
The dramatic sense of the opening that I get is not whether the point of view character is introduced as such, but that there's a confrontation between the characters. To demonstrate that emotionally charged atmosphere and introduce the setting at the same time, perhaps the place or objects related to the confrontation might be incorporated into the confrontation.
[This message has been edited by extrinsic (edited September 15, 2008).]
Lots of stories start in omniscient POV for a few lines. A novel might keep this up for a few pages. It's a legitimate technique that readers accept.
Posts: 976 | Registered: May 2001
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While a confrontation can be exciting, I think it lacks drama unless you know the characters. Two guys facing off means a fight is coming, which means someone could get hurt. Exciting. But if one of the guys is Ted, who has a wife and kids and he's a public servant and gives money to orphans, then I'll be more attached to Ted, and I will emotional investment in the conflict.
So I think you should get me in character immediately. Then show me the conflict through his point of view. That way I know why I should care about this conflict.
Well that establishment is short in coming. But it's a matter of:
"They faced off in the railyard. The sun was creeping over the horizon and it filled the dry desert air with a pink glow. Even from this distance John knew there was something wrong with Ted. His clothes were a mess, his hair unkempt, and his face - it was covered with thin red lines."
"John was a policeman. He had served his country for a dozen years, both in the military, and in law enforcement. He had a wife and fifty-nine kids, but don't ask him how that's possible. He like waffles with bacon which is what he ate this morning, and his favorite color is blue. But the sky wasn't blue today, as he faced his mortal enemy - Commando Jimmy."
I realize my examples are extremely biased. But the first is almost exactly like my opening lines. And I think (hope) it works all right.
[This message has been edited by Zero (edited September 17, 2008).]
What ensues is that Ted attacks John, out of (what appears to be) sheer insanity and John is forced to defend himself. But Ted (like Han Solo) shoots first. Is that still hookish or do I lose you there?
[This message has been edited by Zero (edited September 18, 2008).]
It works for me. Ted's actions are in line with John's initial perception of him. I want to root for John as the defender and POV, while hoping Ted doesn't get hurt too badly. But if he does, or if John has to kill him, its understandable since Ted shoots first.
quote:John was a policeman. He had served his country for a dozen years, both in the military, and in law enforcement. He had a wife and fifty-nine kids, but don't ask him how that's possible. He like waffles with bacon which is what he ate this morning, and his favorite color is blue. But the sky wasn't blue today, as he faced his mortal enemy - Commando Jimmy.
Obviously this isn't what I meant. I think what you stated after my post - that you immediately reveal that these characters know each other and that there is something (supernaturally?) wrong with one of them - does enough to slip me a little into the character. Before I understood that there would only be confrontation before you mentioned character.
As much as I love John and his 59 children, the first example is absolutely fine. When I read the first post, I imagined you wouldn't be naming your protag for ages...a couple of lines isn't worth mentioning. The establishment comes so quickly that I wouldn't worry about it. Not a problem at all.
[This message has been edited by Nick T (edited September 18, 2008).]