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Thread: Another way of saying, "Suddenly,..."

  1. #1
    AW's Resident Commie bsolah's Avatar
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    Another way of saying, "Suddenly,..."

    I'm editing this horror flash fiction piece and gotten to a point where something happens quickly and it's meant to surprise the reader.

    I've put:
    Suddenly, character drops object and runs
    Is there another way to convey the surprise of it? I was thinking of just taking the word suddenly out all togther.

  2. #2
    practical experience, FTW nevada's Avatar
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    you can't. there is no sudden jump out of the closet surprise in novel writing. only in movies and in real life when your mother decides to cure your hiccups by hiding in the coat closet and jump out at you when you walk by. true story.

    you can only describe the surprise by the surprisee's reaction to it, not by the surpriser's action. That probably doesn't make sense. you can't write "surprise!" you can only show people's reaction to being yelled "surprise" at.
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  3. #3
    Fear the Death Ray maestrowork's Avatar
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    If you write it a certain way (use the pacing of your prose), then you don't have to use "suddenly" at all:


    Mary strolled through the park, soaking in the sun and watching the birds bathing in the pond. She licked her ice cream cone, and the sweet, rich chocolate melted on her tongue. She turned to watch the birds again.

    She dropped the cone. Then ran. Just ran.



    The idea is the sudden shift of tone, pace, or context. Here, we set up a context -- she's having a lazy, relaxing stroll and watching the birds and enjoying an ice cream cone... the sentences are long and relaxed and languid.

    Then you (suddenly) describe that she dropped the cone and ran. It's an immediate opposite of the paragraph above, and the sentences are short or fragmented. The pace now becomes abrupt.

    This way, you're not using a vague word to TELL us "sudden" but you're actually SHOWING us "sudden."
    Last edited by maestrowork; 02-24-2009 at 09:38 AM.

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  4. #4
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin Layla's Avatar
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    I've always wondered and pondered about this... i hate "suddenly". I eventually started doing what maestrowork suggested.

  5. #5
    Mostly harmless SuperModerator dpaterso's Avatar
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    I'd swap the actions around, e.g. the character runs from whatever has triggered this (a punchy verb in a short phrase, e.g. the door burst open, the man lunged at her), and as a result fumbles/drops the object, in fact this may come as realization seconds later while in flight, OMG she'd dropped the map!

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  6. #6
    practical experience, FTW David Wisehart's Avatar
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    Don't use "suddenly." It never has the intended effect. In fact, the extra word slows things down, which is the opposite of what you want.

    Just write what happens. Then what happens next.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by nevada View Post
    you can't. there is no sudden jump out of the closet surprise in novel writing. only in movies and in real life when your mother decides to cure your hiccups by hiding in the coat closet and jump out at you when you walk by. true story.

    you can only describe the surprise by the surprisee's reaction to it, not by the surpriser's action. That probably doesn't make sense. you can't write "surprise!" you can only show people's reaction to being yelled "surprise" at.
    How about with a book on tape?

  8. #8
    AW's Resident Commie bsolah's Avatar
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    Thanks guys for your suggestions. Keep them coming. Like, Layla I've always wondered about this.

    I'm also curious to hear what people think about Nevada's assertion, that you can't surprise a reader, only show how the character was surprised. I even blogged about it to ask my readers.

  9. #9
    practical experience, FTW nevada's Avatar
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    well obviously you can surprise a reader by revealing a fact so unthought of that the reader goes OMG i never thought of that. But you can't startle the reader.
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    I'd miss out all attempt at saying 'suddenly' at all. Just say what you've got to say and let the reader be surprised. Or not.

    If you say "Suddenly!" it's borderline telling-not-showing, because you're ordering the reader to feel shock, dammit.

  11. #11
    practical experience, FTW nevada's Avatar
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    and please, don't substitute with "Just then". lol
    i've joined the blogging generation.
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  12. #12
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    Or 'and then'. I got hellaspanked by thethinker42 (ooh, passive sentence alert!) for starting a paragraph with 'and then'.

  13. #13
    Living the dream CaroGirl's Avatar
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    BOO!!

  14. #14
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    *shits self*

  15. #15
    Dancing on the edge Brindle Chase's Avatar
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    I might try something like this. Suddenly isnt needed if your sentence structure makes the abrupt change for you.

    Sally moved through the store, fascinated by the colorful designs. Shopping was never so wonderful as it was in Paris. Her eyes drifted about the boutique and wham. The perfect dress. It was calling to her...

    (weak example I know, but you get the idea) *lol*

  16. #16
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    I've been startled in two books. It was a literal physical jump as I was reading. Prickly arms, thumping heart.

    And both times were in Stephen King books - the first in Cuju when the mother and son (?) were sitting in their car, and Cuju suddenly appeared clawing at the window. The second was in It, when the kids were crawling through a tunnel and something appeared (I don't remember what, I was about 12 when I read it....perhaps that also played a part in me jumping? ).

    How was it done?

    Looking back, it was all about the pacing - just like maestrowork said, but this had an added layer.


    It wasn't just about a sudden change from peaceful to action/horror. At this point in the book we new there was a danger nearby, but King slowed the pace of the book to give us a bit of a breather. Danger was nearby, but for now we were safe.

    What made me jump was the unexpected cut-off. Often you can get a feel for a book you're reading, and know that you're going to have a "safe time" of about a page, and then it'll hit action/horror again.

    But what King did in these examples was let the reader have a breather, and just as we were settling, hit us with the chance of pace just before we were ready.

    Then bang, your blood pressure shoots up, and your heart explodes in your chest cavity.

    I haven't found that kind of tension in any books since. Facinating to disect, though.

    cheers
    Sam
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  17. #17
    figuring it all out
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    Hi Brindle,

    I hope you don't mind me butchering your story example, thought I'd take a stab at it too:


    Sally moved through the store, fascinated by the colorful designs. Shopping was never so wonderful as it was in Paris. Her eyes drifted about the boutique. She stopped at a rack featuring summer dresses spotted with small blue flowers. Beautiful. She ran her hands through the fabric, feeling the softness flow over her fingers.
    White hot pain shot through her chest.
    She looked down. A knife protruded between her breasts, red blossoms circling the blade. Her mind was blank. The dress fell from her fingers, the blue flowers now intermingled with red roses.
    She heard a scream in the distance, then her world faded.



    A weak example too, but fun to write, none the less

    cheers
    Sam
    Sam Stephens
    "Daddy" - 1st place winner of AusLit Short Story competition. Read it free:
    http://www.samstephens.com/breakingpoint/daddy-by-sam-stephens.php

  18. #18
    Always learning virtue_summer's Avatar
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    "Suddenly" actually detracts from the effect. Seriously, think about it. It happens "suddenly" and you want it to feel like that, but you're building it up and prefacing it and warning the reader that it's going to happen. So it may be intended to have happened "suddenly" to the character, but to the reader it was foreshadowed more than everything that came before it. Get rid of the word "suddenly" and just have what happens happen.

  19. #19
    Dancing on the edge Brindle Chase's Avatar
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    Talking

    Quote Originally Posted by Sam Stephens View Post
    Hi Brindle,

    I hope you don't mind me butchering your story example, thought I'd take a stab at it too:


    Sally moved through the store, fascinated by the colorful designs. Shopping was never so wonderful as it was in Paris. Her eyes drifted about the boutique. She stopped at a rack featuring summer dresses spotted with small blue flowers. Beautiful. She ran her hands through the fabric, feeling the softness flow over her fingers.
    White hot pain shot through her chest.
    She looked down. A knife protruded between her breasts, red blossoms circling the blade. Her mind was blank. The dress fell from her fingers, the blue flowers now intermingled with red roses.
    She heard a scream in the distance, then her world faded.


    A weak example too, but fun to write, none the less

    cheers
    Sam

    You killed Sally! You bastard! *said in Eric Cartman voice*

  20. #20
    storm central stormie's Avatar
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    Sam is right. There were books where I didn't see (whatever) coming and the book practically falls from my hands. And it makes me want to read on, no matter how late at night. It's about setting the scene. Maybe a build-up, maybe not.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by bsolah View Post
    I'm editing this horror flash fiction piece and gotten to a point where something happens quickly and it's meant to surprise the reader.

    I've put:

    Suddenly, character drops object and runs

    Is there another way to convey the surprise of it? I was thinking of just taking the word suddenly out all togther.
    Quote Originally Posted by nevada View Post
    you can't.
    Quote Originally Posted by maestrowork View Post
    If you write it a certain way (use the pacing of your prose), then you don't have to use "suddenly" at all:

    Mary strolled through the park, soaking in the sun and watching the birds bathing in the pond. She licked her ice cream cone, and the sweet, rich chocolate melted on her tongue. She turned to watch the birds again.

    She dropped the cone. Then ran. Just ran.

    The idea is the sudden shift of tone, pace, or context. Here, we set up a context -- she's having a lazy, relaxing stroll and watching the birds and enjoying an ice cream cone... the sentences are long and relaxed and languid.

    Then you (suddenly) describe that she dropped the cone and ran. It's an immediate opposite of the paragraph above, and the sentences are short or fragmented. The pace now becomes abrupt.

    This way, you're not using a vague word to TELL us "sudden" but you're actually SHOWING us "sudden."
    You don't need to add several lines of tell prior to this in order to show. Just pick a more appropriate verb than drop and a more appropriate verb than run to suggest the sudden movement.

    Cheers,
    Bob

  22. #22
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    What maestro and others are talking about is control of suspense. Suddenness is an artifact of suspense.

    Suspense isn't an art; it's a craft. You control it by pacing, as others have mentioned, and by change of topic or locale.

    I'd post an example here but there are already some good ones.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by RobJ View Post
    You don't need to add several lines of tell prior to this in order to show. Just pick a more appropriate verb than drop and a more appropriate verb than run to suggest the sudden movement.

    Cheers,
    Bob

    Give it a try: What's a more appropriate verb than "drop", Rob?

    I guess you could replace "ran" with "fled", but I actually found the repetition of "ran" more powerful.

  24. #24
    Great Scott Member James81's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ruv Draba View Post
    What maestro and others are talking about is control of suspense. Suddenness is an artifact of suspense.

    Suspense isn't an art; it's a craft. You control it by pacing, as others have mentioned, and by change of topic or locale.

    I'd post an example here but there are already some good ones.
    Bascially what you are saying is to pay attention to how your sentences are being constructed as you write and when you want to create the "feeling" of "suddenness", to shorten them up and make choppier sentences (so to speak).
    Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate. --Carl Jung

  25. #25
    AW's Resident Commie bsolah's Avatar
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    Well it souds like I've done it right.

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