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Need Advice: A Character Following Another Character Unnoticed. (1 Viewer)

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ElizaV

Member
The protagonist in my story is following a friend of hers to find out the secret he's hiding. When I got to that part I realized that I don't really know how to write a character who is trying to follow another character unnoticed. How do you make that sound interesting? I'm still learning how to write too, so I'll take any advice I can get. This is a snippet of what I have.

Mia follows close behind Jamie, shrinking herself behind the willow tree.

Why is Jamie in the forest this late at night?

He is far ahead of her, but she can see him scanning the leaves as if something is there, bending his knees low to the ground and pushing the leaves aside.

For all Mia knows, it's just grass and nothing else.

Her eyes squint, trying to see if there's something that is beyond where she can see, but no. It's grass and only grass.

Still, Jamie fixes his eyes on the ground, slowly rising back up and taking off.

Mia steps back, slowly pursuing behind him, but not before falling her gaze on over to the same spot on the ground Jamie was looking at.

Bone shards of some sort of creature is there, but for what it could be is indeed very curious.

Mia looks about, not wanting to lose sight on Jamie. She spots him jumping over a large rock.

She is quick to follow, panting as Jamie's pace quickens through all the twists and turns.

Whatever this is; whatever is worrying him only causes her to worry just as much.
 

SueC

Staff member
Senior Mentor
The protagonist in my story is following a friend of hers to find out the secret he's hiding. When I got to that part I realized that I don't really know how to write a character who is trying to follow another character unnoticed. How do you make that sound interesting? I'm still learning how to write too, so I'll take any advice I can get. This is a snippet of what I have.

Mia follows close behind Jamie, shrinking herself behind the willow tree.

Why is Jamie in the forest this late at night?

He is far ahead of her, but she can see him scanning the leaves as if something is there, bending his knees low to the ground and pushing the leaves aside.

For all Mia knows, it's just grass and nothing else.

Her eyes squint, trying to see if there's something that is beyond where she can see, but no. It's grass and only grass.

Still, Jamie fixes his eyes on the ground, slowly rising back up and taking off.

Mia steps back, slowly pursuing behind him, but not before falling her gaze on over to the same spot on the ground Jamie was looking at.

Bone shards of some sort of creature is there, but for what it could be is indeed very curious.

Mia looks about, not wanting to lose sight on Jamie. She spots him jumping over a large rock.

She is quick to follow, panting as Jamie's pace quickens through all the twists and turns.

Whatever this is; whatever is worrying him only causes her to worry just as much.

Hi Eliza,
Well, it seems to me that you have a lot of telling going on. Since you say you are relatively new to writing, I would say this is a pretty easy trap to fall in to. You want your readers to know what you know; you want them to understand, so you find yourself explaining everything, rather than just showing. You are telling us what Mia thinks, what steps she is taking, what Jamie is doing and Mia's attempts to figure out what he is thinking too. You are not really showing us much, or giving your readers an opportunity to discover anything on their own.

I would suggest isolating your characters from one another more. For example, go ahead and place Mia somewhere nearby, then tell us what Jamie is doing without trading stories back and forth. I'll give you an example of what I mean:

**Ahead of her, Jamie walks further into the forest, stopping now and then to scan the ground. He kneels down at one spot to inspect what appears to be bone shards of an animal, but soon gets up again and moves on. Intent on not loosing sight of him, Mia steps out from behind the tree and sees him jump over a large rock, picking up his pace.**

You can certainly allow Mia to have her thoughts on what is going on at some point, but I think doing it at the same time only muddles the writing. Hope this helps!
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
The protagonist in my story is following a friend of hers to find out the secret he's hiding. When I got to that part I realized that I don't really know how to write a character who is trying to follow another character unnoticed. How do you make that sound interesting? I'm still learning how to write too, so I'll take any advice I can get. This is a snippet of what I have.

Mia follows close behind Jamie, shrinking herself behind the willow tree.

Why is Jamie in the forest this late at night?

He is far ahead of her, but she can see him scanning the leaves as if something is there, bending his knees low to the ground and pushing the leaves aside.

For all Mia knows, it's just grass and nothing else.

Her eyes squint, trying to see if there's something that is beyond where she can see, but no. It's grass and only grass.

Still, Jamie fixes his eyes on the ground, slowly rising back up and taking off.

Mia steps back, slowly pursuing behind him, but not before falling her gaze on over to the same spot on the ground Jamie was looking at.

Bone shards of some sort of creature is there, but for what it could be is indeed very curious.

Mia looks about, not wanting to lose sight on Jamie. She spots him jumping over a large rock.

She is quick to follow, panting as Jamie's pace quickens through all the twists and turns.

Whatever this is; whatever is worrying him only causes her to worry just as much.

This is a nice piece of writing and I like the suspense. I think it would read better if you left this part out:

"For all Mia knows, it's just grass and nothing else.

Her eyes squint, trying to see if there's something that is beyond where she can see, but no. It's grass and only grass.

Still,
"

I doesn't seem logical that she would draw a conclusion that it's nothing without being able to see what it is, and then to only a few sentences later draw a better conclusion.
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
I think you have to cover why Jamie is unaware of his environment, never looking around. It sounds like Mia would be in plain sight out on the grass. Writers often structure scenes that depict action that they simply rely on the reader to accept, and often readers do without putting much thought into whether the action makes sense all the way through. One casualty of gaining more experience as a writer is I'm more critical of logic issues in action I read. I want to know how a character avoided a pitfall, other than "luckily it didn't happen". "Luckily it didn't happen" can be a valid reason, but it can't be overused, and when I use it my character typically admits they made an oversight they got away with.

More often I don't let them get away with it, because it adds tension to scenes that should be tense. I occasionally change a scene as I'm writing for just that reason. I'll get to a certain point and start thinking about how the character avoids something that might go wrong. I often decide the story is improved if I change my plan and let it go wrong. It makes my character fallible, and it adds tension.

When I'm puzzled on how to advance a plot past a tricky point, either in the ongoing plot or in action in a scene, I always think of Isaac Asimov's reply when asked how he came up with such great stories: "I think and I think and I think." That's where you have to go. The trick is you have time to think. The character has only seconds to hide if Jamie turns around. You have as much time as it takes to decide why/how Mia remains unseen, and then sell it to the reader. Personally, I think one character following another character, undetected, is a hard one to sell for any writer, so you're taking on a major league task.

So you might ask yourself, 'What happens if Jamie turns around and sees someone?' He might not recognize who it is. He might abort his journey, but Mia has more experience the next time he takes it. Maybe she knows when he's going the next time and is already waiting further ahead in a hiding place she picked out in between. These questions and your answers can add a lot to the story.

***

These sentences are awkward:

Mia steps back, slowly pursuing behind him, but not before falling her gaze on over to the same spot on the ground Jamie was looking at.

Bone shards of some sort of creature is there, but for what it could be is indeed very curious.

***

Using present tense is dicey. There are plenty of successful examples, but it is also rejected by some readers just because it annoys them, and I admit to being in that group.

Pardon me if you've already studied advice like this, but I link in case it's helpful information:

https://thewritepractice.com/past-tense-vs-present-tense/


 
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Tettsuo

WF Veterans
The protagonist in my story is following a friend of hers to find out the secret he's hiding. When I got to that part I realized that I don't really know how to write a character who is trying to follow another character unnoticed. How do you make that sound interesting? I'm still learning how to write too, so I'll take any advice I can get. This is a snippet of what I have.

Mia follows close behind Jamie, shrinking herself behind the willow tree.

Why is Jamie in the forest this late at night?

He is far ahead of her, but she can see him scanning the leaves as if something is there, bending his knees low to the ground and pushing the leaves aside.

For all Mia knows, it's just grass and nothing else.

Her eyes squint, trying to see if there's something that is beyond where she can see, but no. It's grass and only grass.

Still, Jamie fixes his eyes on the ground, slowly rising back up and taking off.

Mia steps back, slowly pursuing behind him, but not before falling her gaze on over to the same spot on the ground Jamie was looking at.

Bone shards of some sort of creature is there, but for what it could be is indeed very curious.

Mia looks about, not wanting to lose sight on Jamie. She spots him jumping over a large rock.

She is quick to follow, panting as Jamie's pace quickens through all the twists and turns.

Whatever this is; whatever is worrying him only causes her to worry just as much.
In addition to the telling this portion of the story is rife with, you seems to have used past tense but changed the tense to make it present. You can't simply switch the tenses this way. Well, you can, but it comes across as odd. I think the story will improve if you switched it to past tense and added more showing and also some spatial details to better orient the reader (and yourself).
 

K.S. Crooks

Senior Member
Perhaps show the thoughts of the person following. Show them decide each spot to hide and when to move. Build the tension through the follower not wanting to be caught.
 
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