Enter: Stage Right, Left, and Possibly from Above
It took me a while to start writing this morning. Ideally, the post would have been written ahead of time, but, well, working ten hour days and spending the time standing at the bench making sure everything’s proceeding properly in the lab precludes not only the writing-of-stuff but also the thinking-about-stuff. My First Reader reminded me this morning, still in the wee dark hours, that it was Saturday. Given that last week I’d confused my Saturdays and Sundays and had not written anything AT ALL for this blog, it was a legitimate reminder. So I got up, got coffee, sat down with him to have a chat about topics – we often do this when I don’t have a good idea – and the rest of the family joined us. My Dad, who is staying with us for the Ginja Ninja’s high school graduation this coming Monday. The Ginja Ninja, who needed yarn and a crochet hook. Yeah, um, the ways of teens are passing strange… who wants to crochet before 7 am on a Saturday? Anyway, that one took a while as my yarn was still in a box and if we hadn’t found a random crochet hook we’d still be looking. And then the Little Man, who is terribly excited about his upcoming trip with Grampa, wanted to go over his packing list…
I was thinking, as I fielded questions and comments from all sides (did you know that Coke will take the scale out of a shower head? And that came up because the Junior Mad Scientist hated the way their bathroom’s shower worked, and could she use mine?) that this is something we don’t see done in writing often, but it’s a rich, wonderful, and sometimes very frustrating part of my life. Following multiple people through the threads of several conversations, sometimes with intersections and interruptions, is the lot of any Mother’s life. So is multi-tasking… as I turn back to my computer from a brief conversation about today’s itineraries.
The best – really, the only, way, to handle a multi-person conversation on paper is to do a lot of stage-setting. And to keep your characters limited – personally, I have five characters living with me this morning, and it’s not difficult to keep track (Mama, I think I got it all up, but if there’s any blood in your shower… I just had a bloody nose) but when writing it would be a lot more challenging to keep your readers following along. (Can we have strawberry shortcake for breakfast?)
“Why is there a bullet on the table?” The redhead walks toward her mother, peering at the small object in her hand.
Her mother looks over her shoulder from her seat at the desk. “That’s not a bullet, it’s a cartridge.”
From the couch on the other side of his mother, her brother pipes up. “It was there last night.” He twists around to look at his mother behind him at her desk. “Where did it come from?”
On the other end of the couch, his grandfather lowers his cup of coffee and replies. “We found it in a box last night while we were mulching trees.”
Since this isn’t helping the confusion any, the mother takes the loose ammo.
Her husband interrupts her before she can reply to her daughter. “Have you seen what the side of our tub looks like?”
“Is there blood on it?” She looks up at him, concerned.
And that, folks, is a small excerpt of the conversations going on while I write this post. So… how would you handle a fast-moving multi-persona scene?