I have a slave who is not sure if she's allowed to speak at the moment, and I want to introduce her owner. How can I do it without bogging it down with an essay on him?
In your comment you said,
Well, I just don't want to describe him too deeply, and I tend to write a lot about the thoughts of a character.
This is the challenge of many short story and novel writers -- even many who are published.
Movie-Screen Of The Mind
Many fiction writers are writing more about what they are thinking than what their characters are thinking.
That's because :
- it is easy to type what your thinking,
- it is a bit more difficult to write a scene that describes what is really happening and will convince a reader that the events are actually happening.
You must first commit to only writing what you see the characters doing.
Most writers don't even have an idea of a scene before they begin typing so that puts them behind at the beginning.
First, imagine what your character is actually doing.
Let's say he is chopping a tree down.
Arvid looked at the tree, looked at the axe in his right hand. He grabbed the axe with his left hand too and squeezed the handle tight. He pulled back and swung hard at the tree, the axe head slammed into the side of the tree and sent vibrations up the handle. He yelled and swung again.
It's stuff you can see. Next layer emotions as more events happen. Why is what you are showing important. Maybe he drops the axe on his foot and kicks a dog showing that he is a mean person.
The point is, show something happening, not just characters sitting around thinking about things.
To do this, you must decide on :
- what the character wants
- what the conflict for the scene is what or who opposes what the character wants
- why the scene is important to the story (does it expose a plot element or show the reader who the character is?) If the scene has no point, rip it out.
Who's your point-of-view character? If it's your slave, and she's the only one who can't speak, it's easy.
The buyer left her in the courtyard, pointing at the ground as if to say "Stay, dog!"
Kate stood, moving only her eyes. The fountain. Flowerbeds. Locked doors. A lattice through which she could distantly see eyes and hear muffled giggles - the zenana. She shuddered, smelling her own stink in her rags caked with sweat and vomit after the voyage.
A man came through the great mahogany door. It was silently locked behind him. She dropped her gaze, but she had seen the sword, the silks, the gleaming teeth and glossy hair. He walked around her. "What have they brought me this time. Good God, have they not even washed her?" He turned and shouted, "Wash this thing, throw out the clothes and return it to me" - and the door burst open and hands hurried her across the courtyard and through corridors to a cavernous room with a hot pool.
Have her observe him carefully, perhaps apprehensively. She is terrified that this owner will be cruel to her, but hopes that she might find ways of appeasing him. She must observe him to learn the truth of him. Has she been sold to someone who will use her with some kindness or will she wish herself dead or dream of his death?
Perhaps something like:
Kia crouched where she had been left, watching the man enter the room. He was tall, strong and had her life in his hands. She watched him, just out of the corner of her eye. Never give eye contact, that can get you beaten. Never take your eyes off him, must know what kind of man he was. She saw his curt gesture to rise and rose to her full height, glancing away.
He walked up to her, raising her chin with his hand firmly, but gently. Looking into his eyes for the first time, she did not know if she should hope or curse the fate that had led her tribe to defeat and them into slavery.
“I see no sign of injury or deformities, so you can talk. You are wise enough to be silent, you might be useful in the kitchen.”
She looked away, cooking and cleaning for this man was something she could do if she must, but her home was gone, parents dead and this was the life she had left to her. No choice but to obey, but it could have been worse, much worse.