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So my character is a competitive dancer, and the competitions she attends are a heavy part of the story. I'm writing her second competition, and I realize that I'll have to describe the routine whenever she competes. How do I do that without making it repetitive?

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    I'd recommend finding some videos on what you envision your character doing and then use that as a reference Dec 20 '20 at 17:10
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    @Ian54 it's not. It's about how to describe the dancer's movement each time she competes without being repetitive. I'm not asking for names of dance moves. Just other ways to describe dance besides beautiful. Dec 20 '20 at 17:20
  • @Ian54 I agree. It's not about what the moves are, it's about how to describe the routine in such a way that it doesn't just end up as a list of those moves.
    – F1Krazy
    Dec 20 '20 at 17:40
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    The title doesn't really match the question. The title implies the question is about one single long description, while the question is more focused on avoiding the same description over and over again.
    – Llewellyn
    Dec 20 '20 at 18:32
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    "I'll have to describe the routine whenever she competes." Why? Dec 20 '20 at 20:59
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Are you writing for people dancing themselves, especially dancing in the same style? If not, do not go into details more than absolutely needed.

Imagine reading a book about a topic you may have seen but do not know much about, the moment you have to read big passages of details you are not interested in, you are likely to put the book away, for something that is more interesting. Like me telling you how I tied my shoe laces in not just a few words but in a full page of text (and yes, I could and it would be appreciated by a few people.)

On the other hand, if your intended public is young dancers who are still learning or already competing in that kind of dancing, they will want to know details. But do not repeat the same basic moves, go into more detail, how she got that move better than before, or how she failed in its details.

Whatever you write, do not repeat.

I assume you dance and competition level (if maybe not competing yet) you are likely having a way to tell yourself the next move. And while training those will become shorter and more compressed. For the first time you describe a routine you can use the full version, the second the shortest form and the third only 'name' was great, or could have gone better such a way. And after that leave out the descriptions altogether unless you instruct people and the routines change a bit every repeat.
If you do not dance at the level, do not go into details. The people in the know would catch you on mistakes, people not in the know would not be interested. Better to leave out details and just mention things like 'better' or 'not good enough' every body can follow.

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What might work well is to progressively shorten the descriptions as the moves become routine to the character.

I know nothing about dancing, but maybe you could start out with describing the exact moves (the way her feet turn, where she's looking, when her muscles tense to prepare for a jump). At the same time you could also introduce the technical term for these moves. Then, over time these descriptions can be reduced to the technical terms, only mentioning details for the moves that are giving her trouble. That way, the reader would experience the dance becoming routine along with your character.

The next step would be to name each sequence of moves. This could be an official term like the Dying Swan or something you come up on your own. Then, if she uses the same sequences again (either in the same dance or a similar one), you could shorten the description by refering to the sequence name rather than the individual moves. And even if the dance is not identical, you can use the sequence names as shorthand to point out what has changed.

Of course, if she performs the same dance at different competitions, you could simply name the dance, and only go into detail where she's made changes or moves either go wrong or spectacularly well.

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Cumulative Sentences are a great way to show continuous action without it getting tedious and boring. They work because the subject performing the action is only mentioned once in a independent clause followed by subordinate adverbial clause focusing on, in your case, the action of dancing.

From Cross-Country Snow by Ernest Hemingway

He held to his left at the end, as he rushed toward the fence, keeping his knees locked tight together and turning his body like tightening a screw brought his skis sharply around to the right in a smoother of snow and slowed into a loss of speed parallel to the hillside and the wire fence.

Breaking it down the independent clause is He held to his left at the end with each subordinate clause amplifies something about it

  • as he rushed toward the fence -- movement and setting and action
  • keeping his knees locked tight together
  • turning his body like tightening a screw brought his skis sharply around to the right in a smoother of snow
  • slowed into a loss of speed parallel to the hillside and the wire fence

Another example from the same piece

George was coming down telemark position, kneeling; one leg forward and bent, the other trailing; his sticks hanging like some insect’s thin legs, kicking up puffs of snow as the touched the surface and finally the whole kneeling, trailing figure coming around in a beautiful right curve, crouching, the legs shot forward and back, the body leaning out against the swing, the sticks accenting the curve like points of light, all in a wild cloud of snow.

Breaking it down the independent clause is George was coming down telemark position with each subordinate clause amplifies something about it

  • kneeling
    • one leg forward and bent
    • the other trailing
  • his sticks hanging like some insect’s thin legs
    • kicking up puffs of snow as the touched the surface
  • finally the whole kneeling and trailing figure coming around in a beautiful right curve
    • crouching
    • the legs shot forward and back
    • the body leaning out against the swing
  • the sticks accenting the curve like points of light
  • all in a wild cloud of snow

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