Let's say the protagonist watches a video from a channel like "Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell", how would you go about describing exactly what the protagonist is seeing instead of just showing the audio transcript of the video without the visuals? I've never seen it done, so I am not sure how to do it properly. They usually describe a very small portion of what's seen in the video, or even ignore it completely and just show you the audio transcript.

Could you show an example, or write an example so I can see how it's done, or how it can be done?

  • 4
    Why do you need a full description? Does the whole contents of the video impact the story? Does the protagonist react strongly to many different parts of the video? Are they talking back to the video as it plays? Usually I would say that you only need to include the parts that are relevant and can gloss/skip over the other parts through narration. Commented Jun 29, 2022 at 15:32
  • I am thinking every little detail needs to be shown so the readers see exactly everything the character sees.
    – Sayaman
    Commented Jun 29, 2022 at 15:40
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    But why do they need to see exactly everything? It is common in stories to not include absolutely everything that is being seen. A character who is looking at a bookshelf does not usually result in just a listing of all the book titles (just the ones that affect the character or are important to the plot - and possibly a few other for feel). Another example where not everything is relayed is if a character is walking through a crowd we don't usually get a complete listing of the clothes and colours of every person they pass and see. Commented Jun 29, 2022 at 15:51

2 Answers 2


One option is to shift the narration and point of view to the documentary itself after establishing that this is what the character is watching. So rather than narrating your protagonist watching a screen, you're simply narrating the events of the documentary directly.

This is similar to the logic of excerpting long passages of text in a block quote rather than laboriously wrapping several long sentences separately in quotes with proper attributions. As with the block quote though, even though it is intended for long-form reference, you don't really see it used to quote the entire text of something longer than a poem or very short bit of prose or argument. So if this is a very long documentary, you might want to reconsider dropping the entire thing in your story. If not though, I still think this is the best method.

  • Could you give an example?
    – Sayaman
    Commented Jun 29, 2022 at 22:23
  • It's common in TV and films where someone is watching a screen to do this: you show what is on the screen as if the audience were directly watching the program, maybe starting by showing them watching TV then cutting directly to what is on TV. The same thing would work in comics, and I'm sure I've seen it.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jun 30, 2022 at 11:35

You don't.

Think about how many details happen in your protagonist's world, constantly, that they are experiencing every day. For the story to fully cover everything your protagonist sees and hears in a day, that would require covering 24 hours of footage per day that the protagonist experiences.

Showing everything in perfect detail that your protagonist is seeing in a documentary is just a subset of that. You don't want to ever show every detail of what a character sees/hears/experiences just for the sake of showing every detail.

Instead, only show the snippets of what they're watching that are relevant to the story you are trying to tell. What's relevant to the story? Well, you should know why you have them watching this documentary as part of this story. What purpose does it serve? Once you know that, then that pretty much answers the question for you. Only show details that further that purpose.

Example: maybe the purpose of them watching the documentary is to give a sense of foreboding. Later in the novel they're going to be mauled by an alligator and so you have them watching a documentary about alligators. In this case the purpose of you having this documentary in the story is a sense of foreboding; therefore: only show details that give a sense of foreboding. Maybe a snippet talking about how the alligator can slip up on people unawares. Footage of its jaw crushing a massive bone. Something like that.

Hope this helps.

  • 1
    Exactly! Including every exacting detail inundates the reader with information that distracts from the plot and purpose of the information and would likely trash pacing. Instead focusing on the key details that are important and putting in some extras for flavour or background or context is the better approach. Commented Jun 30, 2022 at 19:27

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