Monday, May 4, 2009

Craft: Stage Direction

When I'm editing I will occasionally throw out terms to clients. This weekend I was editing and I said they were using Stage Direction.

So what is Stage Direction?

In this posting I'll give a quick example of Stage Direction and an idea for how to correct it. Think about what this really is. It is infusing emotion in to your story. It is causing your character to interact with the scene.

It is simply where you tell where they're walking around or what they're doing on the stage. Like in a play. the Stage Direction tells us where the character will be on the set at any given moment.


He walked to the table and picked up the phone. He dialed the phone. No one answered. He hung it up. He walked to the kitchen and got a glass of milk.


He walked to the table and clicked on the light. The room was suddenly thrown from complete darkness to murky light covered in shadows. They sent an eerie chill through him. As if at any moment one of the shadows could come alive to stop him from calling Sally. He gently lifted the phones receiver and brought it to his ear. The hum of the dial tone grew louder as he held it against his head. A sound behind him made him stop. He pulled the phone away and watched around the room. But no monster awaited. No shadow had morphed to reveal a ghoul. He held the phone away as he pushed in the seven numbers. The phone droned out a distant ring.

rrring. One. He watched. His back to the wall, eyes patrolling the darkness. Ears alert to unusual sounds.

rrring. Two.

The phone continued it's waiting but by the tenth ring he silenced it with a clang.

He walked from the room without cutting off the light. If someone were watching the house they'd assume he was up there. That would give him precious moments to make his escape.

He tiptoed from the room and down the steps. The thudding of his heart outpaced the ticking of the grandfather clock by two. tick--thud, thud--tock. He stepped in the kitchen and pulled down a glass. Suddenly he craved a glass of milk and the comfort it had always given him as a boy.

Okay, I'm sure you see a clear difference. One just tells you what he is doing. The other gives you a sense of his motivation and reaction to his environment. The first, we don't know what the person is thinking or feeling. Nor do we know why. In the second we experience the scene.

Hope that helps.

Tiffany Colter is a writer, speaker and writing career coach who works with beginner to published writers. She can be reached through her website at
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She writes a blog for the Christian writer Tuesdays at Writer's Rest.


Jody Hedlund said...

Hi Tiffany,
I thought I was already one of your followers! But I realized when I looked at your widgit that I wasn't! I have a link to your blog on mine, but for some reason it won't come up whenever you post. Not sure why, maybe it has to do with your blog being part of your website?

Anyway, great insights into the stage directing. Don't you think there are times when we need to cut quickly to the next scene without describing it in too much detail? I know I've been learning from you to incorporate more detail! I'm still learning when it's necessary to be brief and when to add detail.

Jody Hedlund said...

OK, I'm dense. Now I got your link to work on my blog. I had to be a follower of yours first! Wish I'd figured that out a while ago!!

James Oh said...

Tiffany,Thanks for your insight thoughts and I have lots of brush up as this is new field for me.

Grace and peace to you,