Trying to figure out a breakfast scene

Bramandin

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I'm trying to figure out a breakfast scene but I come from a family where breakfast is a solitary meal. I already wrote one where they eat breakfast in silence, but that's a different culture and I have a feeling it's not normal to not say anything. What would a family even talk about when all they've done since dinner is sleep?
 

Mr Cairo

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Dinner for me is talking about what you did in the day but Breakfast revolves around the upcoming events and generally just getting ready to leave the house. Breakfast is also less formal, we all tend to sit around a table for dinner but breakfast is more of a drop in drop out "showers free" "ill just have some toast" etc type situtation, conversation is along the following

Did you sleep well
you look tired
what you want for breakfast
you taken the Dog for a walk
KIds done your Homework
Took the dog for a walk never guess what I saw
Weird dream last night
What lessons in school
what's going on today
what you doing tonight
Where's the office paperwork
Where's my keys
Get your shoes on

Breakfast can be a chatty meal.
 

AnRoinnUltra

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Hello @Bramandin , I don't know about having an accurate portrayal of morning meal interactions but I reckon the scene would be a good opportunity to build tension. Is someone tired/ grumpy/ didn't sleep, snaps at the others ...why? etc. A central character mighta been obsessed with the plot and blurts out part of a secret.
Also it's possibly (from what you wrote about sleep) the start of a section of the adventure, so you could introduce the agenda via dialogue. Or go full on buckle your seatbelts readers ...'everyone shove as much food as ye can into your gobs -we're gonna go full throttle into this day so no more grub till sundown'. To answer your question I reckon it'll be down to your characters and how they need to be for the tale.
 

The Judge

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I'm trying to figure out a breakfast scene
Why? Does something happen during the scene that either advances the plot or enchances characterisation or worldbuilding in a way that couldn't be shown anywhere else?

If not, why are you writing the scene instead of just eg "Breakfast was a noisy affair" and getting on with the story? If something does happen, why do you need the rest of the scene instead of just eg "They were in the middle of breakfast when the stove exploded"? If you're using breakfast because you need to show a differing culture of food then again it can just be "His eyes popped at seeing so much on the table -- flatbreads, cold meats, plum sauce" and show his delight/disgust/whatever.

If you feel the need to eg show normality before the stove explodes/someone announces he's going to elope with a princess, then you still only need a couple of lines of squabbling/reaching for food/messy eating -- you don't need a scene with people talking back and forth for umpteen lines.

but I come from a family where breakfast is a solitary meal. I already wrote one where they eat breakfast in silence, but that's a different culture and I have a feeling it's not normal to not say anything.
Not every culture at every time had an early morning meal where everyone was at the table -- agricultural workers, for instance, might take something to eat in the field after they'd done a few hours of work -- so consider whether breakfast would in fact be eaten in this way in this culture.
 

Toby Frost

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If you feel the need to eg show normality before the stove explodes/someone announces he's going to elope with a princess, then you still only need a couple of lines of squabbling/reaching for food/messy eating -- you don't need a scene with people talking back and forth for umpteen lines.

Alien is a great example of this. You can hardly make out any lines of clear dialogue at the dinner table before John Hurt starts coughing.

There's always the reported speech option if nobody is saying anything very important: "I was on my second bowl of cereal when mum tried to talk to me about the science project. I just nodded and ran out the house as soon as I could."
 

Bramandin

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Hello @Bramandin , I don't know about having an accurate portrayal of morning meal interactions but I reckon the scene would be a good opportunity to build tension. Is someone tired/ grumpy/ didn't sleep, snaps at the others ...why? etc. A central character mighta been obsessed with the plot and blurts out part of a secret.
Also it's possibly (from what you wrote about sleep) the start of a section of the adventure, so you could introduce the agenda via dialogue. Or go full on buckle your seatbelts readers ...'everyone shove as much food as ye can into your gobs -we're gonna go full throttle into this day so no more grub till sundown'. To answer your question I reckon it'll be down to your characters and how they need to be for the tale.

Narratively I just want to dump the names of all the people that live in that house on the reader; just to say I did it... even though I'm probably going to have to put in a reminder of who they are next time they come up. Otherwise I'd just skip it.

Kerwin and Idony weren’t the only ones who lived in the building, which had been a larger shop in the before-time. Sabelea was married to a shepherd named Shepherdman; they had a son a few years older than Radley named Shepherdson and a young daughter named Tamsia. There was also Granny Nameme who used to be a weaver, but could barely spin because of her age.

My thoughts sofar on character-stuff is to have the orphan thinking about how he's different from the genetic family that's living there. Also wondering why they're not afraid to be so chatty when Kerwin and Granny are grumpy risers.
 

Bramandin

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There's always the reported speech option if nobody is saying anything very important: "I was on my second bowl of cereal when mum tried to talk to me about the science project. I just nodded and ran out the house as soon as I could."

I think this is the perfect way to go about it. It seems sometimes like people do a lot of talking without really saying much of anything, like how my mom will just thought-dump without a filter when she's driving.
 

farntfar

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Your mum eats breakfast while she's driving?
That could be dangerous, especially if she spills the coffee.
 

Bramandin

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Why? Does something happen during the scene that either advances the plot or enchances characterisation or worldbuilding in a way that couldn't be shown anywhere else?

Pretty much I mostly need a place to stick this infodump.

Kerwin and Idony weren’t the only ones who lived in the building, which had been a larger shop in the before-time. Sabelea was married to a shepherd named Shepherdman; they had a son a few years older than Radley named Shepherdson and a young daughter named Tamsia. There was also Granny Nameme who used to be a weaver, but could barely spin because of her age.

It doesn't have to be breakfast, but I started the scene with a good-old waking up in the morning. Culturally, it would make more sense for the weavers who live in the shop to quaff some wake-up juice before getting to work, the shepherd to grab a hand-pie from their equivalent to McDonalds on the way to the field, and the kids to be fed breakfast at school. Private residences don't light their stoves in summer, so breakfast together would be yogurt, fruit, or cold bread that was bought the night before.

I like the idea of the orphan thinking about the contrast between his foster-family and the genetic family, but I could stick that into a scene that happens during dinner.

Your mum eats breakfast while she's driving?
That could be dangerous, especially if she spills the coffee.

Sorry, I tend to not write out connections between thoughts so it looks like non-sequiturs. That sort of talking without saying much of anything can be a constant thing with some people.
 

The Judge

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Pretty much I mostly need a place to stick this infodump.

Kerwin and Idony weren’t the only ones who lived in the building, which had been a larger shop in the before-time. Sabelea was married to a shepherd named Shepherdman; they had a son a few years older than Radley named Shepherdson and a young daughter named Tamsia. There was also Granny Nameme who used to be a weaver, but could barely spin because of her age.

Frankly, that doesn't sound a good enough reason to me, and certainly not if you were intending to use that actual paragraph which is pretty indigestible.

Do all these characters need to be introduced and all at once? It's usually best to bring in new characters one or two at a time while something is actually happening, so the reader has a chance to take the names on board and learn who is who. If it's vital to bring them in together with their names and relationships like this, and for plot purposes it has to be done all in one go, then you need to make it interesting. Dumped on the page in this present form, you'd definitely have to re-introduce the characters later, so you're just duplicating work.
 

Bramandin

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Do all these characters need to be introduced and all at once?

I have a feeling that I at least need to give the idea that he's living in a mini-commune or whatever it's called when a multi-family dwelling has one shared kitchen. The default expectation is that MC's foster-parents have a single-family unit and I think it would be worse if I have to introduce someone like Shepherdson and then have to stop to explain him beyond the housemate that's a few years older than he is. Would it be weird to go months into story-time without even mentioning that he's living with all those other people? (Actually it wouldn't be months, even if I cut the breakfast scene, that character or his sister is probably going to have lines later in that slice of story.)

Maybe I should add more housemates and treat them as a noisy and chaotic hydra until one of them stands out enough to be named. I really don't want to go back and take another crack at MC being shown around; I'd rather just skip from becoming the apprentice to after he's been there for a bit.

The Meet the Robinsons movie was probably breaking some sort of rule by having so many characters and actually trying to give us their names and relations. This scene happens as a reiteration of spending maybe thirty seconds on each one individually in a fit of chaos.

 

The Judge

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I have a feeling that I at least need to give the idea that he's living in a mini-commune or whatever it's called when a multi-family dwelling has one shared kitchen.
Then say that he's living in a -- to him -- strange arrangement of however many different families living in the one building and sharing the kitchen, and show what he feels about it (eg confusion because he can't work out who they are and what they're doing there). It still doesn't mean you have to name them and their relationships all at once, and you certainly don't have to look up videos of people eating breakfasts in order to decide what they're talking about.

You seem always to be putting the cart before the horse. Your plot should be moving forward and your characters should be doing things. Concentrate on what's important instead of wasting time and energy on elements that go nowhere and add little or nothing to the story.

Maybe I should add more housemates and treat them as a noisy and chaotic hydra until one of them stands out enough to be named. I really don't want to go back and take another crack at MC being shown around; I'd rather just skip from becoming the apprentice to after he's been there for a bit.
I'd agree that unless and until these other characters actually do something that's important, it's better to leave them in the background. However, at some stage you'll have to accept that it's necessary to revise work that you've already written, because it doesn't gel or something needs to be added, and without that acceptance and the work involved in revision, you're unlikely to grow as a writer.

The Meet the Robinsons movie was probably breaking some sort of rule by having so many characters and actually trying to give us their names and relations.
It really doesn't help you by referring to other media for this or any other problem. Film, TV and graphic novels can get away with things that novels can't eg having lots of people on the scene, because our eyes can quickly take in the differences -- sex, colour of skin and hair, body shape, clothing, etc -- which the written word takes longer to convey. You have to work within the constraints of the medium.

Having said that, I really don't think it's of much use to you in referring to novels either, when it comes to what other authors have done in a scene and therefore why you should be able to do it. Analysing the scene might help, to see how and why it works, but there are likely to be too many differences in when the piece was written, the author's style and ability, even the author's fame and following (established authors can get away with junk at times, because their work will be bought regardless) to make the comparison meaningful.
 

Ursa major

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whatever it's called when a multi-family dwelling has one shared kitchen
In the UK, they're called HMOs, Homes of Multiple Occupation.

There are plans to build one not far from where I live and, in that example, there are three floors, each with a shared living room (with kitchen and dining areas) plus a number of bedrooms (each with an en-suite bathroom).

Here's the proposed plan of one of the floors (this and the ground floor, have 6 bedrooms each):

1660759446877.png
 

Bramandin

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Then say that he's living in a -- to him -- strange arrangement of however many different families living in the one building and sharing the kitchen, and show what he feels about it (eg confusion because he can't work out who they are and what they're doing there). It still doesn't mean you have to name them and their relationships all at once, and you certainly don't have to look up videos of people eating breakfasts in order to decide what they're talking about.

You seem always to be putting the cart before the horse. Your plot should be moving forward and your characters should be doing things. Concentrate on what's important instead of wasting time and energy on elements that go nowhere and add little or nothing to the story.

Everything is strange to him, but this is picking an element that is strange to the reader as well. How would you handle explaining that a bunch of unrelated people are all in a HMO? Or would you ignore it and have a character outside of the MC's family standing in his kitchen like they own the place?

Maybe I am getting too concerned about details, but it's hard to tell which ones really matter and which ones will cause the whole thing to collapse like a Jenga tower. Like if I write an entire story based on a horse surviving falling off a cliff, (I'm pretty sure they don't survive falling more than a few feet,) the entire story might be unsalvageable except for the subplots. (Okay, I figured out an easy way to patch it just while composing this reply, let's call it an hour, but that doesn't invalidate my point.) You are right in the specific case about it doesn't matter what they talk about over breakfast, I needed more of a mood where later changing them from having a civilized conversation to talking over each other would have changed MC's reaction and possibly character development.

I did happen to find isitnormal.com which seems like a good place to ask about weird stuff that really doesn't get presented on the internet because it's so mundane.

I'd agree that unless and until these other characters actually do something that's important, it's better to leave them in the background.

One of the kids is going to blab on MC talking to the elf when he's not supposed to. Granny isn't actually anyone's grandma, but she gives a hint that the MC's master is expecting to be taken-care-of in his old age, and she's telling me that she actually needs to be there for something else later. They'll need to be introduced at some point, or could I just have them be in the room and seemingly come out of the background like a stage-ninja when they have something to add?

It really doesn't help you by referring to other media for this or any other problem. Film, TV and graphic novels can get away with things that novels can't eg having lots of people on the scene, because our eyes can quickly take in the differences -- sex, colour of skin and hair, body shape, clothing, voice -- which the written word takes longer to convey. You have to work within the constraints of the medium.

Having said that, I really don't think it's of much use to you in referring to novels either, when it comes to what other authors have done in a scene and therefore why you should be able to do it. Analysing the scene might help, to see how and why it works, but there are likely to be too many differences in when the piece was written, the author's style and ability, even the author's fame and following (established authors can get away with junk at times, because their work will be bought regardless) to make the comparison meaningful.

I do concede that there are limitations in each medium that have to be adjusted for, but is looking at movies completely useless? The details might be different, but are there things that absolutely can't be done when crossing mediums? (There are budget constraints, but are there differences between what can be done in a written real-world novel versus a movie?) Maybe a novel is better at avoiding "as you know" conversations. I started reading the e-book sample of Graveyard Book and it also has a ton of characters being introduced at once.

I have thought that just reading books wasn't the complete path to be able to write them, but why do people harp on it being such an important step when standing on the shoulders of giants won't give me the ability to pee further? Is there a literary equivalent to distinguishing between a fine painting and a drop-cloth that was declared valuable art for money-laundering purposes?
 

Ursa major

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Everything is strange to him, but this is picking an element that is strange to the reader as well. How would you handle explaining that a bunch of unrelated people are all in a HMO?
My 2c....

First of all.... Bear in mind that some readers might not find it strange -- and may even live that way themselves or know, or have even visited, those that do. Given this, you'd be better describing the PoV character's (or PoV characters') reactions to the situation rather than worrying about how a random reader might react. After all, the story is about the PoV character(s) and the (pertinent to them and to the story) things they know and experience, not the whole spectrum of possible readers.

Second, explain, if that's the right word (I don't think it is**) how your character(s) reacts to the situation they are, at that moment***, in. This is a way of avoiding the creation of huge wodges of info-dumping, as your PoV character is unlikely to be considering every aspect of a situation at the same time, but the one(s) that is/are most pertinent to them (and to the progress of the story) at any given moment. Let the reader absorb the information naturally by "experiencing it" through the senses and reactions**** of the PoV character.



** - A novel is not a textbook (and certainly not a comprehensive one): it's capturing the pertinent reactions the PoV character(s) have to what they experience and how they take (or not) their own actions in response.

*** - The situation's strangeness (to the PoV character) may or may not persist, so their reactions would change in line with that.

**** - Including thoughts (which can be shown in various ways, not only by 'they thought, xxxxxx....').
 

Mon0Zer0

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+1 to The Judge.

As a reader, one of my stumbling blocks in trying to get through The Brothers Karazamov is the enormous info dump that Dostoevsky lumps on the reader in the first chapter - laying out relations, family history and so on. It feels like blasphemy to say it, but it is so tedious to get through and, to be honest, I had forgotten most of it by the end of the dump. That shizz does not fly to the modern reader.

You have to make friends with the reader. If they're laid with too much information all at once you'll lose them. Try and work essential info into the book in an interesting way that disguises that it's an info dump.

Going back to Meet the Robinsons, one thing to do is examine what they're actually doing in that scene. They don't expect you to remember all the characters, their names and relations. The minutiae of the family members listed is not important - if it was it wouldn't be rapid fire - but the challenge presented to Lewis and Wilbur, as well as their personalities and relations to each other is. The scene's story function is to tell us about Lewis and WIlbur whilst making some visual gags.
 

Bramandin

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Second, explain, if that's the right word (I don't think it is**) how your character(s) reacts to the situation they are, at that moment***, in. This is a way of avoiding the creation of huge wodges of info-dumping, as your PoV character is unlikely to be considering every aspect of a situation at the same time, but the one(s) that is/are most pertinent to them (and to the progress of the story) at any given moment. Let the reader absorb the information naturally by "experiencing it" through the senses and reactions**** of the PoV character.

How long do I have in story time to have a character be considering his surroundings for exposition purposes? In Harry Potter, supposedly he'd been waking up in the cabinet under the stairs for as long as he could remember, and it's novel for the reader not the character. Though I suppose the camera hasn't zoomed into close third yet because the chapter starts with a dry omniscient narrator focusing on the photographs on the mantle and how they changed over the years while waiting for the kid to actually wake up.

I don't want to be stuck with never being able to mention the quirks of the world unless I provide the information as MC first encounters it. I really think that would make things worse, not better. Plus I've seen advice to spread the information through the narrative in small bits. I didn't think my info-dump was that huge and I could easily trim maybe 1/4 of it.

On the way through the kitchen, Radley watched Sabelea fuss over Meldon's messy hair. He felt jealous even though he didn't really want Idony fussing over him like that. There was a storm in the middle of the night last week and Idony trying to comfort him had been worse than not knowing what thunder was.

Can I just write the story without telling who Meldon is? Actually, I don't want to do that even if it is correct because I hate reading fanfictions in fandoms that I'm clueless about because the author assumes that someone knows who Sam and Dean are.
 

Brian G Turner

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Have changed the thread title from "Is there a tool like image search, but for video or fiction?" to "Trying to figure out a breakfast scene" so as not to mess with the site search function. :)
 

sknox

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You are trying to figure out a breakfast scene. I recommend actually writing the breakfast scene. Do it however you want. Let it be however it is you manage to write it.

Right now, what you've got is no scene at all. Get the scene written. Then you can worry about how well it works. The only thing worse than a badly written scene is the unwritten scene.
 

Brian G Turner

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I'm trying to figure out a breakfast scene but I come from a family where breakfast is a solitary meal. I already wrote one where they eat breakfast in silence, but that's a different culture and I have a feeling it's not normal to not say anything. What would a family even talk about when all they've done since dinner is sleep?
IMO you're asking the wrong question. Ideally a scene should be about:

a) establishing character
b) advancing plot
c) developing inner conflict

which makes the actual context just window dressing over a core issue. In which case, what is your core issue - ie, the reason for wanting to include that scene? Figure that out and the details of the rest shouldn't matter IMO.
 

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