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Saying It Visually

Semiotic Communication Examples

The first way that comes to mind to a writer to communicate something is to have the character say it in dialogue. "I'm sick." But ideas can be communicated in many ways, and a visual medium permits many avenues for expressing that same idea.

What things might indicate that a character is in sick?

  • Let a symbol speak for the character. A fever thermometer sticking out of a person's mouth is a good indication that he isn't well.
  • Let an action speak for the character. If the person is lying down, a miserable look on his face, maybe holding his gut, head, or arm, and hardly able to move, or he collapses, is shaky, vomiting, coughing, these are good indications that he doesn't feel well.
  • Let the set, the third character, speak for the character. If the character is in a hospital room or bed, or just lying on his bed silently in the middle of the day, these are good indications that he isn't well.
  • Let appearance speak for the character. If the character is a ghastly white and lying flat on his back, these are good indications that he doesn't feel well.
  • Let another person speak for the character. If a doctor or nurse peers in at the patient, these are good indications that he doesn't feel well.
  • Let the situation speak for the character. If the character is a passenger in an ambulance that is rapidly approaching a hospital emergency room, that is a good indication that he doesn't feel well.
  • Let an assigned symbol speak for the character. If the character normally holds his teddy bear closely and pulls down the window shades when he is sick, then these are good indications that he doesn't feel well.
  • Let a participatory expressive symbol speak for the character. If the character normally drinks alcohol, starves himself, layers on the blankets to sweat the infection out, and watches cartoons to make himself feel better when he is sick, then these things that participate in his "sick" experience also express to others that he doesn't feel well.
  • Let a sound symbol speak for the character. The sounds of vomiting, moaning, and unharmonious music are good indications that he doesn't feel well.
  • Let a metaphor speak for the character. Another character says, "You look as washed out as a riverbank after a flood."
  • Let a motif speak for the character. If the story has multiple scenes in which the person doesn't feel well, build a motif around his illness to display each time he is sick, alerting the audience that he is sick. For example, dim lights, soft music, a quiet bed, a glass of water, and a sterile room (few objects) establish the motif and indicate that he doesn't feel well.

What things might indicate that a character is in love with another character?

  • Let a symbol speak for the character. A ring, another piece of jewelry, a treasured object, or a poem.
  • Let an action speak for the character. If the person is always with the other character, does things for him/her, brings little tokens, stands very closely, exchanges frequent glances and smiles, and touches frequently, these are good indications that the character is in love.
  • Let the set, the third character, speak for the character. If the character choses romantic restaurant locations, dance clubs, expensive entertainment, cozy and quiet (romantic) getaways, these are indications that he is in love.
  • Let appearance speak for the character. If the character puts on enticing clothes and makeup, these are indications that he is in love.
  • Let another person speak for the character. If a friend goes on about how crazy he has become, or what he does for this other person, these are indications that he is in love.
  • Let the situation speak for the character. If the character suddenly becomes clumsy, self-conscious, ill at ease, or suddenly shows off, or tries everything to get close, these are indications that he is in love.
  • Let an assigned symbol speak for the character. If the character thinks you should pick out a single red rose for the person you love, or purchases a "friendship" ring, or makes sure the seat next to him is always reserved, or eyes the phone continuously expecting a call, these are indications that he is in love.
  • Let a participatory expressive symbol speak for the character. If when the character is in love he typically is distracted, doesn't work much, fantasizes (daydreams) a lot, stops going out with the boys, starts reading poetry and watching relationship shows, then these things participate in his "love" experience and also express to others that he is in love.
  • Let a sound symbol speak for the character. Romance music and songs are an indication that he is in love.
  • Let a metaphor speak for the character. Another character says, "Your as titillated as a rooster in a hen house."
  • Let a motif speak for the character. If the story has multiple scenes in which the character is romantic, build a motif around his condition to display for each scene, alerting the audience. For example, dim lights, pulled curtains, romantic music, a glass of wine, candles, establish the atmosphere, the motif.

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