How do I convey a dazed character? I know it’s bad to confuse readers, but what if I want them to feel the hero’s confusion? If he experiences a sudden event too fast for him to process, like being hit by a car, or a bout of concussion, how do I describe their disorientation without frustrating the reader?
Related to this, what’s a reasonable limit for how long the disorientation can last? Can multiple sudden events occur in quick succession? Or is it just best to avoid realism here and describe the events clearly?
Thank you for reading,
That’s a great question. I’m assuming you’re writing in close narration and are thinking about changing the narration up to reflect the character’s dazed state.
You can do that, but if it isn’t done the right way, it won’t give readers a good experience. Readers need to know why the narration has changed in bizarre ways, or instead of feeling what they’re supposed to, they’ll just be confused as to whether it’s a mistake in the narration or if they’re interpreting it correctly.
Generally, fixing that means giving the narration some level of self-awareness. Clearly showing what causes the daze, stating that your character feels like his head is stuffed with cotton, and letting him think, “What the hell is happening?” would be means of doing that.
As to how long it goes on for, that depends on how smooth a read it is and how disorienting it is. If the sentences are all broken up and it’s difficult to piece together what’s happening, you’ll need to keep it really short, one paragraph at maximum. However, if the read is pretty smooth and readers can tell what’s happening, but the narrator is just using a funny or simplistic voice, you could keep that going for a while, maybe even a whole scene.
You might want to look at one of my critiques, Lessons From the Purple Writing of The Witcher. It includes a disorienting action sequence that goes on for too long.