Friday, October 06, 2006

Lesson 13: Dialogue Mechanics cont...

I made it...Another week down the tubes! I don't know where the time goes!

I do know that Dark Hour by Ginger Garrett is sitting at #2 on Technorati's Popular Book List. And her first novel, Chosen is sitting at #7...The blog tour is a resounding success...Go CFBAers!!!

Today we are continuing editing lessons from the book Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King.

These lessons will be shortened overviews of the chapters and by no means should be a substitute for buying the book. I'm rereading but not posting a lot of good stuff!

Let's continue. Today we'll be working on Dialogue Mechanics.

A quick review of yesterday reveals that if you're like most beginning writers, you write sentences like, "You can't be serious," she said in astonishment.

And you probably write them without thinking! What could be easier than simply to tell your readers how a character feels? If she is astonished, you just say so. It saves time and trouble!

It's also lazy writing. When your dialogue is well written, describing your characters' emotions to your readers is just as patronizing as a playwright running onto the stage and explaining things to the audience!

If your dialogue isn't well written--if it needs the explanation to convey the emotion--then the explanation really won't help.

Perhaps it's a lack of confidence on the writer's part, perhaps it's simple laziness, or perhaps it's a misguided attempt to break up the monotony of using the unadorned said all the time, but all too many fiction writers tend to pepper their dialogue with -ly's.

Which is a good enough reason to cut virtually every one you write.

Ly adverbs almost always catch the writer in the act of explaining dialogue--smuggling emotions into speaker attributions that belong in the dialogue itself. Again, if your dialogue doesn't need the props, putting the props in will make it seem weak even when it isn't.

There are a few exceptions to this principle, and almost all of them are adverbs that actually modify the verb said, such as "he said softly" or "she said clearly."

To be continued...

And now for some more ways to annoy people!

Sing along at the opera.

Mow your lawn with scissors.

At a golf tournament, chant "swing-batabatabata-suhWING-batter!"

Ask the waitress for an extra seat for your "imaginary friend."

Go to a poetry recital and ask why each poem doesn't rhyme.

Ask your co-workers mysterious questions, and then scribble their answers in a notebook. Mutter something about "psychological profiles."

Stare at static on the TV and claim you can see a "magic picture."

Select the same song on the jukebox fifty times.

Never make eye contact.

Never break eye contact.

Construct elaborate "crop circles" in your front lawn.

Construct your own pretend "tricorder," and "scan" people with it, announcing the results.

Make appointments for the 31st of September.

Invite lots of people to other people's parties.


  1. Bernita said...
    "smuggling emotions..."
    That's an acute description!
    Ron Southern said...
    Anonymous said...
    Hey, I used to trim the lawn with scissors, and there's nothing funny about it.

    *shivers from the memories*

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