Friday, April 2, 2010

Aspiring Advice: Dialogue

Finally. A moment to hop on and do my thing!
But, I have some explaining to do first.
Last week, I spent a couple of days Flash-Editing my novel The Dragon's Heart. What a wonderful and laborious task. I say this because I haven't looked at it in almost a year because of my current projects. I knew the dialogue needed work, so I focused solely on that. By the time the edit was done, I had removed some 5,000 words from the manuscript. That's the equivalent of one chapter, for me. It wasn't that I deleted much of what the characters said, but rather the way in which I described them saying it, or, what they were doing while saying it. In other words, too much fluff and detail that was either unnecessary or contextually inappropriate. Hmm. That kinda made me sound smart.

I am happy to report that, while the manuscript will enter a major overall stage once my current work is finished, I touched it up enough for it to pass as a readable rough draft for a few of my father's clients who requested to read it. If you happen to come across this blog, I hope you're enjoying what you see.
Now, before I get to the advice, I have good news and not so good news. Since I like to save the best tasting stuff for last, I'll start with the not so good. Writers of the Future returned my contest entry Forerunner yesterday, simply stating that I did not win. Not even an honorable mention. Hmm. Does this prove that short stories are not my strong suit, or was it just not good enough? What seemed most disappointing was that the manuscript wasn't touched, I think. No pen marks, no written suggestions for improvement, just, "you didn't win. Hope to see your next entry soon." Makes me wonder if it was even looked at. Ah well. There are other avenues for me to take this little Sci-Fi thriller, but once again, it will have to go on the back burner for now. The good news is that I have a new follower in my Cosmic Laire, Mr. David J. West, a fellow writer with much more experience than I, who has a dang cool blog to boot! Thanks, David. Also, with the advent of three individuals reading my material gives me another reason to be positive, as they are in possession of the first four chapters of my latest (unannounced) work as well. Hey. I wanted them to see how much my prose has improved since two years ago.

Onto the advice.
It's not much, but it's important, to me at least.

There's a few small rules to remember when giving voice to your characters . . .
Rule number one: "Less is more."
Nothing's going to put your reader to sleep faster than having your characters speak monologues to each other. Books managed to get away with this a hundred years ago, but the audience has changed since then. Very ADD. Need to know now. Like what you hear in the movies. Keeping your character's voice short and sweet will make a big difference in how they are presented, and it will not make them look like wordy know-it-alls.
Rule number two: "Actions before words."
When you are angry with someone, would you say, "I hate you," and then slam your fist on the table to further get your point across? That looks awkward. It reads awkward too. For example: "I hate you," Bob said, slamming his fist on the table: This implies that Bob hit the table after he spoke. Can this work? Sure. Is this how you want Bob to be seen? What if the sentence read like this: Bob slammed his fist on the table. "I hate you!" he shouted: Which of the two examples read better to you? Now, if someone pauses, they can do an action before they resume speaking.
Rule number three: "Avoid redundancy"
He said. She said. Back and forth. Hopefully, your characters will have a voice of their own that is distinguishable from other characters, so that when you throw in a line of dialogue, you can a character speak, occasionally, without the need to address who is saying it. With one-on-one conversations, even more so. And it doesn't hurt to throw in plenty of descriptive expressions: He scoffed. She sighed. He countered. She retorted: Stuff like that. Makes it more colorful.

As for what your characters should say, you're the voice giver. Go to it.

Thanks as always for warping by.
Check back soon for more advice and updates from this aspiring writer.

I'm David, and I'm listening to Kung Fu Panda.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the mention, I appreciate it and am glad you liked the blog.

    It's harsh but I am guessing there was something about FORERUNNER that set the judges off almost immeadiately.

    Its the standard procedure to glance at the piles of submissions they get and IF you aren't hooking them right away-it gets dumped.

    Just like you said in your post, the audience has changed and if you aren't grabbing their attention right away-you're gone.

    But hey keep at it-everyone has been rejected at one time or another.