WRITE TO YOUR STRENGTHS

May 18, 2008 at 3:25 pm 12 comments


I’m in a craft blogging mood, so this week stay tuned.

What I’m talking about today is finding that one thing that is effortless for you. That thing is going to help you write your first draft. Now I’m saying this because I realized I wasn’t doing it. (You should see all the introspection I have. Well, you will when See Megan Run comes out. Lessons learned and all that.) But I can’t blame that alone for my stall in word count in my WIP, but close enough.

What is my strength?

Dialogue, baby. You can’t pay me to get my characters to NOT nod, grin, smile or shrug. I really don’t know what else they can do. I’m okay at description. If I close my eyes I can see the room. Or I just open up a magazine find a picture that I think a room or scene looks like and describe it. But dialogue, I can write that stuff in my sleep. Case in point:

“After a hard day of work, smiling nicely at someone is the last thing on my mind. Come to think of it, what type of work do you do?”

He parked in front of the SeaSide Restaurant. “Lately I’ve been a reporter, but I’m thinking of becoming an architect.”

She shook her head, chuckling lightly. “The sad things is, I think you’re serious.”

“What’s not to be serious? If you don’t like your job, change it.”

Neil blinked several times, looking unsure of what to say. A first. When he reached across her to open the door, she practically jumped out of the car. “I said, no touching.”

“I barely touched you.”

“The gleam in your eyes told me your intentions weren’t completely gentleman-like.”

“Really?” Gib closed his door. “I must watch out for that. I don’t want you to see it coming.”

Neil turned from him to the restaurant, mumbling what sounded like, “Me and my pride.”

Now you may say there are tags and the like, but let me show you something:

“After a hard day of work, smiling nicely at someone is the last thing on my mind. Come to think of it, what type of work do you do?”

“Lately I’ve been a reporter, but I’m thinking of becoming an architect.”

“The sad things is, I think you’re serious.”

“What’s not to be serious? If you don’t like your job, change it.”

“I said, no touching.”

“I barely touched you.”

“The gleam in your eyes told me your intentions weren’t completely gentleman-like.”

“Really?”… “I must watch out for that. I don’t want you to see it coming.”

“Me and my pride.”

Isn’t the scene still moving? Yes, they are gaps, but you can still see it. Now in the opposite way:

He parked in front of the SeaSide Restaurant.

She shook her head, chuckling lightly.

Neil blinked several times, looking unsure of what to say. A first. When he reached across her to open the door, she practically jumped out of the car.

Gib closed his door.

Neil turned from him to the restaurant, mumbling what sounded like,

My poor, poor tags lose this match. You can’t see the scene at all. In this particular scene the tags and action are fillers, but important ones nonetheless, because even though the dialogue moves it feels empty without the tags. And then there is this):


“I can’t get the(tarot)reading without you.”

The heifer never fought fair. “Can’t I just pull out a hair and give it to you? I’m up to pricking my finger to give you blood if that’s what you need.”

Shelise glanced heavenward. I tried to not tell her that wouldn’t work either. “I’m not into voodoo.” She spread her hands out as if to call a truce. “All you have to do is shuffle the deck.”

“See, now that’s like saying, ‘all I want to do is put the head in.’ Many babies have been made that way.”

“I’m being serious.”

“So am I. Statistics have shown—.”

“Phoenix.”

Here is the break down(Introspection first, which to me is another form of dialogue if used right and not too much):

The heifer never fought fair.

I tried to not tell her that wouldn’t work either.

Now tags/actions:

Shelise glanced heavenward.

She spread her hands out as if to call a truce.

Lastly my favorite, dialogue:

“I can’t get the(tarot)reading without you.”

“Can’t I just pull out a hair and give it to you? I’m up to pricking my finger to give you blood if that’s what you need.”

“I’m not into voodoo.”…“All you have to do is shuffle the deck.”

“See, now that’s like saying, ‘all I want to do is put the head in.’ Many babies have been made that way.”

“I’m being serious.”

“So am I. Statistics have shown—.”

“Phoenix.”

Honestly there isn’t any need for tags. You know who is talking when. It’s like a tennis match. You can damn hear the sacarsm on one side and the frustration on the other, especially with the last line. It’s kind of like when your parent used to just call your name. Didn’t matter if they didn’t follow up, you just knew you better go see what they wanted. Again the introspection and tags/action help out this scene for clarity and to get a better picture, but this part can ride on dialogue alone. (You can disagree in the comments of course.)

Now how can this help you find your strength? Cut your scenes apart. Pick at least two of your favorite scenes. Don’t ask why, just see what’s in it. Look at the dialogue alone, then the description, then the tags and/or actions. Yes, you need all of them to help paint the picture, but I’m telling you one side is going to win. When you find this out and you are at a lost on how to write a scene play to your strength. you can always add the rest later.

Hopefully this has helped you. So, tell me what is your strength?

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Entry filed under: craft, dialogue.

I’M GOING TO MAKE IT TOOO EASY SPEAKING OF DIALOGUE

12 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Caryn  |  May 18, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    Dialogue is definitely my strength, and my favorite thing to write. I’ve studied both journalism and linguistics, which has helped me capture how people talk to the point where I can “hear” the characters in my head. I usually have to go back in later and fill in the dialogue tags, description, action, etc., although I’m getting better at meshing them all in the first or second draft without having to go back and layer too much. That’s why my writing usually gets longer when I revise.

  • 2. Carat  |  May 19, 2008 at 6:11 am

    Can we switch brains for a while? I love the in-between bits, setting a scene, moving my characters through a setting. Getting them to talk, there is a whole-nuther challenge.

  • 3. Mel  |  May 19, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    Caryn-Now I’m jealous. I always wanted to take a linguistics class.(Every semester it’s full.)

  • 4. Mel  |  May 19, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    Can we switch brains for a while? No problem. My character might stop nodding. And the best trick is to look at your introspection and see if you can turn some of it into dialogue. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything…

  • 5. Amie Stuart  |  May 19, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    Dialogue, hands down. I HATE scene setting and description.

  • 6. Jess  |  May 19, 2008 at 11:13 pm

    odd ball out here and this will probably sound stupid but — dramatic irony and emotional resonance. that last one especially, I just find that I tend to write scene units that are impacting – that may be more relative to “composing a scene” than actual emotional resonance, I’m not sure. 🙂 and I tend to just do well with creating situations and manipulating POV to have dramatic irony, it seems (she says, studying her last WiP).

    I actually SUCK at dialogue. It comes easily to me but it’s not GOOD dialogue; I’m thinking of doing a specific edit where I JUST go through all my dialogue and work on character voice. 🙂

    And great post/question, Mel.

  • 7. Mel  |  May 19, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    The dialogue’s have it! And it’s not hate Amie, it’s acute frustration. (Who cares what’s in the room. Look at the shiny dialogue.)

  • 8. Mel  |  May 19, 2008 at 11:35 pm

    Yes, Jess, odd ball. Just kidding. What I really wanted to know is what people are good are. We all have our own strengths. It’s finding it, honing it, and trusting it that matters the most.

    And thank you.

  • 9. Pam  |  May 20, 2008 at 2:49 am

    I don’t know if you’d call it a strength, but right now I feel like I’m doing well with my voice.

    And I adore shiny dialogue! 🙂

  • 10. Mel  |  May 20, 2008 at 3:53 am

    Having a good voice is definitely a strength. You can take away all craft, what makes a good novel and if all that is left is voice, you are still one up in this game. Not many people trust theirs to do it’s job. It’s so much like opening yourself. If someone doesn’t like your voice it feels personal. Just saying.

    And yes, I also adore shiny dialogue.

  • 11. Amie Stuart  |  May 20, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    >>Who cares what’s in the room. Look at the shiny dialogue.

    HOWLING YES!!!!!!!!

  • 12. Mel  |  May 20, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    I think I’m just easily amused. I also like to get straight to the point. I also love how you can say something without saying it. Dialogue is the best avenue for me. I don’t get how your surroundings can do the same thing. I know you can, I’m just not one of those individuals. Same goes for body language, which can really tell you about a person. I’m just not adept that way. But I know spoken words. And that is why I call it shiny.

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