Friday, April 3, 2009

Friday Fiction

If people think writing a book is hard, I have to say from an author's point of view, penning the novel is the easy part...getting past edits is the tough one. Of course, there are rules we all have to follow--English 101 rules that have been in place since schooling started, but with each editing session, I've learned, or have had foisted upon me, a whole new set of 'preferences' as set by the individual publisher. Trying to discern which 'hint' is actually correct or the style of the editor becomes quite challenging--almost as much as trying to determine the correct format for a query letter when agents keep finding new hoops and hurdles they can call their own. *smile*

Here are some recent tips I've received, and ones I find do strengthen my writing and make absolute sense:

Avoid "to phrases", such as...she moved to set the glass on the table.
Better: She set the glass on the table. It's showing the reader what happened without diluting the the obvious.

Use more Dialogue: You can SHOW the reader much more of what is happening if it comes through your character. As my good friend Tab Shay says, "If you can think it, they can say it." If a character talks about what's happening, the narrator can remain quiet. :)

Use less Dialogue tags: Just because you increase the amount of dialogue in your story doesn't mean you have to identify every bit of it to the reader. Readers are sharp. They can pick up on the most or least obvious. In books I've read, I've found dialogue between two people with a constant use of names that soon became tiring. Let's take an example of Fred and Tom discussing an upcoming shopping trip. Clearly, from the scene, there is no one else in the room with them.
"Are you going to the store, Tom," Fred asked.
"Well, Fred, I thought I'd wait an hour or two," Tom said.
"When you go, Tom, I'd like to rid along. Fred smiled.
See what I mean. I think you get the point.

Speaking of smiled. You can't smile words, hence the period after the dialogue. He spoke, then smiled.

Body Language:
I'm borrowing this next portion from my good friend and fellow author, Tabitha Shay, and I know she won't mind if I paraphrase and tell you SHE wrote it and shared it with me:

There are a number of ways to implement body language into a scene.

1. Is your heroine telling a lie. Think about some ways her body language would betray her.
A. She'd avoid eye contact.
B. She'd dip her chin.

2. Is she happy? How would she send a message?
A. Smile?
B. Maybe her eyes would twinkle.
C. If she's a flirt, perhaps she'd wink.

3. Is your heroine feeling crowded by someone...say the jerk at the office. How could she handle the situation without smacking him or saying anything?
A. Back up--create some distance?
or...if he isn't a jerk and she's really interested in him. How would she let him know?
A. Lean forward when he talks, draw closer.

4. What if she wants a kiss? Would she...
A. Part her lips?
B. Lick her lips?
C. Stroke his arm?

5. If she sad?
A. Show tears.
B. Listless?
C. Are her shoulders slumped?

Tabitha also suggested that your dialogue should always sound natural. A redneck wouldn't sound the same as a Bostonian AND...have the dialogue move the story along. Ask yourself if your characters have their own voices so readers know who is speaking without the cluttering tags.

As someone who writes about the old west, I've discovered it can be problematic when sharing critiques with my friends "across the pond." British language is very prim and proper, whereas a cowboy may say, "reachin' for, fixin' to, and I reckon I might." It's amazing how many ways you can convey the same message. *lol*

Does the body language match the dialogue? That's another important fact.
Next Friday, I'll tackle some more puzzling "rules."


Lisa Logan said...

All excellent advice, Ginger!!


Molly Daniels said...

My problem is I love some of the quirky remarks my character said, but my editor doesn't like! Finally, after round #3, I said to hell with it and quit fighting with it. I have the original, and if my readers complain it's flat, I can send them the original conversation:)

I just want this over with an get a release date already!

Is this a bad attitude for a first-contracted story?

Tabitha Shay said...

Molly, a judge of one of my contest entries once told me, "I love your hero, but your heroine is dull. Her character doesn't match his." To me, my heroine did match, and I couldn't figure out what I needed to do to make her more appealing. What was wrong? I went over and over the manuscript, then one day it hit me. Yes! I see what that judge means. My heroine lacked attitude. There was no sass in her. I sat down and re-vamped her character. I made her spunky, sassy and challenging. She gave the hero a run for his money. That hero and heroine became Danger Blackstone and Lacey Weston from my novel, In The Arms of Danger. I'm still grateful today for that judge's advice. Now I make every heroine sassy and bold and full of life and I make certain she challenges her hero, dares him to tame her. I guess what I'm trying to say is, Yes, we, as authors must be willing to make changes, it's how as artists, our work grows. No matter how much we love the things they say or do, we have to use those scissors and snip. Who knows, you might discover the quirky things you love can be used elsewhere in the story or even in another book. Good luck, Tabs

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