Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Dashing Your Dialogue

Part of the problem I've discovered with being a blind writer is...I can't see. Not a huge secret or devastating truth to reveal. As simple as it sounds though, it complicates what I can learn about being a good writer from reading good books. Learning to write, compress, and clarify dialogue comes from reading it as well as writing it. a few months ago I took a challenge to write a story, a complete story, using only dialogue. No tags, or movement between the words. Simply the conversation and nothing else. It was difficult, but I learned a lot
Here's a few things I didn't learn and had to have my friend Michelle Hawk show me...literally!
#1-Interrupting- When one character interrupts another character, the first line of dialogue is broken with a dash.
ex.  "I don't think-"
    "No one asked you to think.
Often writers will break a sentence off with an ellipses... This is incorrect if an interruption is happening.
#2-Movement- When movement happens in the middle of a sentence, the sentence ends followed by a quotation. A dash is inserted followed by the movement placed in between. Another dash is inserted followed by a quotation and the dialogue with a closing quotation. 
Ex.  "I'm terrified"-her hand waved casually around the room-"of this whole mess."
This only occurs if the sentence is broken up. If its two sentences broken by movement a dash isn't needed.
Ex.  "I'm terrified." Her hand waved around the room. "I'm afraid of this whole mess."
#3- Compounds- The only other place dashes are used in dialogue is to connect two or more words together.
Ex.  "He's only a 10-year-old."
     "She's my great-great-grandmother."
ect. ect. or anywhere else a dash would be employed.
It's not something you can listen to and 'hear' the difference, or at least the correct way. It must 'look' the right way in order to be grammatically correct.
Go check what ever your working on and see if you've dashed your dialogue correctly and in the meantime...Keep writing!" .

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Un-named Characters?

A few months ago I participated in an on-line critique with 10 other authors. One of the comments I got, repeatedly, was to name my character. The piece was a narrative from an unknown pov in a prologue type of setting. I recieved fabulous feedback on the details of the sceen, the spark of interest the piece generated and the interesting storyline.However,  everybody wanted the character to have a name.
I didn't want the reader to know who the pov was. I wanted him to remain anonymous until later in the story. Here's what I learned.
What do you do if your character isn't known or named at the beginning of their appearance in the story?
What if their name is known, but you don't want to have to use it repeatedly?
This is where a deep understanding of your character, his/her appearance and or personality can help.
Instead of using the name, use a prominent feature, a quirk, a comparison, or a descriptor unique to the character. Mix them up within the body of the work along with pronouns, a name if you have one and the structure of the sentence to make it flow.
Here's an example-
1- His blond hair drifted over silver gray eyes as he stared through darkened windows. He shifted away from the glass, keeping his distance from the frosty pane. He didn't shiver, although drifting flakes of white dampened his coat and jeans.
1 a. The blond man peered through frosty panes of glass. Darkened windows didn't dissuade his prying silver gray eyes. He stepped back from the glass, shaking drifts of white from his damp coat and jeans.
From now on this character can be; the blond, the blond man, silver eyes, he, his and he has a distinct name.
2. The taller man shuffled his feet, while running his hand through scraggly hair. The shorter one stepped back, wiping his dirty hands over his bulbous nose.
2 a- His long, skinny limbs as if he were a scarecrow, shifted in a nervous tangle. As if he tossed back tufts of straw instead of his scraggly hair. His pudgy friend wiped grubby hands over a clownish nose. The movement should have sent the swollen thing honking.
Two characters who are now; Scarecrow, clown face, scraggly hair, tall man, short friend, etc.
3. Brandon's muscled bicep closed around Oscar's tatooed neck. Brandon squeezed. Oscar stiffened. Brandon tightened his hold while oscar's face turned purple.
3 a- Brandon's arm clamped down over a tattooed neck. His muscled bicep choked the breath from the shorter man. "Oscar" he hissed. "Back away from the lady." His muscles choked the other  man's response from purple lips as he tightened his grip.
The scene moves between the two male characters without having to name every step to keep the movement in the scene straight.
Check your manuscript for too much use of a characters name. I never notice it until it becomes so obvious it can't be ignored. If you can use other names, types and descriptions to name your characters, your writing will be cleaner, prettier and more fun to read.
In the meantime keep writing and finding whatever tricks make your work  even better.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Paper Gems with Marcy Kennedy

I read for a myriad of reasons: entertainment, information, training, skill...No matter what I read, I love to research interesting topics and symbolism to find the basic truths behind the fiction. I love history, theology, romance and mystery. I'm also a reader of what are called 'craft books'.
These are not to teach me to make cute wall hangings or decorations. These books are to hone the 'craft' of writing. Some of my favorites include: Painting With Words, Deeper POV, Scene, Setting, and character and The Busy Writers Guides.
Marcy Kennedy is a writer, reviewer and writing coach. She publishes a string of short, cheap, e-books that you can perches at that cover anything from marketing, promotion, twitter, facebook, developing deeper Point of View, and other basic, well-explained tools writers need. My favorite is called; The Busy Writers Guide For Showing Not Telling.
We're taught to write by 'showing the reader what's happening in the story. Writers do that with words. The concept of 'show not tell' is almost an oxymoron and often difficult to figure out. Marcy Kennedy's book clearly gives explanations, samples and practice sections to teach the concept in a way that makes sense and doesn't require you to have Henningways talent to learn.
You can find Marcy's writing at Writers Digest as the 2013 winner of their short short story competition as well as at her website listed above. Go check out her Busy Writers Guides and see if she's got just what you're looking for to improve your writing.
In the meantime keep writing!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Sculpting The Best Flawed Character

A writer will give her/himself away in the attributes of their character. Often you see or understand the author's own inner-being through one of their characters. We must be careful not to make all of our characters reflections or interpretations of ourselves, or every story will sound as if the author is living in each individual story. If you have loyal readers this can work against you. Your reader will begin to hear you in every story and stop reading your work.
Worse than that...if you're making your character a reflection of you, only an ideal you. Your character becomes a 'Mary Sue'. Too perfect, too one dimensional and too unrealistic.
Here's a short list of things to watch for if you think your character may be a 'Mary Sue or 'Tommy Too Good'
1. This character is uncommonly beautiful/handsome.
2. This character is very smart.
3. Other characters often feel compassion towards this character.
4. The majority of the other characters like this character.
5. This character has some/many physical or psychological characteristics that can also be found on the writer or on the person the writer aspires to be.
6. This character learns new skills rapidly, often being labeled as “a natural”.
7. This characters’ physical or psychological characteristics allow them to be labeled as perfect.
Even if your character is imperfect and shares your own flaws and weaknesses but overcomes them in seemingly inhuman ways, you've got a 'Mary Sue'.
Ask yourself these questions-
Does your character share physical attributes with you?
Does your character share a background with you?
Does your character have insurmountable odds that are solved quickly?
Does he/she possess other-worldly powers that make him/her safe from everyone else?
Does everyone like him/her? Even the bad guys?
Does your character have a physical trait that makes them unattractive? mental or emotional trait? both?
Is he/she intelligent and/or witty? both?
Take the answers to these questions and flaw your character. give then a speech impediment or disease that makes them weak. Let the other characters be frustrated, impatient, disgusted and/or disappointed in your characters choices. Do Not have someone else in the story convince the character its not their fault. Give them something that is their fault and make them live with the knowledge they're not perfect.
These have helped me in crafting both male and female protagonists as well as a test you can give your character I found on-line. Google search-Mary Sue test and run your characters through the gauntlet. One of my favorite characters is a Wizard who is always a mess, too tall and awkward and gets himself into trouble in which he gets the crap beat out of him and/or blows something up. He's fun, funny, real and relateable because he works so hard to be special. Give it a try and keep writing!