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Welcome to the AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler! Please read The Newbie Guide To Absolute Write

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  1. #1251
    Fresie
    Guest

    The Knight And The Hawk

    Uncle Jim, I know it's a bit late, but I've just read your Knight Story and I'm awed. Knocked-out. This is such a strong piece. All myth, all atmosphere. It'll be haunting me for a long time.

    Guess, I'd better stick around. If one day I come up with something 30% as good, I'll think my life hasn't been in vain. Really.

    That was the biggest lesson you've taught me here.

    Here's the link, in case somebody new like myself hasn't seen it yet.

    p197.ezboard.com/fabsolut...&stop=1080

  2. #1252
    evanaharris
    Guest

    re: fressie/"surreal mysteries"

    Oh, jeez. I'm a mystery writer. A bit of a surprise, considering I write surreal fantasy
    five words: the films of david lynch.

    particularly mulholland drive

  3. #1253
    Fresie
    Guest

    Re: re: fressie/"surreal mysteries"

    five words: the films of david lynch.

    Exactly my point. You can do anything you want provided it's backed-up by an entertaining story with a convincing plot.

  4. #1254
    James D Macdonald
    Guest

    Re: The Knight And The Hawk

    Oh, Fresie -- that's just a little-bittie story outline. More a summary, really. Please, drop by my <a href="http://www.sff.net/people/doylemacdonald/" target="_new">home page</a> and pick out a book for yourself. (I've posted the first chapters from most of them.)

  5. #1255
    Fresie
    Guest

    Re: The Knight And The Hawk

    Please, drop by my home page and pick out a book for yourself.

    Uncle Jim, did you write all those books???

    Great openings. The writing seems so deceivingly straightforward. You write about totally fantastic things, but everything's clear to the reader. I definitely need to get a book or two.

    Now I compare your writing with the editing examples you gave here and at the Share Your Work board and I think I start to see the logic behind it.

    Jeez, one must practice for at least twenty years to write like this!!

  6. #1256
    Joanclr
    Guest

    Uncle Jim's books

    I agree! I just got finished reading The Apocalypse Door, and I was wowed--the style is fluid, wonderfully clear, and just begs to be read. It has two legs and it talks to you.

    I guess, after all, that is the main goal.


  7. #1257
    James D Macdonald
    Guest

    Re: The Knight And The Hawk

    Uncle Jim, did you write all those books???

    Yes, with my coauthor and beloved wife. As one of the characters says in <A HREF="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0812517040/ref=nosim/madhousemanor" target="_new">The Price of the Stars</A>, "It's all for sale."

    My grandfather, Johan Esterl, owned one of the first movie theatres in Wisconsin. He'd been a publican; but when Prohibition was on the horizon, he invested in a nickelodeon.

    The business did well. Every night he'd stand outside the theatre when the movie got out, shaking hands with the patrons.

    "Good show, John!" folks would say.

    "Better one tomorrow," he'd reply.

    That's the something that's guided me. Give people entertainment. Give them a "better show tomorrow."

    Folks, let's raise a beer to my grandfather.

    He died before I was born, but all my life I heard about him, and nothing but good.

  8. #1258
    ChunkyC
    Guest

    Re: U.J.'s grandpa

    Definitely good advice. :cheers
    Last edited by James D. Macdonald; 04-02-2012 at 07:49 AM.

  9. #1259
    paritoshuttam
    Guest

    Dialgoue writing

    Hi
    I have this problem of pacing the dialogues. When there are a couple of pages of dialogues running together, I get the feeling that is going too fast; I need to slow down things a bit. So I put in fillers between dialgoues, most of which, unfortunately, have no other function but that of being dialogue-slowers. Essentially, stuff like he/she grinned/smiled/shrugged/nodded/shook his head/rolled his eyes ad infinitum.
    I have felt silly writing it, and this was confirmed when I read in a book that this was a mistake inexperienced writers make.
    What would you do about it, Uncle Jim? I remember your suggestion to look at ten pages from far and make out if there is too much of blocky stuff (too much description) or staggered stuff (too many dialogues). How do I avoid having too much of that staggered stuff?

    Thanks,
    Paritosh.

  10. #1260
    ChunkyC
    Guest

    Re: Dialgoue writing

    Hi Paritosh.

    Uncle Jim will have some great suggestions for you, I'm sure.

    One thing you can try to do is use these tags and additional text between the dialogue to show character. There's an online resource I use to help with a person's body language:

    members.aol.com/nonverbal2/diction1.htm

    I find it helps me come up with things for my characters to do while talking, that reveal something about them and their attitude toward the person they are conversing with. As with everything, you can overdo this as well, but a frown here, a shoulders turned away stance there, can help fill out an otherwise dialogue-heavy scene.

  11. #1261
    maestrowork
    Guest

    Re: The Knight And The Hawk

    There are many techniques and Uncle Jim has touched upon them. Use internal monologue here and there to break up the dialogue -- especially at points where the characters "ponder." In real life, rarely do we just sit there and speak to each other for a period of time without moving or stopping. Again, it's about movement. Show your characters doing something (cutting an onion? Fiddling with the TV remote? etc. that shows characters). When you find a logical "pause" in the dialogue, slip into internal monologue or briefly describe what is going on in the surrounding (to reflect the mood)... like:
    ...
    "Why are you leaving?"
    "Who cares? What do you want from me?" [a logical pause]
    He stared straight. Her face was glowing in the sun but all he could see was a shroud of darkness. He couldn't escape it.
    "I don't know..." he said. But he did -- he wanted to kill her.
    ...

    As with anything, don't overdo it. My feeling is that pacing is kind of an art -- you need to know when to keep the pace brisk, or slow it down.

  12. #1262
    James D Macdonald
    Guest

    Re: Dialgoue writing

    Several suggestions:

    Break up the scenes. Every couple of pages, do a linebreak and switch to a more narrative-heavy scene.

    Beware "blue screen work." That refers to actors working in front of a blue screen, where the special effects technicians will later add backgrounds, computer-generated characters, and so on. Don't have your characters working in an otherwise empty sound stage. You need to put in the backgrounds, bits of business, other characters, reactions, and so on.

    Read your work aloud. At the point where you get annoyed with the endless dialog, the readers will be too. Put a checkmark in the margin there. Cut everything from that point on.

    Find a novel by an author you admire. Find a chapter in that novel that contains dialog. Retype that chapter.

    Look for the most telling lines of dialog. Use them to stand for the rest of the conversation.

  13. #1263
    Fresie
    Guest

    Re: Dialogue writing

    Great resource, Chunky (oh how do you prefer to be addressed?)

    I especially loved this one, about crossing one's arms:

    women use open arm positions with men they like, but cross-arms with men they dislike (men, on the other hand, show no difference);

    (Puzzled) Having thought about it, that's exactly what I do!

    Excellent resource for giving subtle clues through dialogue. The reader might get the author's message without ever realizing it.

  14. #1264
    Fresie
    Guest

    Re: Dialgoue writing

    Uncle Jim, I have a related question, if you don't mind. You say:

    Break up the scenes. Every couple of pages, do a linebreak and switch to a more narrative-heavy scene.

    I know what I'm asking is very stupid, but still: how long an average scene would ideally be? Of course it's very much like asking "How long is a Chinaman?", but if we talk about the reader's attention span, what length would the reader be more comfortable with, normally? The above-mentioned couple of pages? Or a bit more? Of course it can even be a couple of paragraphs, I understand that, but I'm curious about some kind of average. It must exist, I can feel it.

    Thank you!

    Fresie

    PS. Eeh, and maybe you could add a few words about scene structure? Thank you! (runs for cover)

  15. #1265
    ChunkyC
    Guest

    Re: Dialgoue writing

    Fresie, Chunky or CC is fine, thanks for asking. Glad you liked the dictionary. Just have to make sure to resist the urge to use the definition name in the story, hehe.

    The reader isn't likely to consciously consider these mannerisms as we do when incorporating them into our stories, but should react to them just as they would in the 'real world'. Hopefully, by using suggestions like Uncle Jim's and bits and pieces of this kind of 'stage business', your readers will say 'man, so-and-so's dialogue is so real' without being able to put their finger on what it is that appeals to them so much.

  16. #1266
    Jules Hall
    Guest

    Re: Dialgoue writing

    Fresie... I wondered something similar a while back, and had a look at scene length in a few published books. There was a lot of variation; different authors and different genres seemed to vary from each other a lot, different types of scene even more. But, 500 words (or 2 pages of manuscript) to 1000 words seemed fairly average, with "action" scenes tending to be the longest.

    Out of interest, my average scene length (when I'm not making conscious effort to write scenes of a particular length) is about 600 words. I've scene one piece of advice (on www.hollylisle.com) that suggests that if you want to write a story of a particular length, determine your average scene length, divide your target length by that and then outline that many scenes. It's an interesting approach, but probably not something I'll be doing myself in the near future... right now, I'm more concerned with making the story feel right than making it a particular length. It'll be the length it wants to be.

  17. #1267
    Fresie
    Guest

    Scene length

    right now, I'm more concerned with making the story feel right than making it a particular length. It'll be the length it wants to be.

    Yeah... in the end of the day, that's right. It's just that this little bookkeeper guy in me raises his head from time to time. :jump

  18. #1268
    maestrowork
    Guest

    Re: Dialgoue writing

    My advice is, don't worry about length. There's no set rules. It depends on the scene. If you do find yourself writing pages after pages of dialogue, the problem probably is not the dialogue itself, but the scene. You probably have something that is too "telling" and stagnant. Uncle Jim gave great advice: it's time to break them up. Find a dramatic break and split it... move the second part to another chapter or something...

    "Art is re-arrangement."

    UJ was also right when he said, "Put your characters in some settings and let them do something." That would probably help a lot.

    Have you ever seen "When Harry Met Sally"? Watch it, and study it. The script (and the eventual movie) is heavily based on dialogues. As a matter of fact, the early script had nothing but dialogue. However, watch what they did with the scenes... the characters are ALWAYS doing something. For example, in an earlier scene, when Harry and Sally talk while they drive to New York. They don't just sit in the car and talk, talk, talk. She's fussing around, and guess what he is doing? He's eating grapes and spitting out seeds... that shows characters and also makes the scene dynamic and fun and interesting, thus making the dialogue more real as well.

  19. #1269
    qatz
    Guest

    mac's file was corrupted

    she denies, however, corrupting youngsters.

    jim was right. all stories are both plot and character driven.

    even proust.

    i was right too. he did not disagree with me.

    not that it matters.

    love that redundant owl.

  20. #1270
    paritoshuttam
    Guest

    Dialogue writing

    Thanks everyone, for the suggestions. The verbal dictionary was good. So also was Uncle Jim's suggestion about breaking up the scene. That is mending things from a higher point of view.

    Ya maestro, I have watched When Harry Met Sally a couple of times. Loved the dialogues. Well in a movie, the characters have got to be doing something. I mean they should in a novel too, but it is that much more apparent in a movie. Of course it does help if you have Meg Ryan playing one of your characters :p

    I noticed all of you write "dialog", not "dialogue". In India, we use British English, so I am used to writing dialogue.

    Thanks,
    Paritosh.

  21. #1271
    maestrowork
    Guest

    Re: Dialogue writing

    I use "dialogue" -- perhaps it has something to do with my British education as well. :grin

    A novel is no different than a movie in a sense you have characters doing/saying something interesting and you have a story. You can learn quite a lot from "good" movies. Anyway, if you find your characters talking a lot in a scene (like in When Harry Met Sally), put them in a setting (say, the Diner! :jump ) and have them do something interesting WHILE they're talking (He talks while chomping on his sandwich, mouth full. She speaks tentatively, picking out things she doesn't like in her sandwich, taking tiny bites. Etc.)

  22. #1272
    qatz
    Guest

    paritosh

    please don't worry a bit about using british english when we use american. i often enquire rather than inquire, myself. but the spelling variations are, i think, quite understandable. glad you're here and hope you stay. what part of india are you from, may i ask?

  23. #1273
    Fresie
    Guest

    Dialogue writing

    I've just been admiring (for the umpteenth time) the beginning of Iris Murdoch's Philosopher's Pupil. Two and a half pages of small print -- all dialogue, and only a couple of dialogue tags in the very beginning to indicate who's who. Further on, it's just direct speech, and you don't get confused who's who because each person has a very distinctive speech pattern that gives away their mood and character. You simply see them talk, no dialogue tags needed. And it grabs you from the very beginning although it's nothing but a family argument!

    Somewhere else (guess, it was also Iris Murdoch -- :smack yess! it was in The Black Prince!) there are four or five characters speaking to each other for a good two or three pages, and there're no dialogue tags -- nor actions described, as far as I remember. That's somebody to learn dialogue skills from!

  24. #1274
    Chris Goja
    Guest

    Characters

    He is a sword-touting mercenary with amnesia on the mend, she is a single mother with an attitude, suspected of witchcraft. They fight... well, if not crime, then at least back. With a vengeance.

    You want to read their story? It's over here:

    http://p197.ezboard.com/fabsolutewri...icID=285.topic


    And chapter 4 is up... Just the conclusion left before the Edit (tm).

  25. #1275
    Jules Hall
    Guest

    ...

    LOL

    I've never seen a 'they fight crime' parody before

    On the subject of UK v US English, does anybody know if it's a problem submitting manuscripts written in UK English to US publishers?

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