Thursday, July 29, 2010

The First Five Pages

A Writers Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile
- Noah Lukeman, Simon and Schuster
If you missed my previous posts—You must buy this text. I summarize the genius. Part 2 of 3:

Second Level of Elimination: Dialogue

1. Between the Lines
  • Identifiers (attributions) that are not smooth—repetitive names; pronouns; missing identifiers
    • Variations of "said:" yelled, cried, whispered, groaned, hissed
    • Direction: "he said, his eyes narrowing"
  • Spitfire dialogue—must be broken up, stretched out with identifiers, pauses, breaks, direction
  • Interruptions—too much narration which interrupts conversation
  • Journalistic dialogue—quoting/paraphrasing characters
2. Commonplace
  • Dialogue which takes the reader nowhere
    • For the need to be "realistic"
    • To work "into" the scene
    • Rushing to get to the "high concept" plot
3. Informative
  • Informative dialogue indicates preoccupation with story
  • Is the dialogue natural? Back story? Information characters know, revealed for the purpose of the reader?
  • Often used to talk about what is happening, versus showing it
  • Springs from need to tell not show
  • Is controlling
4. Melodramatic
  • Mostly comes across as fake
  • Overly burdens the dialogue to be mouthpiece for drama
  • "Practice understatement. When you complement moments of high drama with words of high drama, you demean the reader."
5. Hard to Follow
  • Most common dialogue problem: capturing dialect or twang; heavy use of slang
  • Lack of identifiers
  • Exclusive (only the characters understand) or cryptic dialogue
  • No matter how well dialect is captured, it will slow the reader down
  • Dialogue should be a respite from narration; not create a heavier burden
    • Focus on choice of words, ways of expression, body language instead
Write Every Day!


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