I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript. Yep, you can join in the fun, too. Let’s take a looksee at topic #2
2: Use oblique dialogue. Try to generate conflict at all times in your writing. Attempt the following experiment at home or work: spend the day refusing to answer your family and colleagues’ questions directly. Did you generate conflict? I bet you did. Apply that principle to your writing and your characters will respond likewise.
This is one of those things that I read and said to myself “huh-wha?” It seemed like a jumble of words that should be important, if I knew what he was trying to say. Here’s my take on it, after doing a little research and thinking it over.
This is what I came up with. Let’s take a look at some dialog. I’m going to take out movement and emotion so we can just look at the dialog, and see how it works.
“Helen, I’m home.”
“Hello, George. How was work?”
“Oh just dandy. Martin was out, so I had to take care of all his problems and got to none of my own work.”
“I’m sorry to hear that dear. What would you like for dinner?”
“Pizza is fine.”
“Okay, I’ll place the order.”
“I went shopping today.”
“Yeah, what’d you buy?”
“Milk and eggs.”
“Good. I like milk and eggs”
“You know what? We need to talk about Billy. He turned into a velociraptor today, and he ate three of his classmates.”
Okay – don’t judge me. I’m trying to make a point. There is a lot of day-to day babble in here that is really unnecessary, right? The only important thing is that Billy turned into a dinosaur.
Conflict needs to be evident in every scene. Don’t just have people talking about nothing just to kill time. Each scene, and each bit of dialog needs to move the story forward. I mean seriously. Do we need to know that Mommy picked up milk and eggs?
Look for your dialog to be concise and to the point. Give it the impression of being longer, without actually boring your reader with the babble.
Make sure each scene has a start, conflict, and resolution. Each one of these miniature stories needs to draw your characters further along in the story. If it doesn’t move the story forward, no matter how much you love the scene, it’s time to take out the hatchet.
How often do you find your characters babbling with no forward movement in a scene? What did you do to rein your dialog in?
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