Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Monday, July 27, 2009
Our son left for sea cadet camp yesterday. We saw him off at the airport with a couple hundred other kids from Newfoundland attending either sea, air or army cadet camps on the mainland. Sean is spending nearly 2 weeks at what used to be the Naval training center at Cornwallis in Nova Scotia. He announced to us at age 12 he wanted to join the sea cadets as he figures that he'll be in the navy when he gets out of school. Kids are so advanced to day...I was in my last few months of high school before I decided on a direction for myself (and it turned out I was wrong, at that!)
I thought I'd stick up a photo of him in his hat as he looks so darn cute in uniform (oops, did I say that?) What I meant is he looks rugged and manly in his uniform...Grrr!
Elizabeth Bowen's Rules of Dialogue:
- Dialogue should be brief
- It should add to the reader's present knowledge
- It should eliminate the routine exchanges of ordinary conversation
- It should convey a sense of spontaneity but eliminate the repetitiveness of real talk
- It should keep the story moving forward
- It should be revelatory to the speaker's character, both directly and indirectly
- It should show the relationships among people
A few extra points that I could squeeze from my class notes...
- One thought at a time.
- Over three sentences per speech runs into danger.
- If dialogue does run into speech, break it up with interruptions by other speakers, by actions, or thoughts, or convince the reader the speech is important.
- Dialogue should allow the reader to read as much as possible between the lines, in what is left out, and in the stage directions, actions, and gestures that accompany the dialogue.
- One of the most important purposes of speech is to express character.
As I was typing out #3 on the list, I got to thinking of when I was a teenager and read '1984' by George Orwell. Early on in the story a character, a political leader I think, goes into a long speech to give us an idea of their futuristic environment. The speech must have went on for at least 14 or 15 pages and I almost put the book down. Luckily, I am a patient man and the wait paid off.
Has anyone else got to the point of giving up on a book as a result of cumbersome dialogue?
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Points to Ponder
- Approaches to dialogue over the centuries
- Placement of dialogue and how much
- Beginnings with dialogue
- Subtleties of indenting
- Dialect and slang (see Mark Twain's preface to Huckleberry Finn)
- Punctuation. Yes or No?
- Length and proportion
- Dialogue as exposition
- Use of the dash and ellipsis points
- Use of bold; use of oversize letters
- Speaker attributions
- Use of ly adverb; exceptions regarding sound
- How real is real? Pruning the inessentials: the art of compression
- Rhythm and pacing
- Duffer dialogue. Prune where necessary
- Stripped dialogue. The absence of speech tags
- "Said" as an invisible tag
As I have previously noted (ie. whined about) on the blogs of others, I am jealous of those who seem to make dialogue flow effortlessly and exude a lot of atmosphere. That was always a complaint of my night school instructor regarding my dialogue. I agree and I think that I unconsciously try to avoid using dialogue. I present to you, my friends whose work I admire and whose opinions I trust, an excerpt from my short story "The Inscription". I want to submit this to the newspaper competition over the next couple of days before the contest closes...
I rested on a rock outcrop protruding from the damp grass. The dark clouds hanging over the bay that morning were now lifting; the sun immediately brightened the cemetery and warmed my face. I was startled by a young girl who had walked up behind me. An elfin-faced child, wearing a pink sweater and dark denim pants, clutching a large doll clad in a similar fashion.
"What'ya doing, mister?"
"Reading the grave stones."
"Because I'm trying to learn about my family name."
"I already know my name. It's Emily," she said, extending her hand.
"Nice to meet you." I reached to shake her hand but she quickly withdrew it, twisting her arm behind her back.
"I'm not supposed to talk to strangers," she said, twirling the end of her long, red hair with her index finger.
"I understand. That's a very good idea."
"Me and nanny are here to visit poppy. He's dead." She skipped off in the direction of an old woman placing flowers on the white stones of a well-tended grave. Emily tugged on her grandmother's sleeve and whispered in her ear.
Anyway, this is first of only two exchanges of dialogue in the 1200 word story. Do you get a feel for the major male character and the minor female character? The second exchange of dialogue is between the grandmother and the male character where he gets information that helps him in his search for information. Any thought on how to inject more life into these people? All advice would be graciously accepted...
Monday, July 20, 2009
Anyway must be off. I'll be out of town for work shtuff today and tomorrow...no Internet access as work does not deem me of enough stature to supply me with a laptop. So if I am conspicuously missing, it's not because I'm being a snob or anything like that...
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
On the writing front, I've been picking away at a story I want to send to Necrotic Tissue. Breathing New Life is a 850 word story that started as a 300 word flash but sort of grew in scope with the hint of "naughtiness" injected into an additional scene. I'm at the point where I've edited at least 5 times and I'm about to say Shag It, and send it off as-is...
Ah, no real topic today. Let me throw out some random words and you can expand discuss at will:
swimming, quantum physics, garden fairies, pantaloons, anniversaries...oh, that reminds me, today is our 15th anniversary so I thought to celebrate the day I would toss a photo of myself into cyberspace. I'll leave the better half out to protect the innocent. The photo proves that A) I don't dress like a bum all of the time and B) That I did have dark hair at one point.
Wow, just goes to show what 15 years will do to a guy. I usually say the grey started that day and has since been on me like a maritime fog. On other occasions I blame it on the 'space cadet' who arrived on our doorstep about a year and a half after the picture was taken. Of course, that's just one guys opinion...anyway, I'm still here, just treadin' water. Bye for now.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Carrie Harris has today posted a great video from SNL spoofing the cult sci-fi classic 'Soylent Green' (long live Charlton Heston and Phil Hartman). As a child, I recall running between two houses and ripping through a large spider's web that was draped there. Of course, my mouth was wide open as a screamed like a little girl...I ended up chomping down on the offending beastie and swallowed it faster than I could say 'arachnophobia'. One would call that "accidental ingestion."
Thursday, July 9, 2009
I had come in from mowing the lawn yesterday and my wife commented that my hair was all poofy (yes, I know that means something different in the UK...) from the humidity. This I take to mean that I need a haircut. I used to keep my hair longish when I was youngish. Now I keep it shorter as I get older...hmm, did I just make a rhyme? Anyway about 5 years ago, while still working at the steel plant in Ontario, I was approached to participate in a fundraiser for the local food bank. It was mid-October and I was needing a haircut (a semi-yearly event, as I hate forking over $8 for a cut). So I defered my haircut for the freebie at the charily event.
One of the welders and I agreed to shave off all of our hair in mid-December for the charity. On a side challenge, I agreed to shave off my beard and mustache as well if they reached a certain dollar value of fundraising from the employees. So below, I present to you the before and after photos of me taken by one of my co-workers at the office.
The video is pretty funny as well. I'll have to look into getting it converted from VHS tape onto a disk so I can post it. The tape is cool because when the lady makes the first cut right up the middle, front to back, you can hear the audience gasp (it was shot it the welding area of the shop with an audience of over 100 people. The first cut left me looking a bit like Bozo the Clown...what some folks do for entertainment. You will notice that the final product shows a head devoid of tattoos as I'm not that crazy. Which is more than I can say for the other guy who had a yin/yang symbol tattoo on the back of his. Oh, yeah, we made about $2800 for the food bank.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
A small piece of background on me. Since moving to St. John's nearly 3 years ago, I have been tormented with an idea for a novel that just won't let me alone (does anyone else have this problem?). I set the idea aside as it is set locally, in the future, and I figured that it would require a great deal of research to pull in off convincingly (ie. I'm not up to the job at this juncture). I have worked on short stories for a while, now a second idea has hit me, gnawing at my thoughts on a daily basis. This one is a comedy, by the way. Now, all I have to do is acquire some zaniness (ala Cate Gardner or perhaps Carrie Harris)...
I took a night school class at the university to try to build on the scant creative writing knowledge in my possession. I took a second class the next spring, now there is nothing available. There's a couple of cool workshops to take taught by a local writer, but I'm feeling wary of investing more money in my education if I'm not going to "take the plunge." I am a member of the local Writer's Alliance, which offers a mentoring program, but I would need to fork over $2000 to the Alliance, some of which would go to the professional writer that would work with me. I can see that I would gain a lot of knowledge with that, but something doesn't feel right about paying a large sum like that in the hopes that something good will be produced. Note: this sort of ties in with Aaron Polson's blog today about paying others for advice.
The one carrot that I can think of dangling in front of myself is something called the "Fresh Fish Award", also offered by the Alliance. It's a yearly prize offered to a local, emerging writer. I will now be eligible (resident of Newfoundland for 3 years) to send in a manuscript for this when it happens next in June, 2010. The winner gets a $4000 cash prize and $1000 worth of professional editing services. The prize money would sure pay for a lot of mentoring, workshops, editing, etc...sounds like a lot of motivation.
It all seems like a big, scary thing. Yet the tormenting voices continue to nag me to pursue this (or perhaps that's the other voices in my head). My night school instructor, Ed Kavanagh, said that when he wrote he wrote his adult novel (as opposed to children's stories) it took over 3 years to complete, the final year was writing full-time (ie. no job). I'm not sure if I'm ready for that sort of flat-out, nose to the grindstone, giving up family life, sort of commitment...
Anyway, the post is getting longish so I'll stop here. Apologises for ranting about stuff that I may have touched on in previous posts. This flotsam has been distracting me for the past couple of days and I thought that I'd just throw it out there (ie. get it off my chest).
Friday, July 3, 2009
The seven sins posts (lying) were popular last weekend and the past few days. Got the creative juices flowing and a good laugh as well. There was one person that took the challenge to a new level and was very creative with the "game." Anton Gully at Urban Fantasy Experiment (whom I tagged) ran with the sins and posted, in serial format, a short story with his interpretation of the sins. It's gritty and a first draft but very creative. You can either link to his web site, opening the posts from June 29th to July 3rd, or hit each of the links below.
Pride, Envy, Gluttony, Lust, Anger, Greed, Sloth
Since I will be away tomorrow, I won't be able to offer greetings to my American friends. So I'll do it now...Happy Independence Day to all of you. Hope you have a great and relaxing week end. Set your stories aside for the day and spend time with the family.
To help celebrate, click on the attached link to a time lapse fireworks display in Louisville, Kentucky. The music is pretty funky too...
Thursday, July 2, 2009
To help celebrate, I have dug through some old quotes to find one that, I hope, fits the occasion.
"There are certain themes of which the interest is all-absorbing, but which are too entirely horrible for the purposes of legitimate fiction."
--Edgar Allan Poe, The Premature Burial