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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Update on Everything!

This is me updating my life.

I feel like if I don't write something about what I am doing I'm going to look back on these years twenty years from now and be all like, "Whaaat?"

Run on sentences aside, here is what is going on in my life...

I've begun my annual reading of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Expect plenty of LOTR related posts.

I'm turning sixteen in a few days.  Tis quite frightening.  I'm so OLD now!

Been driving a TON!  North Carolina has this "log 60 hours" policy.  So I've been driving everywhere trying to get enough hours to get my license as soon as possible.

After that?  I plan on trying to get a job.  Me needs some cash!

Started looking at colleges and stuff.  I have the oddest feeling that I will probably end up at NC State.  They are one of the only colleges nearby that actually have a creative writing major.  I'd like to double major in English and creative writing.  And then maybe get a teaching license so I can teach English in a school.

It's spring break so I've been hanging with my awesome friends a lot.

The weather is FREEZING!  I mean, come on, it's almost APRIL!  We should be in the seventies by now!  I decided to be a rebel and wear shorts and T-shirts this whole week, hoping that maybe the weather would take a hint.  Did it work?  Nope.

Seriously looking forward to getting a summer tan.

Cleaning up the good ol' pink cave (my room for which this blog is named).  It's amazing the stuff you find while tackling such an endeavor!

My dog Charlie decided to eat wax yesterday.  That's all I will say on the matter.

EDITING EDITING EDITING 'Ember Flame' and 'Hail Frost.'

I'm sick of editing.

So yeah, that's my life right now.  I'm going to go read Fellowship of the Ring now.  (SQUEAL!)  I love those books so much...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Why I love Fantasy: Clothes!

There are billions of reasons for writing/reading fantasy.  The one I'm talking about today is clothing!

And it's not just because it's cool or exotic, no, fantasy clothing can go so much farther than that.  Sure, chain mail, dresses, ball gowns, tiaras, hoods, and cloaks are all very cool, but there is something deeper to them too.

The way people dress helps express who they are on the outside.  For instance, my everyday winter outfit is a flannel shirt, jeans, leather/military jacket, boots, and occasionally a plain headband.  My eleven year old sister who I like to call Merry on my blogs is very different.  Her everyday winter outfit consists of funky colored pants, shirts that inevitably have sparkles or sequins on them, headbands adorned with jewels or flowers, jingly bracelets, earrings, necklaces, and colored sneakers.   Needless to say, she is the fashionista of the family.  But don't you get an idea of our personalities based on the clothes we like to wear?

Fantasy outfits can be even more fun!  They can help flesh out characters and make them realistic by having them have opinions based on their clothing styles.  But I think there are some rules too.  You can't usually just go all willy nilly and have one character wearing chain mail and armor with another soldier wearing a Kung-Fu tunic and trousers.  Maybe you could, but probably not.  I think the best plan for fantasy writers is to select a real historical time period and base their fantasy culture around it.  Most fantasies are medieval fantasies.  Tolkien based 'Middle-Earth' off of Celtic and Nordic cultures and mythology.  Once you do that, you are ready for costuming!

I'll give an example from my books. I actually based 'Holdinus', the Ember Flame world, off of modern American culture.  I thought it would be different and fun, and I did indeed have a lot of fun with it.  I could keep typical fantasy items like swords and castles, but still have high technology like GPS' and chips.  All that to say, my characters' outfits were actually semi-modern but with some twists.


For instance, I always pictured Ember wearing a mini-skirt, perhaps a jean mini-skirt, and a long sleeved fleecy shirt.  Perhaps a belt for hanging axes and satchels off of, and then, of course, a hood and cloak.  I never really described her outfit in 'Ember Flame', but that is how I pictured her.  It gave her a rebellious yet defensive look to her.  Hard and soft.  Vulnerable yet tough.  (And yes, that is Lina from 'City of Ember.'  Ember looks NOTHING like her, but her outfit it very similar to what Ember would wear.)



Hail, on the other hand, would be based off of your average thug nowadays.  I kinda pictured assassins to be the thugs of Holdinus.  :P  He wears a black leather shirt and pants, along with thick boots for trekking through snowy mountains.  He would wear a long black cloak with a hood, and he would usually be wearing the hood even indoors.  (It is Richard Armitage.  He is playing Guy of Gisborne.  How bout I just go ahead and admit I want Hail to BE Richard Armitage???)

It's incredibly fun fleshing out characters through their clothing.  Here are examples of clothes affecting emotion from other fantasy novels:

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine



'Although I suspected Father wanted me to wear another mourning gown, I put on the frock Mother liked best.  She said the spicy green brought out my eyes.  I thought I looked like a grasshopper in it--a skinny, spiky grasshopper with a human head and straight hair.  But at least the gown wasn't black.  She hated black clothing.'

Starlighter by Bryan Davis



'Jason looked up at the royal box where Governor Prescott sat.  His bodyguard stood next to him, always watchful, always ready to defend the governor against attack---the best swordsman in the land, Jason's brother Adrian Masters.  From his soldier's uniform to his polished leather boots, dark gray trousers, and flowing, long-sleeved forest green shirt, he looked very sharp, especially with the sword and belt attached to his hip.'

The Two Towers by J.R.R Tolkien



'The woman turned and went slowly into the house.  As she passed the doors she turned and looked back.  Grave and thoughtful was her glance, as she looked on the king with cool pity in her eyes.  Very fair was her face, and her long hair was like a river of gold.  Slender and tall she was in her white robe girt with silver; but strong she seemed and stern as steel, a daughter of kings.  Thus Aragorn for the first time in the full light of day beheld Eowyn, Lady of Rohan, and thought her fair, fair and cold, like a morning of pale spring that is not yet come to womanhood.  And she now was suddenly aware of him: tall heir of kings, wise with many winters, greycloaked, hiding a power that yet she felt.  For a moment, still as stone she stood, then turning swiftly she was gone.'

(Can I just say that I LOVE this description?  It's got action, vivid description, characterization for both Eowyn and Aragorn, brilliant metaphors, AND a teensy touch of romance?  It's genius.)

North! Or be Eaten by Andrew Peterson



'The Florid Sword leapt from the roof of the cobbler's building, bounced off the canopy, flipped through the air, and landed graceful as a cat behind Sneem.  He wore a black cape, black boots, and black gloves, and had black hair that hung to his shoulders.  Everything about him was black as coal, including his mask.  The whites of his eyes shone.  He thrust his narrow sword and put a grisly end to the Fang.  Janner caught the white flash of his teeth when the man smiled.  "To be sure, Sneem, thou fiend, the Florid Sword hath run you through like unto a bolt of iron lightning piercing the watery depths of the Mighty Blapp, may she run wide and muddy all the days of mine own life!  Flayed by my blade!  Aha!"'

Also, you can use clothes to compare different races.  Compare Hobbits to Dwarves.



Hobbits dress like your average 19th century English gentlemen, albeit without shoes.  They always look neat and clean and ready for a visit with the neighbors.



Dwarves on the other hand, dress like Nordic Vikings ready to go plunder some village or hidden land.



Let's go ahead and throw the Elves in there, who look like noble princes and princesses from a fairy tale.

All that to say, clothes are an important part of life today and I think fantasy writers ought to take advantage of the emotional and vivid pull they can have on a reader.  


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Editing Hail Frost



Editing is MUCH harder than the actual writing. But it can be just as fun. I've been busy editing 'Hail Frost' for plot/story/character/sentence structure/detail/summary/passive voice/everything non grammar related. (I like to leave the boring grammar stuff for my dad. :P Although I do try to catch as much as I can of it. I'm just lazy.)

This is the first scene in 'Hail Frost.' Just thought I'd show what I edited to see if y'all have any other suggestions. :)

Here it is originally.  I've bolded the areas that needed fixing.

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Hail thrusts his hands into the crusty dirt. His dark hair was matted to his furrowed brow as he tugged at the stubborn ground. (More description.  How does Hail feel about this and what is the setting?)

“Is this really necessary?” He grunted at a nearby youth, who was standing with his arms crossed. The boy nodded and wiped his eyes. ("Who" is a telling word.  Show don't tell.)

Hail rolled his eyes and glared towards the sun. He threw the dirt on the nearby grave and decidedly wiped his hands on his cloak. “There,” he snapped, “That good enough, your highness?”

The youth glared at him, “You're a jerk.”

Hail sneered at him, “Rime, it was a mule. And we're losing daylight. Come on.” He tossed a saddlebag over his shoulder and began walking down the grassy incline. The grass was silky and smooth under his feet, but Hail couldn't help but wish it were the crunch and chill of snow. The sun was lowering over the sea. The light sapphires of the sky began to turn to rugged rubies hidden beneath a lacy veil. Hail turned and glanced back. Rime was still on top of the hill, moaning like a baby over the newly dug grave. ("Was" indicates passive voice.  It's okay every now and then, but I used it way too much in this paragraph.  I did not like the phrase "newly dug grave" because it seems to imply that it is simply a hole in the ground and is not covered.  That is not what I intended.  Also, I described the setting, but I did not include Hail's reaction to it.  What is Hail thinking?  What made him turn and glance back at Rime?)

Hail stormed back up the hill, “Did you not hear me? We need to go. Now.”

“You didn't even mark it,” Rime remarked dully. (I need to think of a verb or action instead of relying on adverbs)

Hail stifled a curse. He gestured at the ground, “It is a huge mound of dirt in the middle of this once-beautiful meadow. I think it is obvious enough.” (I like the dialogue, but something felt wrong.  I think I have used enough actions beats and should try some thought beats.)

Rime's green eyes snapped through his tears. He turned and began trudging down the hill, never looking at Hail, and never looking at the grave. Hail grimaced to himself and at Rime's retreating back. 'I was so much more mature at his age', he though ruefully, 'the brat can't even lift a sword. I could lift a sword at thirteen.' (I think the thought would come across better if it were in italics.  Usually, I try to avoid putting thoughts in italics, only reserving those for prayers or dream scenes.  However, I want to keep the first person because that will help emphasize the next paragraph, where Hail jerks himself out of his thoughts and the writing returns to the more distant third person.) 

He stopped his thoughts before they could continue on to what he had done with that sword. At thirteen.  (I'd like to find a stronger verb than 'stopped.'  I could do 'erased' or 'squandered' but I think I will try 'buried.'  It's a unique word for the situation, and it is a nod back to the grave Hail just covered.)

Hail sighed, yes, it was better for Rime this way. It was better to be a coward than a warrior. He jogged down the hill to Rime and placed his hand on his shoulder, “I'm sorry, brother.”  (The thought beats are a little awkward here.  I could do something about the passive voice, but I think I will leave them because it is a thought beat.  People think and talk in passive voice all the time.  Anything else might sound unnatural)

Rime flinched and looked away, “No you're not. You're not sorry she's dead.”  (That's more contractions than I usually like to use.  But I think it matches with Rime's young age, and with his anger and sadness so I'll leave it.)

“I admit, she was just an animal to me,” Hail replied, trying to fight back the irritation rising in his throat, “But I am sorry for you.”  (I see that Hail is 'trying' to fight back the irritation in his throat.  I don't like to use the word 'trying' with Hail.  It makes him seem a weaker character than I imagined him.  Also, I want to add another sentence after the action beat because I want the pause between his dialogue to seem longer.  I also want to evoke more of Hail's emotions without using a thought beat.)

“Yeah, you're sorry I'm not brave, strong, incredible you,” Rime flung at him, pulling out of Hail's grasp.  ('Flung at him' could work.  But I think I could shorten the action/dialogue beat to make it seem faster.)

“Believe me, I'm not sorry for that at all. You have no idea the price I had to pay to become...”

“You? To become you?” Rime replied, he turned and glared up at his brother, “You betrayed the Leverage. You were a drunk. You have done countless sins in your life. You even betrayed Elethor. And what price have you paid? You survive while others die in your place. Ember's in love with you. Even God has forgiven you.” Rime shook his head with disgust, “And you have not changed. You don't care when death happens. You don't even pretend to be upset! Instead you become angry with me because I am apparently not as strong as you.”  ('Turned' is a rather weak word.  I could erase it or change it to something else.  However, I like the action of Rime spinning around to confront Hail where he formerly had his back to him.  Maybe I should add some description to two paragraphs above this one to show that he has his back to Hail.  'With disgust' is jumping out of my POV.  I'm writing in third person limited, through Hail's point of view.  Hail doesn't know Rime shook his head 'with disgust.'  I should change it to stronger action.  'I am apparently not as strong as you' is really awkward exposition.  'Apparently' hints way too much that perhaps Rime is the stronger of the two, a point I make later in the book.  I need to make it sound more natural.)

Hail stared at him for a few moments, his face void of emotion. He turned and stared over the sea again. Jagged and broken rocks stuck out like thorns in the water near the cliff. They were a more welcome sight than his brother. Hail pushed forward, “Come on,” he mumbled over his shoulder, “We are losing daylight.”  (Apparently, I have an aversion to thought beats.  I want to get what Hail is thinking after such an accusation!  Why doesn't he deny it?  Why does he not affirm it if it is true?  Why doesn't he apologize again, or fight, or anything???  Plus, I revert to summary when I say 'They were a more welcome sight than his brother.')

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Here is the edited version.

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Hail thrusts his hands into the crusty dirt. His dark hair matted to his furrowed brow as he tugged at the stubborn ground. Sweat dribbled down his forehead as he hastily glanced towards the quickly setting sun. He returned to the dirt with renewed vigor, swearing softly to himself.

“Is this really necessary?” He grunted, loud enough for the youth behind him to understand. The boy nodded and wiped his eyes.

Hail rolled his eyes and glared towards the sun. He threw the dirt on the nearby grave and decidedly wiped his hands on his cloak. “There,” he snapped, “That good enough, your highness?”

The youth glared at him, “You're a jerk.”

Hail sneered, “Rime, it was a mule. And we're losing daylight. Come on.” He tossed a saddlebag over his shoulder and began walking down the grassy incline. The grass was silky and smooth under his feet, but Hail couldn't help but wish it were the crunch and chill of snow. The sun lowered softly over the sea. The light sapphires of the sky began to turn to rugged rubies hidden beneath a lacy veil. Two shockingly red streaks stretched over the horizon like angry flames. Hail closed his eyes briefly, refusing to think of anything, or anyone, remotely related to fire. Hail slowly opened his eyes, turning to glance back at his brother. Rime still stood atop the hill, moaning like a baby over the freshly covered grave.

Hail stormed back up the hill, “Did you not hear me? We need to go. Now.”

“You didn't even mark it,” Rime remarked, casting nary a glance at Hail.

Hail stifled a curse. Why was he so sentimental? He gestured at the ground, “It is a huge mound of dirt in the middle of this once-beautiful meadow. I think it is obvious enough.”

Rime's green eyes snapped through his tears. He turned and began trudging down the hill, never looking at Hail, and never looking at the grave. Hail grimaced to himself and at Rime's retreating back. I was so much more mature at his age, he thought ruefully, the brat can't even lift a sword. I could lift a sword at thirteen.

He buried his thoughts before they could continue on to what he had done with that sword. At thirteen.

Yes, it was better for Rime this way. It was better to be a coward than a warrior. Hail jogged down the hill to Rime and placed his hand on his shoulder, “I'm sorry, brother.”

Rime flinched and looked away, “No you're not. You're not sorry she's dead.”

“I admit, she was just an animal to me,” Hail replied, fighting back the irritation rising in his throat. He forced his gaze to remain on Rime instead of seeking comfort in the flashing scarlet of the sky. “But I am sorry for you.”

“Yeah, you're sorry I'm not brave, strong, incredible you,” Rime jerked out of Hail's grasp.  He stared at the ground, kicking at several pebbles to send them skittering over the cliffs.

“Believe me, I'm not sorry for that at all. You have no idea the price I had to pay to become...”

“You? To become you?” Rime replied. He jerked towards his brother, flinging his unruly blond hair over one eye. “You betrayed the Leverage. You were a drunk. You have done countless sins in your life. You even betrayed Elethor. And what price have you paid? You survive while others die in your place. Ember's in love with you. Even God has forgiven you.” Rime shook his head, setting his back to Hail and scowling at the sinking sun. He whispered, “And you have not changed. You don't care when death happens. You don't even pretend to be upset! Instead you become angry with me because you think I am not as strong as you.”

Hail stared at him for a few moments, his face void of emotion. What was he supposed to say to that? It was true enough. But still...

He turned and stared over the sea again. The red shone above the water, striking harsh reflections across the liquid mirror of the ocean. Jagged and sharp rocks sliced out of the water near the cliffs, like scratches on a looking glass.  Hail pushed forward, stepping past Rime. “Come on,” he mumbled over his shoulder, “We are losing daylight.”

****************************************

Now, I'm no expert on revision.  I've had to read several books and articles just to have a basic understanding of what to look for.  If y'all see anything that you think I should fix, please tell me!  I won't be offended, and I honestly want to learn more about editing.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Stuff from my Pinterest Board

Cuz I'm too lazy to do a real post.  ;)

On Math








On Being Me




 

On Being Southern




 (They should add Duck Dynasty to the mix.  Anybody else love Duck Dynasty?)

Oh yeah, and you know you have officially done your job as an older sister when you get your eight year old sis to gush at random times, "I wish I could marry Rhett!"  XD

 On Fangirling






 On Funny







 
 On Books I Love







So there ya go!  My life summed up in Pinterest!  XD

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Plot Cliches



So all writers know cliches are bad, right?  I mean, we all know not to start out stories with "once upon a time" and we know to avoid phrases like "disappeared into thin air," "wearing his heart on his sleeve," etc.  Sometimes I find myself using one, but I usually catch it and change it to something more unique.

However, it took me awhile to learn about the dreaded, subtle foe of a writer:  Plot Cliches.

To show what I mean, I'll be using a list from the new book by Jill Williamson and Stephanie Morill "Go Teen Writers."  It's an excellent book for anyone, not just teenagers.


  • The Love Triangle (I have started a war against Love Triangles.  I REFUSE to put a love triangle in any novel I write.  You can get enough angst out of just two characters, why add a third?  Love Triangles are one of my biggest writing peeves ever!  Especially in adventure novels!  *cough cough Suzanne Collins*)
  • The line, "Don't you die on me!"
  • A story about the chosen one.
  • A prophecy being fulfilled.
  • Prologues with an abandoned baby.
  • Portals to another world. (Hmm...define 'portal.')
  • The sequel where the couple has split up and must be reunited.  (I can't stand these too!  I mean, I'm no expert, but I did not have Hail and Ember split up in 'Hail Frost' and I still managed to get plenty of drama out of their relationship.  Sloppy conflict, that's what it is.  Can you tell I just adore romance? *eye roll*)
  • The magical item of great importance.  (I've done this...)
  • Prologue that happens many years before your story begins.
  • The best friend falls in love with the main character.  
  • The fake death.  We saw him die, but... he's alive!  (ANOTHER peeve of mine.  I like Bryan Davis, but he does this ALL THE TIME!  I have vowed to never ever ever bring a character back from the dead, or try to explain away a death because of his books.  I feel kinda bad about it though.  I keep getting asked by all these little eleven year olds (plus my Grandma!  o_O) if I plan on bring Coal back. I give them all the same answer.  Nope.)
  • A character goes to a magic school of some kind.  (Harry Potter wannabes!)
  • The minority sidekick OR comic relief sidekick. 
  • The evil other woman, ex-wife, parent, etc.  
  • A retired guy called back into service because he is the ONLY ONE who can get the job done.  
  • The bad guy who is really the main character's parent.
  • The minor character that's planning to retire.  You know he is going to die...and he does!
  • Big guys are dumb and oafish.  (I've done this one too...)
  • Just before the big battle someone says, "Are you ready?" And the hero says, "I was born ready."
  • The evil dark lord of whatever.  (Ha.  Ha.  HA!)
  • Main character is tutored by the old man.  (Proud to say I've never broken this one!  )
  • The rakish hero who falls for the virginal heroine.  He's a heart-breaker, but now he's met the one woman who can tame his wild heart.  Yeah.  Sure.
  • The bad guy could have killed the good guy but he monologues instead, giving the hero time to get away.  (In my defense, though Sicreet enjoyed monologuing, the hero never got away or escaped or whatever because of it.  All I did was terribly obvious cases of exposition to get information to the hero because I was too lazy to think of a more creative scene.  No big deal.)
  • The couple that hates each other at the beginning but end up together by the end of the novel.  (C'mon, Ember only hated Hail before she knew who he was!)
  • The plain girl who gets a makeover and all of a sudden she's gorgeous and all the guy's love her.  (Barf.)
  • The dying man's line, "Tell my wife and kids I love them!" 
  • The orphan who turns out to be someone really important.  (Well....)
  • Super important places always have REALLY simple names with a capitalization because the author thinks that makes it suddenly cool and epic.  Stuff like The Curse, The Cathedral, The Mountain, The Weight, The Realms....
  • The super fiery, headstrong heroine who falls in love by the end of the novel.  And this suddenly cures her need for control and freedom. 
And there you have it!  I'm sorry if you are feeling depressed right now.  Trust me, I know.  But it's always good to look over your plot to see if there are ANY ways you can fix these problems.  Usually, its better to spot them in your outline before you write it down.  But it's still possible to fix during the editing process.  And I'm not saying you should go and completely change your novel.  After all, these cliches are cliche for a reason.  They obviously work.  You could simply try to add a unique twist to the cliches.  Don't have your hero get into chase in a car followed by police cars.  Have him get chased on foot by a park Ranger on a horse.

Whatever you do, creativity is what fuels a novel.  If readers can spot too many of these cliches, they will know you aren't being creative.  That's lazy writing.  Subconsciously, they'll think, "Well, if the author was too lazy to care about the story, why should I?"

Maybe I'm too paranoid about this.  This has just (lol) been a hard pill to swallow for me.

Now if you excuse me, I'm going to edit out the manaical cackles Sicreet was so fond of in Ember Flame.  Maybe that'll help.  WHy don't I go ahead and give him a pink tux too?  I've never read about a villain with a pink tuxedo!  XD

Friday, March 15, 2013

Chit chat, Action beats, and Beauty and the Beast

Yeah, yeah I know I'm a bad blogger.

Life's been crazy.  Still, no excuse.  So let's just jump in to our post, shall we?

Today we are going to talk about dialogue!

Dialogue in movies and screenplays can be a lot of fun, but it has some rules.  However, these rules, once they become habit, make writing dialogue even more fun.  Sometimes, I break these rules, but I'm still learning.

Rule number ONE!


No CHIT CHAT!  Chit Chat is the everyday, mundane conversations we have every single day.  Stuff like,

"Hey, how's it going?"
"Fine, how are you?"
"I'm doing good."
"Good."
"Weather's awfully nice."
"Oh yeah.  Hope it doesn't rain."
"Yeah."

Not much character development, conflict, or action there, huh?  Life as we know it could not exist without this small talk.  That would probably be a bad thing.  After all, all good friendships made after you turn ten probably began with this sort of small talk.  But in novels, no conflict=boredom.  So you leave out the chit chat.

I had issues with this rule at first because I thought dialogue was supposed to be realistic.  And chit chat is realistic.  True, but it's boring.  Sometimes, accuracy and real-to-lifeness must be sacrificed for the sake of the story.  And that's a good thing.  Books are not supposed to be realistic.  They are supposed to imitate real life, but in an exciting and compelling way.  This took me awhile to realize, but once I did, it really improved my dialogue.   People don't pick up a book to get real life.  They get enough of that in, guess what, real life!

Rule Number TWO!


'Said' is awesome!

Teachers try to brainwash you as a first grader into believing that 'said' is a no-no word. (My mom never did...but I've heard rumors...:P)  In fact, it is the opposite.  'Said' and 'says' are such common words, readers don't even notice them when they read.  They simple see the name of the character beside the word 'said' and move on.  This is a good thing.  You don't want the reader pausing in the illusion of a world you have created because of an 'interesting' word liked "cajoled" or "expostulated."  One every now and then, if it is ABSOLUTELY the best way to describe what the character is doing, is okay.  But I try to keep it to a minimum.

This is one of the harder ones for me to keep.  In 'Ember Flame', I became obsessed with the word 'quipped.'  Hey, it's an awesome word!  You sound like a baby chick when you say it!  Quip, quipped!  But, sadly, quipped can be awesome all day long but it is distracting.  So, with great pain, I have had to change many a "quipped" to a more common word.

The words that I say are pretty much invisible to a reader are:

said, replied, asked, shouted, whispered, laughed, cried, remarked, and explained.  Anything else, I would try hard to find a "Rule Number Three" that would work.  If you can't, it's okay to occasionally use a funky verb.  But try hard not too.

Rule Number THREE!

Use Action and Thought Beats!

Action beats are when you have dialogue that is followed by the character doing an action.  Here is an example from "Gone With the Wind."


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She scowled and her temper came back.  "You will get out of this buggy this time, or I will hit you with the whip.  I don't know why I put up with you, why I try to be nice to you.  You have no manners.  You have no morals.  You are nothing but a...well, get out.  I mean it."  But when he had climbed down and untied his horse from the back of the buggy and stood in the twilight road, grinning tantalizingly at her, she could not smother her own grin as she drove off.

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There are no "saids" or "replied" or "expostulated."  And doesn't Scarlett's actions help paint a picture about what is happening?  Also, Margaret Mitchell uses zero exclamation points, yet I still get the feeling that Scarlett is yelling at Rhett.

Thought beats are when the character thinks something before speaking.  Here is a great example of thought and action beats from "To Darkness Fled" by Jill Williamson.  (Mild spoilers for those who have not read the book.)


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Achan's breath caught.  Sparrow was a her?  "I thought Polk..."

Sparrow's bottom lip protruded again, "He put me in the sideboard then went to kill you."  Her voice cracked, morphing back into that keening whine.

"No, now...don't do that.  Don't cry."  A girl.  A woman.  All this time?  "Blazes!  Why?"

"Achan."  Sir Gavin crossed to Sparrow's side.  "We saw no reason to tell you."

"You knew.  This is the big secret.  Why Sparrow sneaks off in the woods, bathes in your room, cleans his teeth.  Her teeth."  Achan linked his fingers and set his hands on his head.  What was he supposed to do with this information?
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'To Darkness Fled' is written in third person limited POV.  Notice how the only thought beats belong to Achan, the POV character.  Gavin and Sparrow both speak, but we, along with Achan, can only guess at their thoughts by their actions.

And there you have it!  Three basic rules for writing good dialogue.  Here is an example of all of them at work using a scene from Disney's "Beauty and the Beast."

The scene takes place right after the "Belle" song.  Gaston approaches Belle to flirt with her.  The scene actually ends with Belle running off to her home to help her father, but to keep things simple, I'm going to end it right before the three blonde girls start speaking.  That will keep it simply between Belle and Gaston.

Now, if this were in real life, they would probably start with chit chat.  It could maybe be skipped, Gaston being the conceited jerk that he is, but it probably would not have been.  Here is the actual dialogue from the scene given as simple as possible.


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Gaston:  "Good morning, Belle."
Belle:  "Bonjour Gaston."
(Gaston snatches book)
Belle:  "Gaston, can I have my book please?"
Gaston:  "How can you read this, there is no pictures."
Belle:  "Well some people use their imagination."
Gaston:  "It's about time you got your head out of those books and paid attention to more important things.  Like me.  The whole town is talking about it.  It's not right for a woman to read.  Soon she starts getting ideas...thinking..."
Belle: "Gaston, you are positively primeval."
Gaston:  "Why thank you Belle.  Say, lets take a walk over to the tavern, take a look at my trophies."
Belle:  "Maybe some other time."

***********************************
Okay, it's not horrible.  But you don't really get to know the character well with this.  Belle seems extremely passive, perhaps even foolish or timid, based on this dialogue.  Gaston is still conceited and a jerk, but certainly not to the extent he seems in the movie from this scene.

One thing I notice from this dialogue is how skillfully the writer avoided chit chat and still made it realistic.  From this dialogue, Gaston cut the chit chat short with action.  He snatched her book.  In the next section, it will show that it was really Belle who cut the chit chat short.  Either way, it was brilliantly done.

Here is the dialogue with only dialogue tags and basic actions.

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"Good morning, Belle."
Continuing to walk, Belle said, "Bonjour Gaston."
Gaston snatched the book from her hands.
"Gaston, can I have my book please?"  Belle asked.
"How can you read this.  There is no pictures!"  Gaston said, thumbing through the pages.
Belle replied, "Well, some people use their imaginations."
Gaston tossed the book over his shoulder.  Belle dove for it.  "It's about time you got your head out of those books and paid attention to more important things.  Like me."
Belle gently wiped the mud off of the book with her apron.
Gaston continued, "It's not right for a woman to read.  Soon she starts getting ideas...thinking..."
"Gaston, you are positively primeval,"  Belle replied.
Gaston laughed, "Why thank you Belle.  Say, let's take a walk over to the tavern, have a look at my trophies."
Belle held back, "Maybe some other time."

************************************
Okay, this is better.  We still don't get a good picture of their personalities.  We get that Belle likes books.  And we get that she is not interested in Gaston.  But it could still be better.  Let's try adding more detailed action and thoughts.  I'm going to write this in Belle's point of view.


************************************
Belle walked along the trodden path in slow, easy steps.  Everything about her was slow, from the slight swish of her ponytail to the light swinging of her free arm.  However, her eyes scanned the book she held like bees for nectar.  Finally, she found the paragraph.  Her eyes slowed to match the rhythm of her dress as she focused on her favorite scene.

The princess glanced at the boy beside her, wishing desperately that he had been born a prince, or she a pauper.  He tossed her a lopsided grin and ran his fingers through the grooves in the stones.  Leaning beside her, he glanced into the well.  "Are you sure about that?"

"Of course I'm sure,"  The princess said decidedly.  "I can't marry you.  I'm a princess.  I have to marry a prince."  She blinked back tears and turned away, hoping Philip did not see her.  Stupid fairies!

The boy looked back up at her and chuckled.  She turned suddenly, her face pink with tears and anger.  Why was he laughing at her?  "What is so funny?"

"There's something I should tell you.  It's that..." "Good morning, Belle,"

Belle stifled the groan rising in her throat.  Here came charming, chivalrous Prince Philip himself.  Belle forced herself to quicken her pace, keeping her gaze locked on the book.  "Bonjour Gaston."  She hoped he would, for once, take a hint and leave her alone.

For a moment, she thought he had.  That is, until her book flew out of her hands.

Belle huffed and spun around, placing her hands on her hips.  She counted to three to calm herself before carefully replying, "Gaston.  Can I have my book please?"

She sighed as Gaston flipped through her precious book with his dirty, grubby fingers.  He glanced at her and smirked, "How can you read this?  There's no pictures!"

Was he trying to be cute?  Belle choked down the retort rising in her throat.  "Well, some people use their imagination," she remarked dryly.

Gaston slapped the book shut and threw it over his shoulders.  Belle gasped as it landed in a pile of mud.  She dove for it, scooping it into her lap before the pages could soak.  The rude, conceited, brainless, boorish....!

Wait.  He was saying something now.  She decided to listen, trying to find a reason to be politely rude to him.

"...more important things.  Like me."    

Oh, she could be rude with that.  Just not politely rude.  She arched her back, keeping her face away from him.  She attacked the book with her apron, though it was already clean.  He would not make her stoop to his level.  She would not be rude.

Gaston continued, waving his arms in the air dramatically as he spoke, "The whole town is talking about it!  It's not right for a woman to read.  Soon she starts getting ideas...thinking..."

Belle stood and faced him.  Her anger vanished and left her with an amusing thought.  How could someone so stupid actually exist in the world?  With a slight laugh, she replied, "Gaston, you are positively primeval."

She immediately regretted the laugh when Gaston joined her.  She immediately wanted to knock herself out cold with the book when he wrapped his big, hulking arm around her shoulders.  "Why thank you Belle!"  He laughed again, as if she had said something really funny.  He began shoving her forward, sloshing her dress through the wet mud, "Say let's go take a walk over to the tavern, have a look at my trophies."

Belle bristled and pushed against his enormous arm.  Tavern?  Seriously?  She glanced at her book longingly.  Philip took Aurora to that romantic well...  "Maybe some other time."    

**********************************

It ain't perfect, but it's fairly interesting, don't you think?  Funny to think this entire scene takes up only a few seconds in the movie, yet I could get all these feelings and thoughts just from the dialogue.  Kudos to the actors to inflecting the voices perfectly.  And to the animators for the perfect facial expressions.

To summarize, every scene in your novel needs to evoke some sort of emotion.  No emotion means the reader is bored or doesn't care.  Every dialogue needs to have conflict, needs to move the plot, and needs to show character.  The excerpt above has conflict.  (Gaston wants to marry Belle.  Belle does not want to marry Gaston.  Gaston tries winning over Belle.  Belle is less than impressed.)  The excerpt moves the plot.  (Belle's rebuffs will eventually cause Gaston to try and force Belle to marry him, which in turn will make him try to kill Beast.)  And it shows character.  (Gaston thinks of no one but himself.  Belle is different from the other girls her age because she knows Gaston's character and is smart enough to run from it.)

Hope you found this helpful!  I try to remember these three rules whenever I write dialogue, and it really helps me.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Characters in Costumes!

I participated in the March Characters in Costumes challenge from Gillian Adam's blog.  It was a LOT of fun and really helped me get into my character's head.  So thank you Gillian for hosting this!  :)

The challenge for this month was to pick an accessory a character would likely have.  

I chose to do Valin, the villain from 'Hail Frost.'  (Warning: SPOILERS ahead!)

Valin is the mysterious explorer who replaces Sicreet as leader of the Pull. He keeps his past and motivations to himself.  All that is known about him is that he harbors a deep hatred towards the Leverage...and towards the Pull.

Valin's accessory is a blue shell found on the shore of Northern Barbaric.  It was found by a woman named Flin Front, who gave it to Valin as a token of her love for him.  He carved a hole in it and made it into a necklace.  But after Flin discovered Valin's occupation as an assassin, she ran from him.  Valin locked the necklace up and swore to never think of her again.


However, after Valin discoverd that Flin Front is really Flake Frost, one of the six Leverage, he retrieved his necklace again.  Angrily, he painted the Pull insignia in black ink upon the sky blue of the shell.  He wears the necklace to force himself to keep his goal in mind: Destroy the Leverage and further the Pull. 

Maybe though, he wears it to remind himself of the love Flake held for him, hoping against hope that she might love him again.


After losing the necklace during a hasty chase through his volcanic fortress, the shell is found by Hail Frost, Flake's brother.  He realizes that perhaps Valin is not the monster that he seems. 

Or perhaps he is far more cold-hearted than he and the other Leverage ever imagined. 

(END SPOILERS)

Well, there it is!  This was a REALLY fun project that helped me develop Valin's backstory.  I can't wait until the next challenge!  :)  I plan to post an excerpt involving Valin and Flake soon, so stay tuned!