Reality is a lion, crouching patiently in the tall grass.
Others pantomime their fantasies declaring, “I am a rhinoceros” or “I am an elephant, the lion cannot hurt me!” Since they are in fact gazelles they will, in their defiant arrogance, strut too close to the tall grass.
Despite their posturing they then become lion-lunch.
There is a meme going around that illustrates the power of word placement very well: place the word “only” anywhere in the sentence and see how the meaning changes, yet it remains a proper sentence. I won’t go through all of them, but let’s look at a few.
Only she told him that she loved him.
No one but her has told him of their love.
She only told him that she loved him. Her profession of love for him was not sincere.
She told only him that she loved him.
She admitted her feelings to him but no one else.
Go ahead and work the rest out in your head and you’ll see that this sentence has many diverse meanings depending on where you place “only”.
In my interview with Sonia Rumzi I mentioned that I produce snippets of dialogue or stories as a mind stretching exercise, I call this a brain spill, and that I keep these snippets as seed-stock for future story ideas. Some have asked for a peek into my Pandora’s Box of story snippets. The following is one such. It is quite raw, I’ve fixed up the typos but have not done any editing or polishing. It is just a fragment, the sort of stuff that spills out of my brain box when I open the lid.
* * *
He stood, transfixed, heart pounding, staring up at where the man-creature disappeared as four of the men in dark suits split up and ran to surround the building. Two others approached him.
The following is chapter one from a book I wrote in 1984. It is part of a trilogy. The publishing houses refused it back then. After wall-papering my office with rejection slips (it was a small office) I packed it up, tucked it away and forgot about it. A recent decluttering brought it to light again and I’m thinking of producing it as an eBook. I have always considered fiction to be my weak suit. Please read this sample chapter and give me your opinion as to whether or not this book has potential to sell. This is a Sci-Fi book, if you hate Sci-Fi, you are excused, thank you for coming, I hope to see you next time. To the rest of you, if you saw this as a sample of the book, would you find it compelling enough to buy the book?
Thank you for your input, feel free to be honest, that is what I am asking for.
It is said that there are three sides to every divorce: his side, her side, and the truth. This colloquialism alludes to the fact that people will slant their narration of events to suit their own perspective. Really, it goes beyond that because there are times when a participant in an event is not just biased, but incapable of seeing the whole picture because he or she does not have all the facts or is so set in their own view they will not see it any other way.
A good way to draw your reader deeply into your story is to use a variety of non-verbal cues in your dialogue. Try the following techniques to dial up your dialogue.
When a character raises an eyebrow or furrows his brow, this action gives the reader an additional clue beyond dialogue that indicates a change in the character’s emotional state. As the scene progresses and the emotional intensity rises; the character’s dissatisfaction grows into anger, for instance, the character might clamp his jaw, his nostrils may flare, or eyes narrow to a squint, his face may redden and so on. These are all commonly understood signs of anger.
To learn effective use of these cues, read classic works containing emotional encounters or watch good dramatic films with the sound turned off. Study the facial expressions of the actors and take notes of how they signal emotion. Continue reading “Dialing Up Your Dialogue”
There is a process that occurs in all forms of writing. Like many things in life, taking each step in it’s turn speeds the work and improves the outcome. Understanding that process can help you do better work, faster, and enjoy the process more.
This is “getting an idea”. It may come from something else you read, a video clip or movie, or just out of the blue. Most of this step is done in your head. For some it may just go “poof” here I am, ready to go. If this is you, just know that I despise you. For most of us good ideas are elusive.
Because they are elusive you need to be prepared. The muse tends to rise at the most inopportune times. When a great idea comes along do not say to yourself, “That’s a great idea – I’m sure I’ll remember it.” Trust me, you won’t.
Keep pad and paper by your bed for those nocturnal envisions that wrench you from sleep. Keep a pocket-size pad and compact pen or pencil with you always. Or – use a small digital voice recorder to take verbal notes – especially handy if you are driving!
A variety of writing styles are available to you as a writer/author. At one end of the scale is the literary style that tends to ramble along, painting pictures with words chosen more for their emotional impact than their grammatical efficiency. At the other end is the hard-hitting journalistic style designed to convey information quickly and precisely. In between are a sliding-scale mix of these two. Plain Language writing is a style gaining popularity with the modern world.
Any writer knows that conflict is necessary in a story to keep a reader engaged. But what is conflict and how is it created, met, and overcome? The answers to these questions have a lot to do with how well received your stories will be.
What Conflict Is Not
Violence. Crafting blood-spattered scenes of opposing forces (could be armies or individuals) battling one another is not conflict. Violence is the progeny of the conflict. Why are they battling? That is the conflict. And there has to be some specificity to it, not just “This army seeks to take over that army’s kingdom”. Why do they want to take over and how is this pertinent to your POV characters?
The same goes for arguments, personal rivalries, and social “shoving around”. A scene may be set around an argument between two characters or a school kid being bullied by classmates, but the fact that your characters are upset is not conflict. Why are they upset? What is the root of the trouble, not its outcome. That is your conflict. Continue reading “Crafting Conflict In Your Stories”