Day Five

According to that tidy little schedule for The Second Project, I am now three thousand words behind and lacking at least one day of necessary research. Not bad.

Yesterday was all about the dialogue. This project has a LOT of dialogue, which wouldn’t be a problem if not for Holly’s propensity for cliché. I have to keep a close eye, and ear, on her. So far, so good. I think.

Well against the advice of many writing bloggers, I have jumped into this project without a clear plan for what is to be done with it, exactly, when it’s finished. Initially I planned to research publishers of speculative short fiction collections and practice query letters in my free time — I have since realized such places might not exist. The only similar collections I have read were penned by well-knowns who already had publishers firmly in hand before they ventured into speculative short fiction.

I am not well-known.

Sorry. That was a bit Captain Obvious.

Also, there has been the toying with the idea of e-publishing. I have the title of the collection in place, an inkling of what the cover art should look like. However,the last time I researched e-publication formatting issues alone were enough to make me run away screaming. Maybe options have improved in the last three years?

I can’t think about that right now. The dialogue is calling.

Today’s portion of the project includes a lot more dialogue, some intense gun and ammo info, and a few exploding cars.


The Retelling: A Dialogue Workshop

In this post I mention my goal to try some writing exercises from one book of the Write Great Fiction series, Dialogue, by Gloria Kempton. This launched an online conversation between Tami (jlly_coppercorn) and myself about the possibility of creating a dialogue workshop for Brigit’s Flame.

Today, we would like to extend an invitation to all community members (and new readers) to join ensuing discussions and writing exercises. First of all, however, let’s discuss this book.

The author does a thorough study on what we already know: The purposes of dialogue.

  • Characterizes/reveals motive
  • Sets the mood of the story
  • Intensifies story conflict
  • Creates tension and suspense
  • Speeds up scenes
  • Adds bits of setting/background
  • Communicates the theme

Writing exercises are then provided for each of these purposes. This is where we will concentrate our focus for the next two weeks by offering up segments of dialogue to each other for constructive criticism in order to explore how successful each segment is in fulfilling its assigned purpose. The author does not offer in depth discussion or instruction on technique—the potential multitudes of ways to approach any particular purpose is up to us to discuss and explore here in the workshop.

The author moves on from the purposes of dialogue to broach the subject of fear. While most writers believe themselves to be good with dialogue, most have a fear of it. The discomfort and reluctance caused by that fear then can be obvious in the finished product, or worse, stunt the writer’s ability to complete their project altogether. Let’s acknowledge that fear right now.

It exists, it has vague origins and has had crippling side effects. For the purpose of this particular community project, we will acknowledge and soldier on. We will not spend our energies on, “what if, when they talk, all my characters sound the same?”. This and other problematic situations can be tackled as we go along. Just write. The fear will come here to die, once and for all.

Further, the author begins a discussion on genre—specifically, fitting the characters’ language and voice to the kind of story you want to write. This will make for some terrific exercise opportunities, as well as community discussion.

The first two exercises will be posted on the morning of January 12. Are you ready to work?




The Retelling

During a 2014 holiday gathering with in-laws, I had the pleasure of meeting some new people—coworkers and friends of our family members. They are warm, cheerful people who really know how to talk. I enjoy talkers. Not babblers, mind you, but genuine conversationalists who graciously reveal themselves while openly accepting virtual strangers into that moment of their lives.

That’s a rare thing. Think about all the functions you attend, particularly around the holidays, in which you are introduced to dozens (if not more) of people whom you’ve never met. Generally, in the lukewarm atmosphere created by a gathering of unfamiliar personalities, small talk occurs. Hours of it. And that’s generally the best case scenario.

This past holiday season, I am happy to say, I basked in a complete lack of small talk. Didn’t have to make it with anyone.

Typically when we meet someone new, we notice their appearance—their outfit, their posture, their hairstyle, etc. I do this, of course, but I rarely remember that sort of thing the next day. What I tend to remember is their voice, their laughter, the movement of their hands and facial expressions as they speak. Sometimes I don’t even remember what topic we spoke on, but I always remember what emotion(s), and what thoughts their voice evoked as I listened. And I always recall my own comfort level during the conversation.

This all has a point… I promise.

When I first began to share fiction and poetry publicly, I received more compliments on dialogue than any other aspect of my storytelling. Grammar was a painfully obvious ongoing struggle, and often just as obvious was my inability to effectively, and briefly, build a scene separate from dialogue. But once my characters spoke, they told the tale. My characters’ voices did all the work for me.

I cannot declare with any accuracy if my enjoyment of conversation is directly related to my ability to enhance a story with good dialogue, nor can I say whether or not my enjoyment of reading dialogue directly influenced my writing of it in the years that followed. What I can say is that few stories hold my attention if I cannot listen to the characters do the telling. And, I can also say that I gain a certain amount of satisfaction when told that the dialogue in one of my stories flows well. My goal of becoming a writer has been validated, and thoroughly strengthened, by the complements I’ve received.

Too often, as of late, I spend a lot of time complaining about how little time I spend writing. It’s been a while. I have spent a bit of time doing some peer reading, as well as trying desperately to get back in the habit of reading novels for fun (after too long reading only for school assignments). Sitting here in my office this morning, alternately staring at the computer screen and sighing with frustration, I glanced over at my bookshelf and noticed a book that I haven’t opened in about four years—a book on writing dialogue. Inspiration arrived.

Hello, you fickle old friend.

Dialogue: Techniques and exercises for crafting effective dialogue, by Gloria Kempton, is one of several books I bought in 2010 when embarking on a serious plan to study fiction writing. I glanced through, got distracted with school and work, and never actually followed the exercises offered within. I intend to rectify this situation over the next two weeks.

Yes, I do believe that dialogue is one of my strengths. I also believe that enhancing a strength can lead to exploring, and improving upon, weaknesses. Besides, I really like this book.

For the next two weeks I will share writing exercises and discussions from this book. Would anyone like to follow along? You’re welcome.