Monday, January 16, 2012
It’s a common knowledge that description is an integral part of creative writing. It not only give the readers immediate sense of the world, it also must carry the plot forward at the same time. Just as dialogues, descriptions should be succinct, vivid, and easy to understand. As writers, you want to give the realistic world and relatable characters. After all, there’s nothing like a flat description that makes the readers’ eyes glaze over.
However, many writers fall into the pit of information dumping or over-describing when the details should be woven into the narrative. There are two distinct mistakes when it comes to writing description. Some tells us every little information about the setting or the characters. Even the things the readers don’t actually need to know or want to know. And some give too little description. This is where the writer skim through the explanation lacking in world building.
Examples: I’ve read books where I had to read ten pages before I finally got to “see” the character. Until then, all I knew was the name and the gender. If this is your protagonist (MC), you need to give us a clear picture of him/her. The other bad example is over doing it. I’ve read books where the writers describe the character walking into a room in three paragraphs, telling every movement. And it wasn’t even necessary to the plot, meaning it didn’t add anything to the story or the character development.
So how does one write perfect description? You need to find a balance. You need to create a vivid image using five senses. You have to articulate in a succinct manner. Writers, read your MS over again. Can some words be deleted without changing the scenery or the plot? Are there too much information that slows down the pacing? Are there too little world building? All writers need to learn to be objective and view their work with critical eyes. Now, I appreciate how difficult that can be, but that’s a writer’s job. If it were easy, everyone would be published authors. Good luck in your writing and revising process. Thanks for visiting my blog~
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Tuesday, January 3, 2012
In my opinion, dialogue is the trickiest part of creative writing. Some writers may think that dialogue is the easiest part of fiction because all one has to do is to make them sound "natural." Yes, realistic dialogue is important. However, every dialogue must be essential to the story, show conflicts/tensions, and give voice to each character. Of course, there has to be a good balance of narration and dialogue, but I can’t help but feel that it’s the dialogue that shows the voice of authors and their characters.
First, let me go over the different types of dialogue. There are internal, buried, and spoken dialogues. Here are very simple and easy to understand examples.
Internal: These are inner thoughts often italicized.
The wind was freezing. Crap, it’s cold! She shuddered.
Buried: These are inner thoughts not italicized and mixed with narration. "Could it be colder today? Why does it have to be so windy?" is the buried dialogue in the example below.
The wind was freezing. Could it be colder today? Why does it have to be so windy? She frowned.
Spoken: This is the most common type of speech in fiction.
“It’s cold!” she said.
There’s another thing to remember when writing dialogues. Don’t have all three types of dialogue mixed within a paragraph of narration. Tread carefully, especially with buried dialogues. They often end up being redundant, unnecessary thoughts. Dialogues, regardless of their types, are best represented when they stand alone, accompanied only by a dialogue tag or an action tag.
So that leads me to dialogue tags and action tags. Every writer must know how to distinguish between the two and know their purposes. Dialogue tags are linking verbs that connect the dialogue to the rest of the sentence. Their main purpose is to identify the speaker though readers should be able to distinguish between the characters by what they say and what they do, not by the dialogue tags. If you have to explain who's speaking and what their emotions are, you're doing too much “telling.” Same as action tags. Just a simple description of the character’s movements is all it is. Here are simple examples. Mind the punctuation.
Dialogue Tag: “It’s cold,” she said.
Action Tag: “It’s cold.” She shuddered.
Another point. There's no need to make dialogue grammatically perfect. Real people don't talk like robots with an English degree. The speech pattern should mimic human, not textbooks, or you may end up sounding as dry and clinical as the directions on a medicine bottle.
Example: "I should have been the one to deliver the package to whom it was intended for, but I did not have the time." This is soooo wrong, especially if the character is a 21-year-old college student who just forgot to drop off a book. Get me?
Last but not least....I am repeating myself here. Avoid redundant and telling (summarizing) dialogue tags. Words such as exclaimed, retorted, replied aren’t necessary if the dialogue itself can convey them. Also, avoid the adverbs (“ly” words) such as angrily, sarcastically, slowly, which just tell the emotions instead of showing them though actions and or descriptions. And if your dialogue has to be longer than a paragraph, please break it up with actions and/or descriptions. Real people pause to take a breath, blink, or even move. Your characters should, too.
In conclusion, writers must learn how to write dialogues properly. Remember. They’re not space fillers nor are the just a garnish to your story. In fact, in most cases, it’s the dialogue that carry the story. Good luck~
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This is the 8th installment of my twitter writetip collection. As I tweet these short tips and advice, I wonder if any of them need to be elaborated on. If you have a suggestion on the next blog post, please feel free to tweet me or comment here. I'd love to do more helpful posts. As always, good luck with your writing~~
#writers Please use contractions. Unless, you want your characters to sound like Data from Star Trek. #writetip #amwriting
#stabbylove Writers~ Remember the 3 Rs. Revise. Rewrite. Repeat. Send MS to beta readers. Now do the REP. Revise. Edit. Proofread. #writetip
#Writers Read the books before you promote or RT. And be honest. Stop the stroking. You're ruining our industry. #bogusreviews
Be careful of using slangs. They can "age" a novel up or down. And most of them are cliches. #writetip #amwriting
Robot says, "I had been waiting, but you did not come." Real people say, "I waited, but you didn't come." #writetip Write realistic dialogue.
Using SUDDENLY or THEN to link events or to give immediacy is a lazy and elementary way to do it. Be CREATIVE in creative writing. #writetip
#writersAnother word you should avoid like the plague is YOU. Unless you're writing in 2nd POV. Either way, it's jarring madness. #writetip
Please, do not forget that dialogue is spoken language although you’re writing it. Don’t use acronyms or abbreviations! #writetip #stabbylove
Sometimes, you write dialogue or action. Then go on to explain. That’s very redundant. Very telling. #stabbylove
Actions in action scene should be in chronological order. Nothing worse than a flashback in the middle of stabbing. #stabbylove #writetip
1) Battle scene. Don't over explain. Make every word active. Let them count #stabbylove
2) #stabbylove Doesn't mean action scene should be full of 3-word impact sentences. Describe but without too many adverbs "ly" words.
#writetip Check MS for sentence structure pattern. Do you bombard readers with long run-ons or choppy short ones? mix them up. #stabbylove
Comma splices are the most common problem for writers. When in doubt, just break up the sentence. Don't stick commas everywhere! #writetip
There are 3 types of dialogue: internal, buried, and spoken. A writer should know the difference and when to use them. #writetip
Assign dialogue tags and action tags to the right speaker/do-er. Those by a different character needs to be in another line. #writetip
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Labels: Twitter Writetip and EditTip