I don't have a muse, and never have. I'm afraid that if I did have one, she would be a small Chinese woman standing in the doorway, looking significantly at her watch every minute or so while I dug around in the sofa searching for enough loose change to pay for the chicken-fried rice. On the whole, I think I do better without her.|
|I started a Twitter account for the two characters in my book series (which isn't out yet). I can't tell whether it is a ridiculously optimistic thing to do. Does anybody else have a separate Twitter/Instagram account for a character? I'd be curious what experiences people have had, if any.
(If you are curious, it is at http://twitter.com/BernieTish though I have only just begun.)
|As you plan out your story, especially part way through or at the end of your first draft, write down a short paragraph about each relatively major character (or even minor characters) , including the villain(s), describing:
a) their motivation in the action of the story
b) how they might possibly avoid the action in the story
This can be very revealing about plot holes and insufficient motivation, and it will also help you make your characters more three dimensional. If they could easily avoid the action in the story, why don't they? Especially with the villain(s), why would they actually want to pursue the MC, marry the strong, independent princess, make it winter all year long?
If you can't answer those questions, you don't know your characters well enough, or you haven't plotted tightly enough. Every character, major or minor, villain or hero, is the MC of their own story, and all the stories intersect. If the villain's story would never unfold in such a way that it would intersect the way it does with your MC's, you need to re-imagine your villain's story.
|When you describe someone, don't just tell us what they look like. Try to give a sense of who the person is, as well as paint a portrait of their history and character.
When he smiles his face breaks into the splotchy weathered lines of an Irishman with too many years in the sun. His eyebrows curl upward and disappear beneath the brim of an aging canvas he is never without. ~ Erika Swyler, The Book of Speculation
It is tempting to describe someone's hair and eyes, but that tells us so little. What is unique about them? What captures their essence? Also, from a purely pragmatic point of view, this is your opportunity to squeeze in bits about their past or heritage or lifespan with doing an info dump. Is this a young man? No. What is his heritage? Irish. Does he work at a desk or somewhere else? "Too many years in the sun" suggests an outdoor job.
Use your description to both intrigue and inform the reader, not just to describe. This isn't a police report, it's writing!
|After yesterday's post about dialect in dialogue, "Dialogue tip 2 - Plant the character" , I wanted to post this here as an interesting example of fairly heavy dialect that manages to be fairly easily understood. This is a poem by a well known African American poet, author and playwright who wrote in both "standard" English and a Negro dialect of the time. Even though this works, I strongly urge you not to use this heavy a dialect when writing for others, especially if it is not your own. But enjoy the poem.
PROTEST by Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906)
Who say my hea't ain't true to you?
Dey bettah heish dey mouf.
I knows I loves you thoo an' thoo
In watah time er drouf.
I wush dese people 'd stop dey talkin',
Don't mean no mo' dan chicken's squawkin':
I guess I knows which way I's walkin',
I knows de norf f'om souf.
I does not love Elizy Brown,
I guess I knows my min'.
You allus try to tek me down
Wid evaht'ing you fin'.
Ef dese hyeah folks will keep on fillin'
Yo' haid wid nonsense, an' you's willin'
I bet some day dey 'll be a killin'
Somewhaih along de line.
O' cose I buys de gal ice-cream,
Whut else I gwine to do?
I knows jes' how de t'ing 'u'd seem
Ef I 'd be sho't wid you.
On Sunday, you's at chu'ch a-shoutin',
Den all de week you go 'roun' poutin'—
I's mighty tiahed o' all dis doubtin',
I tell you cause I's true.
|Dialogue tip: When writing dialogue, remember that the primary goal, as with all writing, is to communicate with the reader. If the dialogue is incomprehensible, that goal is not met. But alternatively, if your dialogue could be said by anybody and sound exactly the same, you are also missing the opportunity to communicate. Thus, a strong secondary purpose of any dialogue is to explore the character's background, motivations, emotions and personality.
As an example, I have an Irish friend who veers close to both insanity and incomprehensibility, but in a delightfully Irish way. Another friend commented on Facebook about how well a recent trip they'd both shared had gone. He replied, "Aye well no-one got eaten by a dragon, fell off a cliff or suddenly took up holy orders ... we are improving."
The only Irish-sounding words in that particular sentence are "Aye", and perhaps that way of referring to "holy orders", but it is a line that fairly shouts out his sense of humor and his outlook on the world. (And unlike almost every other line out of his mouth, it contains no obscure curse words.)
Does it communicate a lot of information? Not exactly. But if he were a character (well, he is, but in a novel), and he used "Aye" at the beginning of a smattering of his sentences, his voice would come through. Part dialect, part mannerism, it plants that character firmly in the reader's mind. That should be one of your major goals with dialogue. If dialogue is just exposition shoved into the mouth of a convenient character, you do your reader a discourtesy, and lose yourself an opportunity.
|Dialogue tip: When writing dialogue, remember what is not said is often as important as what is said. Like negative space in art, what is left unsaid may provide a context or frame around your dialogue.
Not mentioning the elephant in the room makes it clear your character knows about the elephant and is choosing not to mention it, which also reveals something about his/her character and reaction. Saying, "Why is there an elephant in our living room?" requires an explanation, and tells the reader nothing they didn't already know. Saying, "Oh, I see. I've been meaning to visit my parents." in response to the elephant says the character already knew about the elephant, or is at least not surprised, and suggests it means the elephant has been chosen over the person speaking. On the other hand, saying "There's an odd smell in here. I need to make dinner." says the character is refusing to acknowledge the elephant and hopes his/her partner will make it go away so that it needn't be discussed.
This was first posted to the Newsfeed, but I realized I should post it here instead, as I plan to do more.