Sunday, April 16, 2017

one character on stage.

“If you are inclined to leave your character solitary for any considerable length of time, better question yourself. Fiction is association, not withdrawal.” 
— A. B. Guthrie

Beginning a book with only the protagonist “on stage” is an almost certain way to send readers away. When there is no one to talk to, the only ways to get across information is with narrative summary or interior monologue, two of the undeniably worst ways to do it. 

Have dialogue on the first page of your book.
Most readers, when they look at the first pages of a novel look for the same thing: white space. White space is an indication there is lots of dialogue and not too much "boring stuff."

Great dialogue, like great painting and music, cannot be taught. However, you can be taught to write better dialogue. Strive to develop an ear for dialogue just as a musician develops an ear for harmony. The ability to write good dialogue takes a perceptive ear. Dialogue is the most important item in the writer's toolkit. You can develop an ear for good dialogue if you try.

When you are writing dialogue, especially in your secret draft, don't worry about being grammatically correct. Don't worry about splitting infinitives or ending a sentence with a preposition. Because dialogue is always more informal than speech, that’s fine. 

Listen for little turns of phrase you can lift from life and insert in your writing to give it a richness it would not otherwise have. Listen to the way people speak. Except for slang, you can model dialogue after what you hear.

Can I write phonetically spelled out dialect?

No. When possessed with the desire to write in phonetically spelled out dialect, lie down and close your eyes until the feeling passes. Once you start spelling words phonetically and loading the page with apostrophes, you won't be able to stop. The most certain way to make sure potential readers will not buy your book is to write in phonetically spelled out dialect.

If your character is of a nationality other than English, you should be able to write dialogue, which reveals nationality without misspelling any words. Instead of writing dialect, think of rhythms and word placement. You can intersperse a few foreign words for effect.

Instead of Yiddish done phonetically like this:

"So, dis lady the udder day kums hin for buyunk some gardders...”

You should merely create the impression of the authentic ethnic speech by altering the verbal meter and arranging it into a grammatical pattern.

Like this:

"So, for a pair of garters, this lady comes in..."

It is an impression, not a duplication of reality.

If you still think you should write in a dialect, remember this: the character doesn't hear his own accent anyway, and the character would seldom write what he said in a dialect.
He thinks he's talking normally. So should you.

An excellent example of writing in a style and rhythm, which merely suggests dialect, is present in James Lee Burke's Black Cherry Blues:

·       "What time it is?" (sic)

·       "For how come you burn them leafs under my window, you?"

·       "While I was driving your truck, me, somebody pass a nail under the wheel and give it a big flat."

Burke gets across the unique sound of Cajun talk without going to phonetically displayed dialect.

Above from the book NOVEL SECRETS,
available for Kindle for only $.99 cents:

Lary Crews