Saturday, June 26, 2010

Speaking of Speaking…

One of the interesting things about dialogue is that fictional dialogue never reads the way people really speak to each other; it reads the way people think they speak to each other.

Prove it to yourself:
If you are one of the fortunate people who have a recorder on your cell phone, record a segment of the conversation around the water cooler or coffeepot at your workplace, one or two days in a row. If you are a stay-at-home parent, record people talking in a grocery line or PTA meeting.

A caveat here: In no way, for no reason and under no circumstances are you to use these conversations for anything but writing practice (unless you overhear a murder confession.) Transcribe these segments onto a Word document or something like it, and read it aloud. Chances are—with the exception of a few choice bits of gossip you should delete instantly, you will find this 'conversation' the dullest, least interesting drone of dialogue you ave ever endured.

Let’s approach it as a ratio: fictional dialogue is to actual dialogue—and this goes especially for filmic dialogue—as Haiku is to ordinary poetry. It is a condensation, a distillation of ideas and graceful flights of concept, a ‘boiling off’ of the steam and the rendering of the important conversational juices into a denser, richer and more satisfying draught.

Try this with your own work: take a troublesome few pages that are heavy with dialogue and rewrite them in a new document—or simply copy-and-paste into the new document. The only reason I mention rewriting is that the actual kinesthesis of rewriting helps to ‘burn’ the information into your brain through the use of larger muscles, and sometimes that’s enough to suggests helpful edits on the spot.

Now go through each line and say it aloud, or even better yet, if you can get a local theater group or high school/college drama class to stage a reading of this part of your work. It’s nice to invite members of your writing group and people from your town’s newspapers to sit in, if you’re not too shy. A small press release doesn’t hurt, either.

As they speak your undying prose, you will immediately hear where you need to rewrite. When I say, ‘undying prose,’ I’m not making fun of your or your prose; but if you don’t think it’s undying yet, stage nothing, invite no one, and get busy rewriting until it is undying. Then make the calls.

Make notes as the actors speak, and don’t mind stopping them to ask them to speak your hastily-rewritten lines. Don’t do this too often, but you may do it a few times if you are polite and respectful of their art as well as your own.

Occasionally, an actor will suggest a change. Listen with an open mind and thank them kindly for their contribution. You may not ever use it, but it is a free gift intended to help you improve your work, and that is always a compliment.

More next week.

Lang out.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Villains--No Stupid 'Heavies'

Did you ever notice how some older movie and TV villains get the hero (and/or heroine) into a tight spot, and then stand there and deliver a bragging speech? Most times, the speech is so long the hero has time to get out of the handcuffs/ropes/chains/prison; release the heroine; find and defuse the bomb, bake a cake celebrating his own genius; and construct a weapon, with which he then captures/wounds/kills the bad guy? Not very believable, is it?

Thank heaven this practice is fading quickly, and so it should.

Never write stupid heavies. Your audience will not stand for it, because they sense that in some obscure way, you are insulting them. Stupid heavies are a cheat played upon your viewer/ reader, and while they may not know exactly how it happened, they come away feeling disgruntled.

Go the harder but more professional route: make your bad guy at least as smart as your hero. Preferably smarter, and even better, totally unexpected.

Let him be able to outwit the hero, but then you as writer must pull out of the hero's background/education/street wisdom some little jewel of expertise, some obscure bit of information, that will completely foil the Bad Guy's plans.

It's not as easy as the old 'comic book' routine, but you will satisfy your viewer/reader's intellect as well as his thirst for adventure.

Try it next time you write. I predict you'll love it!


Lang out.

P.S.: Did you ever notice that some writers construct sentences a whole paragraph long? It's a bad habit, not to be emulated. The above proving that just because a writer is published doesn't mean he is perfect. Especially this writer.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Entry One

Very happy and excited! Today I posted my initial novel, “All the Gods of Eisernon” on YouPublish, at It did well in its original offering, but it was unfortunate in having had fourteen single-spaced pages of error edited in before it went out, and I never got galleys beforehand.

Now, at last, it went out as I had originally conceived it, and we shall see whether or not it does as well.

I’m busy at work on several projects at the moment: rewriting a film I did two years ago; working on a new film, this time with a new but intelligent and funny writing partner; and working on three novels—two science-fiction and one mainstream—which are in various stages of completion.

One of the novels I’m working on is the journey of Hennem-mishli. What was she doing, all the while Marik was having his adventures? Women may stay home, but they still may shake the world. How did she manage, all the while she was carrying nom-Pau’s baby, living with Krail women in seraglio, and being ostracized because of her color?

In this new book, “Chains of Her Own Forging”, Hennem-mishli and Dao Marik keep searching, each for the other, as they go about their daily lives of ‘quiet desperation.’ A series of near-misses will keep the Reader from seeing what’s coming, and it ends…well, it ends as it should. The only way it can end.

All I have to do now is finish writing it.

Wish me luck.

See you next week.

Lang out.