Thursday, 22 June 2017

Fiction Workshop 9 Setting out dialogue



Study this piece of dialogue. You can use this as a template when you are writing dialogue. The notes are listed at the end of the passage. It's also a good idea to have a good book open.
“Do you know what? I get really stuck on setting out dialogue[GJ1] ,” said the Creative Writing student.
“It’s not really all that difficult,” replied[GJ2]  the teacher. “Do remember to start a new paragraph when a new person speaks[GJ3] .”
“Oh, is that when you start a new paragraph in the middle of a conversation?” The[GJ4]  student looked as if a light bulb had gone off in her head. “And what are the rules about where the speech marks go?”
“They always go around the speech[GJ5] , with the normal punctuation marks inside it[GJ6] ,” said the teacher[GJ7] , “although you use a comma instead of a full stop at the end, if you are assigning the speech. And if you put the assignation in the middle of the sentence, you don’t start the second bit with a capital letter and you put another comma in front of it.”
Pardon[GJ8] ?”
“Look. Like this.” The[GJ9]  teacher showed the student this document. 
“It’s actually a good idea to have this in front of you when you’re working on a dialogue in a piece of fiction.”  Now it was the teacher’s turn to grow a light bulb[GJ10] . “Or, even, have a well written book open as you work. You can see the pattern. It’s easier than trying to remember[GJ11] .”
“How often should you put “said”?”
“As little as possible. But actually you must use it if otherwise the reader wouldn’t know who was saying what – for example if the conversation goes on for a long time or more than two people are speaking[GJ12] .”
“Okay. But doesn’t it get a bit boring for the reader?”
“Actually they tend not to notice[GJ13] .”
“What about other words – like expostulated, screamed and so on?”
The teacher shook her head. “Best not to. They draw attention to themselves. “Whisper”, “shout” and sometimes “reply” are all right.”
“Okay. Thank you for your help.”
“My pleasure. That’s what we’re here for.”              
    


 [GJ1]Note: normal punctuation within the speech marks EXCEPT comma instead of full stop. 
 [GJ2]“replied” is just about all right for assigning speech.
 [GJ3]And of course, there is no new paragraph here because the teacher is still talking.
 [GJ4]We have used no word to assign.  We have reconfirmed that this is the student speaking by telling you something else about her.
 [GJ5]See, a normal punctuation mark.
 [GJ6]But a comma here and note that it is inside the speech marks.
 [GJ7]The teacher has not finished her sentence so we have a comma here and no capital letter at the beginning of the remaining speech.  
 [GJ8]We don’t need “said” here because it’s clear it is the student speaking.  
 [GJ9]We know it is the teacher speaking because we see her do something else.
 [GJ10]And here we know that it is the teacher.
 [GJ11]This really works.  Try it.
 [GJ12]This is all true.
 [GJ13]Indeed. 

 

Now try setting out this piece of dialogue

The correct version is set out below. Don’t cheat!
How are you, little one? asked the tall blond one in Dutch. She could not muster any words together in this language which was still so new for her. I, er , I'm English she stuttered. The drunken biker wobbled forward. Sorry,.... sorry, holding up his hands. Where were you then? asked the tall blond biker. You seemed a long way away. No, stammered Christina. She’d just been dazzled by the lights, hadn’t she? You’re all right? he said. What was he saying? She hadn’t had a fit? Perhaps it had just been a petit mal this time. You look pale. Do you want me to call someone for you? No! I’m fine, cried Christina. She really felt fine now. And this man was really very interesting. He was gorgeous. She just felt too ill to appreciate him properly. She started to shake.  Oh, dear. You’re shivering. You will catch cold. You must get home. Do you live far? The slight Dutch accent was cheerful and friendly and his eyes twinkled.

 

Correct version

‘How are you, little one?’ asked the tall blond one in Dutch. She could not muster any words together in this language which was still so new for her.
              ‘I, er , I'm English,’ she stuttered.
              The drunken biker wobbled forward. ‘Sorry,.... sorry,’ holding up his hands.
             ‘Where were you then?’ asked the tall blond biker. ‘You seemed a long way away.’
             ‘No,’ stammered Christina. She’d just been dazzled by the lights, hadn’t she?
             ‘You’re all right?’ he said.  
              What was he saying? She hadn’t had a fit? Perhaps it had just been a petit mal this time.  
            ‘You look pale. Do you want me to call someone for you?’
            ‘No! I’m fine,’ cried Christina. She really felt fine now. And this man was really very interesting. He was gorgeous. She just felt too ill to appreciate him properly. She started to shake.  
         ‘Oh, dear. You’re shivering. You will catch cold. You must get home. Do you live far?’ The slight Dutch accent was cheerful and friendly and his eyes twinkled.
       


 

Monday, 22 May 2017

Fiction Workshop 8 Dialogue



Dialogue must:
         Keep the story moving forward
         Reveal character
         Add atmosphere
         Add interest by having a character say one thing but mean another
         Sound as if it belongs to the character speaking it – if you can take one character’s line and give it to another, it isn’t right.
         Make clear who is speaking by what they are saying.
         Inject tension or conflict
         Be stylised but sound natural
         Multi-task

 

Exercise 1

Sit in a cafĂ© or on a train and transcribe a conversation you hear. Examine this. Is there anything that might be worthwhile? If it doesn’t do one of the things listed above it isn’t useful. You may be surprised by how little you have left.

 

Exercise 2

Download a couple of pages of script from a TV programme you like. You may find many on BBC Writers’ Room, http://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/scripts/ . Again look to see how this script performs the functions mentioned above. Is there anything that seems superfluous? How do these pieces contribute to the story, if there are any? What do they do? Does any of it sound unnatural? Does it matter?  

 

Exercise 3

Type half a page of dialogue between some of the characters you have created. Now enlarge the print, say font size 30 or so, take out any tag words, and cut your dialogue up into strips. Give them to a writing buddy. Tell the buddy a little about the characters if they don’t already know them. Ask them to sort out who said what. Hopefully, they’ll get it right. If not there is plenty to discuss.
Next time we’ll look at how to set out dialogue.                         
   

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Fiction Workshop 7 Character



The Stephen King Method

Just puts two characters together and sees what happens.
However, analyse his plots and they are technically perfect.
Many writers however find that stories produced this way lack structure.

Story comes from character anyway

We’ve already seen this partly already. Our story comes out of the conflict amongst characters and between the main character and his / her environment.

Know your characters well – recipe for a character

We must at the very least:
         Know what they look like.
         Know how their mind works.
         Know what they like and don’t like.
         Know how they spend their time.
         Know how their emotions balance.
         Appreciate their good points.
         Forgive them their bad points.
         Know what their main motivation is in this story.
         Know how they have changed by the end.

Now try this:

Take about thirty minutes to work on the questions.
Answer the following for two characters in your story. Write in continuous prose: if you feel you need to add a little more, then do so.  

Physical

  1. What do they look like?
  2. How old are they?
  3. Are they very sporty?

Mental

  1. What are they or were they good at at school?
  2. What is their personality like?
  3. Which newspaper would they read if they were an adult in our world?

 Emotional

  1. What do they like?
  2. What don’t they like?
  3. What are they most afraid of?

Motivation

  1. What is their main aim in this story?

How do they change by the end?

Now put what you have written on one side and write a short scene between the two characters.
Get someone else to read your scene.
How well do they understand your characters? (i.e. – how well have you written them?)