I did it.
After an extended hiatus for no good reason, I thought I’d return and dust off the cobwebs.
I churned out a couple thousand words today for NaNoWriMo, for which I assume many of us are busily clacking away.
Not quite sure what I wanted to say here… just ‘hello’, I suppose. I’m still writing, even though it may not be here.
Perhaps there will be more to come. I certainly hope so.
Anyway, how have you been?
Today’s study was on dialogue.
It seems fairly straight forward, right? Multiple characters exchanging words – it’s all about the he said, she said. Except that anyone who has read a book that involves much dialogue knows that it can sometimes get difficult to follow. It can also add to a story or become a distraction. The worst is when it gets too repetitive – he said, he said, he said, he asked, he said…
Most of the research I did resulted in the same few suggestions over and over, but a few unique tidbits came up as well. The following is all the information I pulled from my reading today. I’ll include links throughout and at the end, in case you want to do more research yourself.
Learn how to properly punctuate dialogue. There are rules for doing this properly and following them ensures that your reader will be able to follow your dialogue. If they can’t, they’ll probably stop reading.
Realistic, Not Verbatim
If writers only wrote the way people actually speak, half of the things that needed to be said in novels would not be said. Readers would also quickly lose interest or become bogged down in needless chatter or ‘um’s and ‘ah’s.
This ties into the next point…
Make It Useful
Dialogue should add to your story, not detract or distract. Use it to reveal something important, use it to set a scene, use it to develop a character. Don’t let it just be idle chatter – it’ll get boring.
People Speak Differently
I use the word the phrase “hold the phone” fairly often, which I’ve been made fun of for quite a bit because no one else seems to say it. If you were going to write me into your story, you’d know it was me speaking by the cadence of speech, the words I use, and especially if I use that phrase. “Alex said” would not be needed. This should be true of your characters. Learn how they speak and how they speak differently from one another.
Reveal, Don’t Inform
If a character knows something that the reader does not, do not inform the reader by making the character talk about it. We don’t do this in day-to-day conversation, so this really falls under the Realistic category – but it’s worth making special note of.
Dialogue can also be used as a tool to reveal things about a character that can only be done through interaction with others – like their sense of humor. We tend to act differently around others and different groups of people. This can be shown through dialogue.
Easy With The He Said, She Said
Ever read a story in which every line of dialogue was tagged with ,” he said? Annoying. If you got the ‘People Speak Differently’ part down, you shouldn’t have to label each line with who’s talking – that should be apparently. Every few lines it is good to put in a reminder tag to help the reader keep up, but throwing out some different verbs can also help to break monotony. Asked, yelled, hissed, whined, etc – these can really add to the dialogue, as well.
Pruhseed Wit Cawshun
Dialect can be a very useful tool in writing. It can also put some drag on your story if your reader struggles with it and it can have the undesired consequence of attaching a stereotype to a character that doesn’t actually fit that character. As always, make sure it adds to the story – don’t let it be a distraction. Proceed with caution.
Again with the realism – we don’t stop and stand still when we talk. Many people are animated speakers, others fidget with their hands when they’re talking about something that worries them, and some people twirl their hair. Break up the dialogue runs with a little action.
Silence Is Golden
Also known as, what’s not said can be just as important as what is. Think of the stoic old Clint Eastwood characters – they don’t say much, but they often don’t have to, right?
Script Frenzy offered a lot of keen examples for some of the points above, particularly Reveal, Don’t Inform. The article also has a fantastic title. Robert J Sawyer gave some great examples as well, more on the points of Realistic, Not Verbatim and People Talk Differently. He also offers some good tips for practicing writing dialogue. Chris Harris also had some excellent recommendations for practicing dialogue. Other sources I used include David Ellis, Write to Done, and Daily Writing Tips.
My partner is a great supporter of my writing. At the same time, he can be a great obstacle to it.
I write most easily when I can completely escape into the words. Ideally, I wake up early (even though I’m anything but a morning person) and enjoy the solitude over a cup of coffee, perhaps using the time to catch up on my reading. Once fully awake, I write. With distractions at a minimum in the morning and my dear partner out of the house, my creative process thrives. I can make goofy faces as I go through the emotions of a character, I can mumble words to myself as I type, and I can sit and stare at a screen for hours while I puzzle out a scene before putting words to paper.
All of this becomes much more difficult in his presence.
If I put my palms against my eyes and sigh, he checks to make sure I’m okay. If he reads a particularly interesting something-er-other, he’s GOT to tell me about it. (He’s gotten better about allowing me to say “give me five minutes” while I finish a line, though.) Often, he lounges on the couch watching videos with the sound up and I have to put on headphones and music to drown it all out. It’s all incredibly sweet but, shortly put, he can be incredibly distracting!
Occasionally, I daydream of my own office – a place where I can go to write, free of distraction. However, I fear if that was ever realized I might never leave it…
I may have written about all this before. If so, I apologize for the repetition. It’s just that the past two weeks I’ve been acutely aware of this struggle because my dearest partner has been on holiday. It’s lovely to have him home, to watch him unwinding from the stress of everything. At the same time, I cannot wait for him to go back to work! Does anyone have any good tips for dealing with distractions?
In other news, tomorrow begins the challenge week in which I work on expanding my Writer’s Toolbox. I need to explore writing concepts and techniques, educate myself a bit more. With a belly full of food and a pillow calling my name, this all sounds like a great amount of work… but the back of my mind is itching with excitement! I know in the morning, I will probably overload myself with ideas to start working with. Fingers crossed!
Beyond all this, I must apologize, dear readers. I’ve clearly not kept up with my commitment to this challenge. The first thing to go out the window was catching up on your writing – which I don’t consider very fair. I’ll have to make it up to you in some way. Perhaps spend a day attempting to catch up on all my subscriptions? Reading the blogs of everyone who interacts with my work? We’ll have to see.
The last thing I’ll talk about here is the sadness I feel to know that Miyazaki is retiring. For those who don’t know, Hayao Miyazaki is a creative genius who co-founded Studio Ghibli and is responsible for such wonderful movies as My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away. He has a profound way of bringing the wonder of childhood to life before our very eyes. Recently, I’ve been reading the Howl’s Moving Castle series by Diana Wynne Jones – Miyazaki adapted the first book into a movie – which makes this news all the more relative for me. Both the books and the film are nothing short of wonderful. So, if you’ve not seen any of his works – I suggest you take a look into at least one. While I wish him the best, I am saddened to know that his next film will be the last and I can only hope that Studio Ghibli continues to do great things after he retires.
Until tomorrow, my friends!
Brick by brick the steps were laid, each stone baring the mark of its mason. At least a hundred different craftsmen were represented in these stones, the project was so great. And slowly but surely, the abbey was built. Little did the masons know their symbols would long survive them – still watching over the crests of the waves even centuries later.
Stairs and ramps ascend to the clouds, narrow and winding. Walls protect the walkers of those paths from falling into the sea below and allow the gulls a perch to rest upon, weary from their day of fishing. (Surprisingly, they are as quiet as the monks that reside within.) Gates are mounted into these walls – great sturdy gates of iron and wood – though there is no great army to keep out and no great threat to keep within. The devil was slain upon this rock before memories began.
Despite the grandness of the construction itself, simplicity is the motto within. Plain chairs, tables, and pews of sturdy wood are the only furnishings. A few windows hold leaded glass, to hold a little of the heat from the fires in, but most are free and open to the sea breeze.
A great balcony overlooks the expanse of the sea to the north and the fields to the west. On a clear and sunny day, it feels as though you can see an eternity. Certainly this is a view meant only for angels – one is humbled by the privilege of its witness.
Inside, the tower extends to the heavens themselves. Openings at the top allow light to filter in, creating the effect as if Saint Michael himself was looking in upon the worshipers. Again, one is humbled.
Serenity flows through every molecule of this place, which is only augmented by the reverent passing of monks on their way to worship. Here, silence is not painful nor awkward; it is natural and worshipful. It is as if words have been an unknown burden throughout one’s life, and now the burden is lifted. You are free to simply… listen.
The frothy waves whisper at the sandy shore, the breeze gently stirs leaves and whistles softly through the corridors, and songbirds sing only the most beautiful of their melodies.
Gardens are tucked away in every nook and cranny that can be found, with trees to rest beneath, soft grass to lay upon, and flowers to scent the air. Vines of ivy even climb some portions of the wall, working their own way to the clouds above, and patches of tall grass defiantly spring up perhaps where they should not. All of it is tended with care and devotion, which shows in every fiber.
At the very top, above the walls and gardens, above the trees and towers, stands Michael, glinting in the sun and triumphantly thrusting his sword above his height. It is the reminder that this is where the devil met his end, where Satan was vanquished.
This is where good triumphed over evil.
There was a time in Lotharia, you weren’t nothin’ lest ye had a sea gem. Sea gems was as blue as the sky, maybe bluer, and as beautiful as the stars. Everybody called ’em sea gems, though, on account of they shade of blue being way darker than the washed out sky above ole Lotharia. Some say a merchant from the coast is the one brought ’em here and that’s how they got the name, but people who say that’re dumber ‘n rocks ’cause everybody knows that them stones came outta the Sand Pits just south of the city. Course, some people don’t like to talk about it no more.
See, the area south o’ the city is dryer than a basilisk’s belly and just as rough. Hot as fire, too! Somehow, though, somebody figured out that buried in that dry cracked earth there was sea gems. Only problem was the conditions was so bad, ain’t nobody wanted to go mine ’em. Then somebody got the bright idea that they could make people dig ’em up. Course, Lotharia is civilized folk – nobody wanted to force that kind o’ work on nobody it ain’t fit for. So then somebody asked, ‘Well what ’bout prisoners?’
After a lot o’ talkin’, it was decided that people who had committed the worst o’ the worst kind o’ crimes would get sentenced there. The kind we should just kill off, probably, but sometimes people just don’t feel good about doin’ that sort of thing. Anyway, that was ages ago.
While all them paper pushers got the project started, some other guy went about figurin’ out the best way to get the rocks out. He ultimately figured to dig a giant pit that stepped down in levels, with tunnels branchin’ off each one. At the very bottom, they built a place for the prisoners te live – if you could call it livin’. Into the side o’ the pit, they built the ole Overseer’s house. This smart guy that figured out about the pit, he also figured out how to keep them prisoners in check. This was prolly a good idea since it was going to be the baddest of ’em all trapped in one place.
Then an Overseer was hired, the prisoners was brought in, and the people o’ Lotharia got they sea gems. Became a real hot trade item an’ the city got real fancy after that! Only problem was the people stopped carin’ ’bout the pit they came out of.
Once the minin’ op started, a big ole cloud of dust rose up in that pit. The city people didn’t care because that just meant they di’n’t have to see in and whoever was in there – well, they deserved it. But the people inside the pit? They couldn’t see out. That smart man figured out the pit must’ve also figured there’d be dust, ’cause he’d made some special lights you could see through it all.
A few years later, it was all outta sight, outta mind. People didn’t notice that the people goin’ into the pits weren’t comin’ out and I guess they didn’t think to care. Prisoners, though… they started prayin’ for death before gettin’ sentenced to the Sand Pits. Lawyers started makin’ even prettier pennies off it all, too. This put the Overseer in a bind, though, on account o’ he started runnin’ out of prisoners to run operations. But the people? They still wanted their gems. Guess the city officials turned a blind eye when the Overseer started buyin’ people off the slave caravans that started runnin’ through. Real shady business, that.
Slavery ain’t legal in Lotharia. They got a lot o’ laws there protectin’ people and makin’ sure the right thing gets done. Guess that’s why people just assumed that things was still a-okay down in the Pits. Long as they had them pretty stones, they was happy. Went on a long time, that did.
Some folk say the sea gems, they got darker on account of all the blood it took gettin’ ’em out.
Well… don’t I feel like the kid disrupting the class by showing up late. There’s no way to quietly sneak back into this and pretend as though I’ve been writing this whole time and didn’t, in fact, miss an entire week’s worth of posts. Suppose I ought to suck it up, then!
Truth is, I went on vacation with the best of intentions of writing each day. However, the adventure turned out to be more exhausting than I had ever anticipated! My partner and I alternated who felt like crud each day, and by the end we were both just ready to hibernate for the winter. It was a good time, although clearly not what we were expecting.
I feel like I ought to share with you a story from this adventure… I know! I’ll tell you about The Bees.
Now, I am fully aware that bees are tiny creatures that are probably much more afraid of the giants in their environment than the giants are of them. Also, for the most part, they only sting when provoked or threatened. They can even be quite adorable if you take the time to examine them! But even knowing all of this, they terrify me.
We’re not talking the normal, “Eek! A bee! I don’t want it to sting me!” type of fear. I’m talking irrational paranoia bordering on phobia. I’ve known people in my time who were deathly afraid of clowns, butterflies and birds. I found it odd and hilarious, but I respected their fear. When you tell someone you’re afraid of bees, people empathize. “Oh, me too!” They say. But they don’t get it.
I go fleeing in the opposite direction, if I can, whenever one comes near. My heart rate instantly increases, I sweat, and it’s a definite ‘fight or flight’ type of scenario. I have forced myself into the habit of playing the “if I don’t see it… it doesn’t exist” game. This usually fails, of course, because bees are prone to buzzing and if I hear it but can’t see it, that is all the worse. If I can’t run, I attempt hiding. Distractions sometimes help, but most of the time the buzzing just does me in.
I run. I try not to swat, but have started the “shooing” method that I’ve noticed Germans do – though it never seems to work for me. I cower. I don’t scream, but I do implode. All of my senses are consumed with the need to get away. I am almost paralyzed with this fear.
So when we were out to a lovely dinner, sitting on a terrace shrouded by a curtain of rain, with a cool breeze wafting in to take the edge off summer, I was mortified to find myself the object of affection for no less than three of these little black and yellow terrors.
They had no interest in my partner. They had no interest in the couple dining at the table against the wall. No interest in the vines or flowers around the edge of the terrace. But my left arm sure seemed particularly fascinating.
I do not wear colognes or perfumes and choose subtle, plain deodorants precisely so that I do not attract such attentions. Our food had not yet arrived, either, so I have no idea what it was that attracted them… unless they were bully bees that could sense my fear and wanted tease me.
It should also be noted that despite this deathly fear, I wish them no harm. I really do find them adorable when they’re not buzzing around me! If they simply crawled about instead of flying, I think I could tolerate them much more easily- alas, this is not the case.
My partner became worried for me when one dipped into my wine glass and almost drowned itself there. I hit my point of overload. Every time I brought the glass to my face, despite having checked it at least three times, I imagined I was going to feel a struggling little bee body against my lips that would then crawl onto my face.
Twice I left my seat to escape them and they followed me. I was near the point of hysterics when my partner was finally able to flag down a waiter to ask if we could move indoors. Of course, the wait staff did not help us to move the food that had arrived or the wine glasses. So when I picked up my bowl of soup, it almost went crashing to the ground as these three or four bees immediately came to float around me. It was as if they were taunting me!
I was just able to get the food inside, but had to send my partner back for my wine. He was patient and kind despite my apparent craziness. At least I didn’t flail about like I used to?
Once inside, I began to calm down. The wine helped. We talked about my paranoia and I took deep breaths and the wait staff began to avoid us – surely I was crazy to have been so affected by some harmless insects! But the food and wine were both superb and I was enjoying them immensely. I began to feel normal again.
As I scooped another bit of delicious soup into my spoon, I thought of how silly this all must seem. How silly to be so terrified! Honestly, what is the worst that could happen? I’ve been stung before and it’s really not that awful. What is so terrifying?
I went in for another dip of the delicious Kartoffelsuppe and that’s when I saw it. One of those little buggers had kamikaze’d into my dish and drowned itself! The sharp blackness of its stripes and wings protruding through the thick golden succulence like the hull of a ghost ship mired in a shallow sea. Dead.
How I managed to miss it before this point is beyond me. The wait staff became a bit more forgiving of my behavior now that I seemed to be eating the things, at least. It was like I was in some horror movie.
Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds gave me nightmares for years in my youth.
This was The Bees.