The trick to writing good dialogue is voice. What would he or she say? The answer is entirely in language. The choice of language reveals the nature of the characters, their ages, their backgrounds their education, their relationship and how they handle conflict.
Avoid long dialogues but keep the sense of exchange. The following is the best example of economy of dialogue that I have read:
"You asshole," she snarled.
"You're the asshole," I said.
"I hate you."
"Ditto," I said. "Ditto and square it."
--T. Coraghessan Boyle, "The Night of the Satellite"
The New Yorker, April 15, 2013, p.62
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Monday, August 26, 2013
The stories people tell have a way of taking care of them. If stories come to you, care for them and learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. That is why we put these stories in each other's memories.
Thursday, August 22, 2013
Sometimes people are constitutionally unable to travel their inner world. They cannot exhibit enough conflict and contradiction that we recognize them as belonging to our complex human race. That is, they do not seem capable of change. They lack traits and desires that are at war with the world and other people. In other words, bland as oatmeal, without the raisins.
In fiction, however, such a character can be a great set up. Was he always bland and boring? Why? What can be done to make him feel? Perhaps as a writer, you can grant him the opportunity to enter conflict and thus discover his own desires and contradictions. Most of us are gentle, violent, tough, fearful, lusty, prudish, sloppy and meticulous--all at the same time.
Oh what fun to pierce the world of a protagonist and make him squirm. Get to his core. Thus, the plot starts.
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Motivation is the heart and soul of any character's action or inaction. Without motivation, a character has no need to move, to act or react--coerce, ridicule, praise, lie--and so if our characters lack strong motivations, chances are we won't have much of a story. No one will want to do anything; their need won't be strong enough to get them up off the couch and out the door. There will be no impetus for the story to be told.
Characters want, they yearn, often desperately so, and this motivation rises in direct conflict with an opposing desire. Ultimately there is a climax.
This is the classic architecture of a story: conflict, climax and resolution. Character one has a motivation, character two has an opposing motivation, there is rising conflict-- followed by a climax and resolution.Paraphrased from On Writing Short Stories
Edited by Tom Bailey
Monday, August 19, 2013
It is akin to style, what I'm talking about, but it isn't style alone. It is the writer's particular and unmistakable signature of everything he writes. It is his world and no other. This is one of the things that distinguishes one writer from another. Not talent. There's plenty of that around. But a writer who has some special way of looking at things and who gives artistic expression to that way of looking: that writer may be around for a time.--Raymond Carver, "On Writing"
Sunday, August 18, 2013
Saturday, August 17, 2013
Thursday, August 15, 2013
I want hard stories, I demand them from myself. Hard stories are worth the difficulty. It seems to me the only way I have forgiven anything, understood anything, is through that process of opening up to my own terror and pain and reexamining it, re-creating it in the story, and making it something different, making it meaningful--even if the meaning is only in the act of telling.--Dorothy Allison
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Write humor out of your bad experiences, not your good ones. Think about it.
Which would make a better story, your best trip with your best friend or the worst, with your father muttering obscenities over a steaming radiator, while your sister screams for a bathroom right now!! What was awful then is probably hilarious now. Some of life's most irritating things--telemarketers, computer glitches, being kept on hold forever-- yield some of the most reliable humor.
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