Conversations: What to do with your WriMo Chapters/How to edit a scene

I found Sally in line for coffee as I entered the coffee shop. She had already dumped her bag onto a chair, had already tugged off her gloves, her wool jacket, and wore her game face.

“What’s up? Did you not have a great thanksgiving?”

“It was fine. But, I’m 3000 words away from finishing my novel.”

“That’s great.”  I shed my jacket and motioned to Kathy. She gave me a smile, already on my order.

“No so much.”  She retrieved her coffee and handed me mine.  I nodded my appreciation.

“Why?”

“Because I only have 46000 words and I’m near the end of my novel.”

“And?”

“It’ supposed to be an 80,000 word novel! How am I going to come up with 30,000 more words?”

“Oh, I see.  You think just because you finished NaNoWriMo with a 50,000 word manuscript that you’re done. Mmmhmm.”

“Well, I know it needs editing….”

“Sally.  What you have created is the shell of your novel. You’ve put down every great scene you can think of, and because you are racing through the novel to write it – because that is the point of NaNoWriMo – you are hitting all the big events.  I bet you have sentences like, “She argued with him until she got her way,” and “The clock read 7am as she got into her car for work, angry at…whoever.”

“So?  What’s your point?”

“Take a breath. This is normal.  You’ve rushed into your story and through your scene so you can quickly download the story from your head to the page without losing it.  That’s excellent. Now that you have the framework of your story, you have to go back and add the furniture, the decorative touches. Storyworld and description and emotional layering.

Let’s return to those simple sentences.  Instead of telling us that the argument happened, how about letting us hear that argument.  We want to be a part of it.

Instead of telling us what time the clock read, how about really putting us in the scene?

            The sunrise simmered over the far horizon, hot lava spilling over the tops of the birch and pine trees, splashing down upon the frost that covered her windshield.  She opened the car door with a creak and fished around for the scraper.  Shoot, she’d left it in the other car.  Digging through her purse, she found her old fitness club card. Well, it wasn’t like she’d use that anytime soon.  She attacked the front windshield, drawing thick lines through the frost, the ice curling up over her bare fingers, turning them numb.

Maybe the rest of her could turn numb, too – anything to stop the roaring heat inside that was sure to spill over onto Malcolm the minute she walked into the office.

            How could he steal her presentation?

 

“Okay, I made up Malcolm – “

“I already hate him.”

“But see, instead of telling us how she felt, I drew you into the scene slowly, letting the reader really see it. Your WriMo scenes are essential because they’ve provided the framework of your story.  You now need to go back and flesh out each scene, adding in all the beautiful details, the storyworld, the characterization, the dialogue, the emotional and the metaphors. You’ve only just begun.”  (You can sing along if you’d like).

She laughed.  “So give me a game plan.”

“Okay.  When you’re finished with the fast draft, go back to the beginning and analyze every scene.  First ask:

  • Have I created the right kind of Scene? Is it an Action or ReAction scene?  Define your goals, conflict, disaster, or your response, dilemma, decision.
  • Have I build in Tension? Remember your equation! Sympathetic Character + Stakes + Goals + Obstacle + Fear of Failure  (for premium members, check out these past articles on creating tension in your scenes:

http://www.mybooktherapy.com/what-is-scene-tension/

http://www.mybooktherapy.com/creating-scene-tension/

  •  Have I built in enough Storyworld?          

            Do I have the NEWS of the scene – Who, What, When, Where and Why?

            Do I have the 5 senses?

            Have I created a mood with the use of my 5 senses, the verbs and nouns I use?

  •  Have I used the right POV? (Point of View). Would the scene have more impact if it was in a different POV?  (remember, write it in the POV of the person who had the most to lose).
  •  Do I have enough Dialogue in the scene?  Dialogue moves a story and creates tension. If you have even one page without Dialogue, insert something – a remembered conversation, a phone conversation, even a letter or journal entry to create another voice.

Have you created sparks with your dialogue?  If it feels tired and expected, have your character say something they shouldn’t – that should cause some tension!

  • Have I created Emotion through Action?  Give your character something to do, and have it convey his emotions. What does the character do because of the way he/she feels? 

“And here’s the biggest question:  Have I glossed over moments in my rush to get to the end of the scene?  Have I allowed my reader to experience every important nuance of the scene?  Slow it down.  Describe the scene.  Take your time.  Your character will still go off the cliff – you are just helping the reader understand how dangerous it is and how hard he tries to stop it.

“And, speaking of cliffs – DON’T FORGET TO END YOUR SCENE WITH A NEW PROBLEM!!  (premium members check out:  http://www.mybooktherapy.com/conversations-keeping-your-reader-hooked-through-every-chapter/)

“The mark of a great novelist is their ability to draw you into the world they see and allow you to feel it with the character.”

Sally was smiling now.

“Feel better?”

“Yes.  It’s like I finally get to read the story I’ve written.”

“Exactly. You’ve done the hard work of building the house.  Now this is the fun part –  decorating.”

“Just in time for Christmas.”

Truth:  Your first draft of your story just builds the story foundation.  Even if you are a “punster” you’ll need to go back and add in the rich details and layers to make your story satisfying.

Dare:  Finish your fast-draft, then go back and allow yourself time to rebuild, decorate and savor the story you’ve written.

Happy Writing!

Susie May

P.S. By the way, if you sign up for the daily Flashblog reminder in your email box, you receive the 5 Elements of a Best-Selling
Novel. A quick class on those foundational elements every editor is looking for! Sign up at: http://forms.aweber.com/form/35/866611135.htm

P.P.S. As you might already know, MBT is now offering a PREMIUM membership with access to our full library, advanced teaching through webinars and video talk shows and a monthly advanced class. For more info, check out: www.mybooktherapy.com/join-the-team/.

Conversations: The powerful use of Internal Monologue

“I’d thought she’d never get here.”

Sally shot me a look as she sat down on the Adirondack chair next to me.  She eyed me warily. “Were you talking to me?”

“No. Why would you think that?” I paused, looked away. “She’s so paranoid.”

“Are you schizophrenic?” She raised an eyebrow.  “I’m sitting right here.”

“Sheesh, touchy,” I said softly. Then, “What are you talking about?  How are you?”  I smiled.

She stared at me like I’d turned purple.  I laughed. “I was internal monologueing.”

“Out loud?”

“So you could hear it.”

“Please tell me that’s not what you really think.  I don’t mean to be late –“

“Calm down, Sally, it was just for teaching purposes. But if you were reading that, it would certainly add a bit of tension to the scene, right?”

“I know I feel  a little tense.”

“I laughed.  I just wanted to touch one last time on Dialogue before we started talking about showing and telling next month.  It’s hard to know how to use Internal Monologue and Tone of Voice for maximum impact, so I thought I would try and explain.

“Internal monologue is about what the POV character is thinking – wishing they could say, but can’t.”

“Or shouldn’t,” she said, sipping her coffee.

“Right.  It’s the secrets they really can’t put on the page, or the voices in their head that are reminding them of past conversations.

“Internal monologue can also act at the motivator for the next thing that comes out of their mouth.  If your character is going to stay or do something that the reader might not agree with, give them a  good reason to do so by adding in a line of internal monologue.  Then, your reader will get behind them, even if they don’t agree with them.”

“Like if my internal monologue went something like, sheesh, if she said one more thing she might just get up and walk away.”

“Right.  But please, don’t.  Instead, ask yourself, What is my character thinking right now, and how does it influence what he/she says next?  Remember, when you’re in Deep POV, your internal monologue should be in third person, past tense (if your story is in past tense).

“The answer to that question will influence not only what they say next, but how they say it.  In other words, it may mean you need to interject a tone of voice. In a perfect world, an author should never have to really use a tone of voice because the words speak for themselves. However, when your character raises or lowers their voice, perhaps they snap at someone or even shout, then that may call for designation.

“Be very frugal with your use of tone of voice, and it will carry great impact.”

“Okay,” she whispered. Winked.

I rolled my eyes. “Okay, just do me this favor. Remember the rhythm of dialogue:  Goal – Dialogue – Interpretation – Reaction – Goal.

When you write dialogue, if you start with the Action Objectives and Goals of your character, and follow the rhythm of interpretation, reaction and goal, then you will write dialogue that makes sense as well as increase the conflict. Don’t forget to put in some powerful zingers, and correctly use internal monologue and tone of voice sparingly. Finally, backdrop it all with body language and meaningful action that symbolizes the characters feelings, desires or unspoken words.

“Once you’ve done that, take a look at the entire passage. What is the real meaning behind what they are saying? How can you enhance it, ever so slightly, to draw out the meaning?  Can you add a tone of voice – or perhaps even delete dialogue and simply let the meaningful action speak for itself? Don’t highlight it or it will feel over the top, as if you are hitting the reader over the head. Keep it light, simple and yet profound.  This is how you will create powerful subtexted dialogue.”

“Aye, aye, Captain.”

“She said, right before her teacher dumped her smoothie in her lap.”

Truth: Internal Monologue, used correctly, and Tone of Voice, used sparingly, can add depth to your dialogue. 

Dare:  After you’re finished, review your passage.  Ask: What is the real meaning behind what they are saying? Can you enhance it through tone of voice, meaningful action or even internal dialogue?  This will help you create subtexted dialogue.

Tomorrow, in Quick Skills, we’re hosting a guest blog from the Editor at Splickety magazine to talk about how to write powerful Flash Fiction! Stop back!

Happy Writing!

Susie May

 

P.S. By the way, Don’t miss the MBT/Splickety Flashblog special! If you sign up for the daily Flashblog reminder in your email box, you receive a FREE DIGITAL COPY of Splickety Magazine! Subscribe here!

P.P.S.  As you might already know, MBT is now offering an advanced membership with access to our full library, advanced teaching through webinars and video talk shows and a monthly advanced class.  For more info, check out:  www.mybooktherapy.com/join-the-team/ and get your 24 FREE PASS to all the MBT Goodies! Hope to see you at practice!

 

Conversations: How to make your dialogue pop!

“It’s so hot, I think I’m melting. I haven’t been able to write for three days.”  Sally held a blended mocha, sweat glistening on her forehead as she plunked down on the Adirondack chair next to me.

“Really?  What, has your brain turned to mush?  Are you fingers slipping off the keyboard?”

She stared at me, frowning.  “Ouch.”

“If you want to be a writer, Sally, you have to press on.  Do you want to be a writer?  Or just a wannabe?”

“I think I’m going to take my mocha elsewhere.”

“There’s no crying in writing, bay-bee.  I once wrote a book while living in a garage without plumbing, heat or electricity.  Believe me, I had reasons not to write.  You have to press on, like a mailman, through sleet and snow and dead of night.”

“But—“

“No buts!”

She closed her mouth, considered me for a moment.

I smiled.  “I’m just trying to teach you how to put zingers into your dialogue.”

“Zingers?”

“They are my Super Secret Susie tricks to adding spice to your dialogue.  Sarcasm, Accusations, Interruptions, Name-calling.”

“I don’t think your zingers are very nice.”

“But they do add drama to a conversation, right.  By the way, it’s been too hot for me to write, also. I read a book for the past three days.” I winked at her.

She smiled.  “Okay, I get it.  Zingers are things I can insert into dialogue to bring it a new direction.”

“Or add spark to it.  Polite, boring conversation has no drama.  Drama is found in the unexpected, the uncouth, the ugly.  Let’s take a standard conversation, something that happens at my house question often.

“Can I get a ride to work today?”  my son said as he emerged from his room in uniform.

“I’ll be happy to drive you,” I said, grabbing the keys.

Let’s add some drama to this. 

 

Accusation: 

“Can I get a ride to work today?”

“Don’t you think it’s about time you bought your own wheels?  What are you doing with all that money you’re earning at Dairy Queen?”

 

Interruption:

“Can I get a –”

“Oh no, you’re not asking for a ride again, are you?”

 

Name Calling:

“Can I get a ride to work today?”

“Sure, Your Highness.”

 

Sarcasm:

“Can I get a ride to work today?”

“Absolutely, son, because I see your legs no longer work.”

 

See, all these little zingers add spark to your dialogue and have the potential to take the dialogue in a new direction, or add depth.  They are a great tool to use if you feel your dialogue is becoming mundane.

Sally took a sip of her drink.  Then, “You really know how to pick a fight, don’t you?”

“I have teenagers, what can I say?”

 

Truth:  To create spark in your dialogue, you might to fight dirty, and through in a few zingers.

Dare:  Do you have a piece of mundane dialogue?  Try adding a zinger to your piece and see how it causes sparks, and perhaps even takes it deeper, to the real meaning behind the dialogue.

 

Have a great writing week!

Susie May

P.S. By the way, if you sign up for the daily Flashblog reminder in your email box, you receive the 5 Elements of a Best-Selling Novel.  A quick class on those foundational elements every editor is looking for!  Sign up HERE

P.P.S.  As you might already know, MBT is now offering an advanced membership with access to our full library, advanced teaching through webinars and video talk shows and a monthly advanced class.  For more info, check out:  www.mybooktherapy.com/join-the-team/ and use our free 24 hour pass!

A Quick Skills conversation about Italics and Internal Monologue

Italics and Internal Monologue can be very confusing. I write in Deep POV, so for those who employ this technique, here are some hints that might help. 

If you’re writing in Deep POV, which many authors are today, remember that you’re in a character’s pov, so anything they think, feel, see or hear filters through their head and directly onto the page.  Thus, if it doesn’t have quotation marks around it, it is internal and should not be in italics.

The only time you need italics is when the character is remembering another voice in their head, or they are unable to voice the words they are speaking.  For example if a person is remembering something their mother, their pastor, their friend, or even something they read, it is another “voice” in their head and goes into italics.  Likewise, if they are watching someone leave from across the room and are unable to say, Stop, don’t go! all the while screaming it in their head – that also would follow the italic rule.

Think of internal monologue as a memory or another voice speaking inside your head and you’ll get it right. 

Now that the italic issue is settled, here are my rules of thumb when using internal monologue:

If your story is in third person, the internal monologue should be in third person.

Consider this thought inside a third person passage.  The hero is watching his girl leave and suddenly:  I really don’t want her to leave, because if she does leave I’ll be alone and back where I started.

This thought feels jarring for the reader, because it’s in first person.    

Try: He didn’t want her to leave. Not really. Because then where would he be? 

Do you see the difference? This third person version keeps us in the correct tense and in the POV character’s thought.   

When writing in deep third POV, this rule applies to notations like “He thought”  or “He wondered.” You know who is thinking the thought, so it’s not necessary.

i.e. : Did he really want her to leave? No, he thought.

Try: Did he really want her to leave? No.

***

Not: He always took a good thing and tore it to pieces, he thought about himself. 

But: He always took a good thing and tore it to pieces.

And you can give it even more impact by converting interior monologue into a question. 

Not: He wondered why he always took a good thing and tore it to pieces.

Better: Why did he always take a good thing and tear it to pieces?  

How do you use Internal Monologue and Tone of Voice for maximum impact?

Internal monologue, then, is about what the POV character is thinking – wishing they could say, but can’t.  It’s the secrets they really can’t put on the page, or the voices in their head that are reminding them of past conversations.

Internal monologue can also act at the motivator for the next thing that comes out of their mouth.  If your character is going to stay or do something that the reader might not agree with, give them a  good reason to do so by adding in a line of internal monologue.  Then, your reader will get behind them, even if they don’t agree with them.  Even if they want them to throw the casserole right into the cheatin’ hubby’s nice dress shirt.

Quick Skills Questions:

  • What is my character thinking right now, and how does it influence what he/she says next?
  • What can your character say under his/her breath, or even internally that adds tension to the scene. (hint – it would be something they wouldn’t want the other person in the room to hear!)

Hope this helps as you craft your dialogue!

Have a great writing week!

Susie May

 

P.S. By the way, if you sign up for the daily Flashblog reminder in your email box, you receive the 5 Elements of a Best-Selling Novel. A quick class on those foundational elements every editor is looking for! Sign up HERE!

P.P.S. As you might already know, MBT is now offering an advanced membership for advanced writers with access to our full library, advanced teaching through webinars and video talk shows and a monthly advanced class. For more info, check out: www.mybooktherapy.com/join-the-team/. (And check us out with your free 24 hour pass!)