Thursday, October 30, 2008
"As we both know, I'm here to learn good dialogue. Is this good dialogue, Susan?" Brandon posited quizzically.
"No, no," Susan said. "You don't need to say what we both already know. Also, people don't posit, they say."
"What?!" Brandon questioned loudly. "But all those 'said's will get repetitive! Won't they, Susan?"
"Actually, no. 'Said', unlike most other words, is nearly invisible to the reader, even if its repeated. And try to cut back on your exclamation points, too. You're going to give yourself a hemhorrage."
"But I'm upset, Susan!!" Brandon countermanded huffily. "I have to use exclamation points!!!"
Susan shook her head. "No you don't. If the dialogue's written well enough, the tension of the words will come through to the reader. If you use too many exclamation points, people will accuse you of trying to inject tension in with punctuation instead of writing it in. And multiple exclamation points at the end of a single sentence is a sign of a mentally unbalanced individual. Ask Terry Pratchett."
"There's just so much I don't know,Susan," Brandon moped depressingly.
"You can't 'mope' a sentence. Stop trying. Even if you don't stick to 'say', you still can't stick just any old verb back there. Are you trying to do everything wrong or is it just coincidence?" She put her hand to her head. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean that. I'm just frustrated. Why do you keep saying my name in every sentence? Real people don't talk like that. Why are you putting a speaker attribution after every line? There's only two of us, so a few lines without an attribution won't be confusing, especially since our manner of speaking is unique from each other. Have you ever heard of beats?"
"I don't think so, Susan," Brandon cogitated placatingly.
"They're actions you insert between lines of dialogue. You can use them instead of saying 'said', to show who's speaking." Susan sipped her coffee. "And it adds some pauses to the dialogue to give the reader a feel for the intended pace, while giving a bit of characterization at the same time by showing the speakers actions."
"Now I understand, Susan!!" Brandon roared intricately.
"I don't think you do." She sighed. "And could you PLEASE stop using so many -ly adjectives? If I can't tell how you said something, the dialogue is probably weak and you should work on that instead."
"Look at me, Susan! I'm dialoguing!!!!" Brandon ejaculated profusely.
The door slammed shut.
"Susan? Susan? Where'd you go?" Brandon queried querulously.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Sunday, October 12, 2008
A couple weeks ago I found a great deal at the local library. They were having a clearance sale to make room for new inventory and I picked up a copy of "The Best From Fantasy & Science Fiction Eighth Series", published back in 1959, a collection from F&SF magazine. Wow the styles have changed! Many of the things that are forbidden today were common then. I've only read the first two stories, but there is head-hopping, multiple POV characters (who don't even add anything), "said" synonyms, and -ly adverbs galore (all things that I've been told by dozens of sources to never do). Just a few blurbs, all in a 2-page span:
"rolled his eyes lickerishly"
"complained" (instead of said)
"bellowed" (instead of said)
"began" (instead of said)
"chattered" (instead of said)
"protested" (instead of said)
"nodded" (instead of said)
"smiled" (instead of said)
"he said diffidently"
It makes me wonder what readers in another 50 years will think of our writing from the present, and how the styles will change in that time.
Not to mention the totally different view of the sexes. The first story, by C.S. Lewis called "Ministering Angels" is about a crew of astronauts (all men) on Mars, and the new "Aphrodisio-therapy" approved by the government is to send women there to have sex with them as a form of stress relief. It turns out the only two women that are willing to go are an overweight prostitute who's lost all her customers, and a female professor (about 70 years old) who is one of the main advocates of the new aphrodisio-therapy, who can't stop talking in a blustery academic way for even two seconds. Half the crew ends up having a mutiny and fleeing the station, leaving the rest to live with the two women indefinitely (which the ones left behind clearly view as a terrible fate). Very weird to read something written in such a different time, where the mere possibility of a female astronaut even in the far future was so clearly ridiculous.
And the introduction explains that there IS a difference between "science fictioneers" and "Beatniks". I'm glad I read it, or I would always have wondered!
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
Thursday, October 9, 2008
They even have an online system for me to check on submission. Right now it is #38 in line to be read. That's a nice feature.
Up to 9 points now!
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Saturday, October 4, 2008
Friday, October 3, 2008
I came across her blog after reading interesting conversations with her on the Asimov's and Analog forums. She's a linguist and an SF/fantasy writer. On her blog she discusses many language-related things, particularly pertaining to SF/fantasy stories. I had an interesting discussion with her on the subject of whether humans will ever outgrow spoken language, which became a topic on her blog on September 27th.