DIALOG HAZARDS TO AVOID–THE BASICS

1. Too much faithfulness to speech: um, un, you know, like, well,

2. Unusual spellings. Say yeah, not yeh, or ya.

3. Too much variation in tags. “She averred,” He pontificated.

4. Dialect exaggeration. “Us’s wooking jes’ as fas’ as us kin.’

5. Excessive use of direct address. “Tell me, Frank.” I hate her, Lorna.” “Right Frank”

6. Each new speaker gets a new indented paragraph, set off by quotes. If a speech goes to a new paragraph, no quotes at end of first paragraph.

7. Use italics to show your character’s exact unspoken thoughts. Regular type to show paraphrasing.

Giving Critique

You need to do following things when you critique other people’s writing:

Start with positive comments.

It can be quite devastating when you submit your work, and you receive a 5-page critique on why your manuscript really sucked. And discouraging/devastating a writer is not the purpose of critique. Also the writer needs to know what he/she did right.

Move on to what didn’t work.

It can only work if you’re specific and give suggestions on how to improve the manuscript. It doesn’t help the author if you write down, “It sucks.” It’d be more constructive and helpful if you write down, “I believe this is wrong because of these reasons. I think you can fix it by doing this. . . .”

End with positive comments, etc.

“Keep writing!” or “I think it can work. Good luck!” can’t possibly hurt. It can take away the “nasty” sting of negative critique and perhaps make the writer feel more positive about his/her work.

Dr. John presents help for struggling non-fiction writers:

Five Characteristics of Creative Non-Fiction

1. There is an apparent subject, and a deeper subject. What the writing is really about. The reader reads to learn something. It must be more than just recounting a personal experience.

2. The writing is free of the journalistic requirement of timeliness. It may be timely to the writer, who still has strong feelings about the material, but may stand outside of time, expressing universal truths and values.

3. It is narrative. It tells a good story. It uses character and dialog. It moves–it is action oriented.

4. It contains a sense of reflection. The underlying subject has been percolated through the author’s imagination. It is a finished thought, often expressed as, “I finally realized,” or “I came to understand.”

5. It shows serious attention to the craft of writing: Interesting turns of phrase; fresh metaphors; scenic presentation, i.e. the use of scenes; no clichés (avoid them like the plague); No obvious endings; accurate use of words; a governing aesthetic sensibility.

DR. JOHN SAYS: MAKE REAL PEOPLE WITH THE “38-POINT CHARACTER CHART”

1. Name
2. Age
3. Height
4. Weight
5. Birth date
6 Birthplace
7. Color hair
8. Color eyes
9. Scars or handicaps (physical, mental, emotional)
10. Educational background
11 .Work experience
12. Best friend
13. Men/women friends
14. Enemies and why
15. Parents
16. Present problem
17. How it will get worse
18. Strongest and weakest character traits
19. Sees self as–
20. Is seen by others as–
21. Sense of humor and kind
22. Basic nature
23. Ambitions
24. Philosophy of life
25, Hobbies
26. Kind of music, art and reading material preferred.
27. Dress
28. Favorite colors
29. Pastimes
30. Description of home physical, mental and emotional atmosphere
31. Most important thing to know about this character
32. One-line characterization
33. What trait will make the character come alive and why?
34. Why the character is worth writing about
35. Why is he/she different from other similar characters?
36. Do I like/dislike this character? Why?
37. Will readers like/dislike for the same reasons?
38. Characters who are remembered are those who are strong in some way, saints, sinners or combinations of both. How will this character be remembered?

FICTION WRITER’S NOTEBOOK FROM DR. JOHN

The core of your character is character’s ability to CARE ABOUT SOMETHING. To feel implicitly or explicitly that something is important.

Give your character something that looms important to him or her.

Plunge your character into a situation that challenges the part of him that cares, or threatens the thing he feels is important.

Give a character so compulsive a desire to make a given change that she can’t let it be. Then you have the basis for a story.

The Eleven Point Checklist

Hold it. Before you write that scene
Have you included?

1. Time (a time boundary–the when)

2. Place (a place boundary–the where)

3. Light

4. Character An emotion boundary. (The scene=s own specific mood in the story)

5. Point of view. Give it to the person with the most interesting view. Keep it there unless somebody else has a better one. Then let us know your changing. Be able to tell yourself why.

6. Purpose Clash or conflict that keeps building actively as something happens

7. Taste. A primary, visceral sense. Give us something unexpected. The dry taste of dust. Saliva. Blood. Good bad and ugly.

8. Touch. Let your character interact with the world. As with all sensory details make them count. Stir a memory in the character, reveal plot information. The skin was too cold

9. Smell. The primitive sense, the most evocative. Have it send the character someplace in his mind. A favorite can be sexually evocative. Make cold sweat break out. Like the smell of raw meat, freshly butchered.

10. Sight. Our primary method of transferring info. Why does she notice something. Remember you don’t have to say, “She turned and saw.” If she’s the only one there all you have to do is say it.
“A man waved a bamboo fan in the corner.”

11. Hearing. Story with no sound track is dead. Let the sound come over the dialog. Evoke a sense of place. Wind chimes, cicadas. The insistent drone of a heavy diesel generator. The howling wolf, the guttural chuffing of a tiger.

Now, can you weave them together–make a thread that pulls us from one element to another that reveals these elements naturally, not like a laundry list?