Talking Trivial

Dialogue is important. Without it the entire novel would be a meaningless narrative. Yawn.  But why is writing dialogue so challenging? There are many reasons and I’ve touched on a few, but this time the reason isn’t trivial.

Trivialities in conversation can draw out a scene necessarily. It’s also mind-numbing boring. There are a few reasons trivialities in dialogue suck. One, nobody, and I mean nobody talks like that. Maybe in old sit-coms from the 50’s. Two, it’s probably filler conversation with no actual impact on the story. Three, if you’re watching that word count (even if you’re not) trivial conversation will kill the numbers.

So what do I mean? Let me demonstrate.

Dale sat at his desk in a slump. “Good morning Amber.” 
“Oh good morning Dale.” Amber replied and smiled.
“Did you have a good night last night?”
“Indeed I did, thank you for asking.”
“Was it better than the night before?”
“Yes, it was much better than Saturday night. And how was your night?”
“It was good.” Dale nodded and turned his computer on.
“Oh? What did you do Dale?”
Dale leaned back in his chair facing Amber. “I watched the game with Scott.”
“That’s good that you watched the game with Scott. Did you have a bit too much to drink?” Amber said while swiveling her chair from side to side
“I definitely had too much to drink for a Sunday night. Did you have time to think over our conversation from Friday?”
“I did think things over quite a bit and I have decided.”
“And what did you decide Amber?”
“I have decided to date you.”
“That’s good to hear, so you will give me a real chance?”
“Yes. I will give you a chance. We do have good chemistry.”
“I agree completely Amber. We do have good chemistry.”
“Dale, would you like to go for lunch today?”
“Yes. I would very much like to for lunch today.” Dale faced his computer as Valery approached.
(217)

Did you notice it? Even as I wrote that I was cringing from the repetitiveness. Make that four reasons trivialities are dull to read. Trivial conversation is a complete waste of space and if I come across it in a book my eyes float over the words skipping them or stop reading. It’s hard to focus on a story.  The other annoying aspect is neither have any character, its dry, dull and monotone. Nothing happened other than they chatted about Sunday night and made lunch plans. I think I’ll tidy that up a smidge.

Dale sat at his desk in a slump. “Good morning Amber.” 
Amber smiled. “Oh morning Dale.”
“Were you able to sleep better last night?” Dale turned his computer on.
“Yes thank God.” Amber rolled her eyes. “What’d you get up to? You look like hell warmed over.”
Dale leaned back in his chair facing Amber as she swiveled her chair side to slide. “Yeah, I watched the game with Scott and polished off a six-pack.”
Amber shook her finger at him as if he were naughty. “Tisk, tisk, on a Sunday no less.” 
“I’m paying the price. So did you decide?”
She nodded and glanced around surreptitiously. “You’ve proven we have chemistry so yes,” Her eyes darted about again. “We can be exclusive.”
He grinned.
Amber tilted her head slightly. “Lunch?” She shuffled her chair back into her desk.
“You bet.” He spied Valery approaching and turned to face his computer.
(151)

Whew, 66 words removed. Trivialities really do add the extra weight to the word count. Dale and Amber are not stiff nor are they proper. Therefore slang, jargon and comfortable interaction is necessary. There were only a few things I needed the reader to know, It’s Monday, Amber’s not sleeping well, he’s concerned, she decided to date him and he’s happy about it.

My advice about trivial writing.
Warm it up and relax the dialogue by letting the characters have the reins. Just make sure to keep it individual to the character speaking.

-Sheryl

Other posts I’ve written

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Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 Float
Meaningless

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Isn’t it romantic?

Similar to tender moments, building chemistry between characters romance can just as easily enter the realm of mushy cornball-skip to the end of the chapter – unreadable crap.

Who doesn’t love a little romance? I know I do. In fact many books and stories I read have a little or a lot. People like romance, the thrill of seeing love and the potential of sex. The genre of the story will often determine how much or how little romance will be in a story. It is however, ultimately up to the writer. I personally enjoy a little lead up, flirting and tender moments that bring two people closer. Romance should be personal. It is in real life.

I thought I’d try something different. For a few different couples I’d turn this simple three-line romantic conversation into something moving and individual for each couple. The rule, I can only use these three lines for dialogue.

“That’s how I know.”
“Know what?”
“That you’re worth the effort.”

Okay I’ll start with Dale and Amber, an atypical relationship, but one with potential.

Amber pursed her lips, lowered her chin and glared at Dale. His chuckle and glittering eyes made hers narrow at him. His apologies and persistence only made her blood boil. He was being an ass and wouldn’t stop asking her to dinner so they could talk.
He gestured at her overly defensive posture and pouty lips. “That’s how I know.”
“Know what?” Amber furrowed her brow at him and crossed her arms.
He chuckled and tapped her protruding bottom lip with his index. “That you’re worth the effort.” He walked away leaving her to stare after him, her lips parted and jaw slacked.

Hmm who’s next?  How about…  Valery and Jackson. Neither are romantic people, but perhaps they could have a moment.

Their schedules rarely coincided. Valery had almost given up seeing Jackson this week it was such an effort just to get time with him. His text earlier said he was swarmed with demanding clients and as in his style, he canceled his plans and showed up anyway. She was worried sick over Sasha being hidden away by some hot detective and her idiot boss was now MIA and she had to fill in. She needed some company badly.
And there he was, tall dark and ever so handsome. He tilted his head and gave her his best apology pout while holding out a bottle of her favorite Tintern Pinot Noir.  
Valery returned his smile with a sly one of her own. “That’s how I know.” She took the bottle and he followed her in. 
He took his coat and shoes off.”Know what?” 
“That you’re worth the effort.” She winked, grabbed his collar and kissed him deeply.

Last but not least, Tony and Anne

Tony’s hand lowered from her cheek to the back of her head and neck. He would not rush this with her. Anne stared into Tony’s steel-blue eyes mere inches from hers as her lips parted, her breath shallow and warm.
“That’s how I know.” He brushed his thumb over her rapid pulse and smiled.

Anne swallowed and whispered. “Know what?”
“That you’re worth the effort.” His eyes closed as hers did and he gently lowered his lips over hers.

Romance is worth the effort, at least it is for me. I plan and plot and scrutinize how to play it out. Subtle and tantalizingly stretched out or quick and passionate. Whatever I decide for those moody moments I know it has to be personal to the couple otherwise it’s like cut and past romance writing that just seems somehow wrong.

My advice about writing romance.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, keep it personal to the couple, watch the POV and show the reader, invite them in don’t just say “that’s romantic”.

Want to play? Give the three lines a try, and post a comment below with what you come up with for: (You can only use this dialogue.)
“That’s how I know.”
“Know what?”
“That you’re worth the effort.”

-Sheryl

The Ole Switcheroo

But I hate that

Desperately procrastinating

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Moody
Swarm

Building chemistry

I have set down books that fail to build proper inter-character chemistry.  Why? Because there is nothing more awkward than reading stiff lifeless interactions that feel forced or unwelcome. They should flow and feel organic to the reader.  I love a story that sucks you in, makes you feel at home and a part of the story. So if conversation or interactions fall flat, chances are I’ll either slog it out or set it down. As a writer that would be the ultimate worst to know someone felt that way. Therefore I spend extra time building the relationships, good or bad.

So what do I do when it comes to interactions? I know that I respond/react/interact differently with different people. This should be true for my characters. If I don’t have a clear set idea of how that is I will make sure to keep notes on it in my character bio’s. I Cant have Amber being friendly with Sasha for no reason. Or Anne talking silly with Tony. These aren’t always super obvious things either, a reader will appreciate the detail even if they don’t outright notice it. In fact, they may appreciate it more if they don’t.

Some things that a person might do with one person but not necessarily another

Joking around
Teasing
Flirting
Show respect
Touching – touch an arm, back or hand
Intent listening undivided attention
Eye rolling or sneering behind back

Chemistry isn’t always about romance or the potential for it, however, it is what people think of when the subject comes up. It is a big factor in story telling. So I will focus on that as well. Building romantic chemistry is a very serious business. A lot has to happen. Physical cues, verbal suggestions, behaviors, actions, and reactions. It’s an elixir of buildup. If I’m writing a sudden ‘romantic’ chemistry the scene will be intense and hold a lot of action tags and cues.  If I can build it up over time I like to sneak in little tidbits. Like touching of hands, blushing and things like seeking out their company over others and maybe doing small favors that have great meaning.  Subtle and flirty.

Since chemistry is an internal thing, for me it is tricky. I don’t use internal or first person POV. So I use a lot of action and description to show the chemistry instead of telling the reader it’s there. I find this is the best way to suck the reader into the romance and build the hope that the couple will get together.

The chemistry between friends should, in my opinion, be about making each other happy or comfortable. Set them at ease and or rev them up for stress releasing fun. An awkward show of friendship in the form of stiff interaction or conversation would be unbelievable to the reader. Real friends chill, tease and care.

Dale leaned his head back on the sofa. Scott handed him a beer and flopped down next to him. After a long draw, Dale sighed heavily. Scott glanced over at Dale’s miserable face, picked up the remote and turned on the game. Distraction was necessary.
Scott decided to go fishing for the right conversation topic. “Amber was weird today.”
Dale nodded. “Sure was.” he lifted the beer bottle to his lips.
Scott smiled slyly. “Rachael tripped today. She did a fantastic face plant into the meeting-room floor.”

The tension left Dale’s shoulders. The non-Amber conversation welcome. “Oh?” He finished the last half of his beer in one chug.
“No blood, but the clients got quite the show.” Scott got up to retrieve Dale another bottle. “Thanks.” Dale took the offered drink, sat back and settled in to watch the game.
“You should have seen it.” Scott began to tell the spiteful story.

Romantic chemistry seems easy to write, but in reality, it can be difficult to stay in POV and show instead of telling. Fluid movements and simple reactions are, in my opinion, the best way to illustrate this.

The stars twinkled in the cloud-free moonless sky. Anne breathed deeply the cool air as they left the restaurant. Immediately Tony slipped his hand in hers lacing their fingers. With a small smile, she glanced at the delighted gleam to his face.
“I’m not used to this.” Her confession needed no explanation. 
“I know.” He squeezed her hand gently and rubbed his thumb over the soft skin.
“How?” She licked her lips. “How do you know?”
“Because.” He lifted their hands and kissed the back of hers. She sighed softly and he smirked. “You react to every little thing I do as if it were some grand romantic gesture.”
“Oh.” She looked away and swallowed several times. It was true, she just didn’t know it was obvious. 
“Don’t act like it’s a bad thing, Anne.” Tony stopped, let go of her hand and made her face him. 
“It’s not?” Anne blinked slowly as his right hand brushed her cheek, cupping her face.
His lips parted and he leaned closer. “No.” His warm breath played across her lips and she shivered. Their eyes locked and she held her breath. “I’d say it’s a good thing.”
It was all she could do to nod her head, speaking was not an option. 

Whether it’s romantic, platonic or rivalry, the interaction between two people should be personal. I do my best to keep it this way because it not only reads better but it elicits emotions from the reader. I really try not to mix styles between characters. Scott and Dale can chill and depend on the other for distraction, I wouldn’t have them behave the same way exactly with other characters. This quiet understanding is strictly for them. Same goes for Anne and Tony, he’s not her first boyfriend, but he’s the only one she gets breathless around.

My advice about building chemistry.
Start from the first moment characters meet. If they have met or already know each other before the story starts, show their comradery or chemistry subtly and often in little ways that will endear the reader to them and their Symbiosis.

-Sheryl

Other romantic posts

Setting the mood

It’s a love hate sort of thing

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 Fishing
Symbiosis
Elixir

What exactly did cupid do?

Conversation is necessary, it moves the story along. In one little conversation, I try to expose a little back story, a bit of character/persona show, and some allusion to back story and of course a little foreshadowing. I pack in as much as I can to make it worth writing in the first place.

If the conversation doesn’t have a point the reader will know. It will also drag the story down.  Each conversation should have a purpose, a reason for existing. Stiff conversation usually tells me I’m missing the human factor or emotion people exhibit when talking. If I read it aloud and it sounds like they are sitting stiff like Barbie and Ken then it needs a little smoothing out, relaxing of the sentences if you will. It also means I’m probably using filter words and too many dialog tags.

Let’s take a peek at the rough draft:

“Are you serious?” Val asked shocked and set her cup down.
“I am serious it maddening.” Anne replied sadly, “I like him, he likes me but nothing happens beyond kissing and cuddling.” Anne pouted. “Nothing.” 
“What is wrong with him?” Val asked.
“When I asked him about it do you know what he said to me?”
“What did he say to you?” Val asked and leaned closer. 
“He said he wants me to fall in love with him first because I am worth more than just lusty sex.”
“Aww Anne, that is so romantic.”
“I know,” Anne replied with disgust.
“So?”
“Well, if he walked away or I found out he is married or something, I would be heartbroken.”
“Oh. I understand.”
“Val, I swore I would not fall in love. I like being single and free. But he is just so perfect.”
“Is he too perfect Anne?”
“We do argue. He works too much. He bites his hangnails, slurps soup.”
“So cupid shot you with his arrow. Why can’t Tony see that?”
“I think it is too soon and you know I cannot say I love you to him.”

Blech, gag, and yawn. Oh boy.  SO if that was a first or rough draft of a conversation I would definitely need to soften that up, relax it and take the starch out. Oh and oops I have too much ‘tell’ and not enough ‘show’ going on. This always happens in my first attempt.

Revise time…

“You’re serious?” Val covered her mouth and set down her now empty paper coffee cup.
“Deadly.” Anne shook her head. “Nothing. He’s so sweet and hot and he kisses like nobody I’ve ever kissed before. There is too much chemistry yet…” Anne shrugged. “Nothing.” 
“What’s wrong with him?” Val waved her hands dismissing her question. ” Sorry, I mean…” 
Anne chuckled. “When I posted about it do you know what he said?”
“What?” Val leaned closer. 
Anne mocked Tony’s voice. “I want you to fall in love with me first.” Anne rolled her eyes. “I swear word for word, then he said because you’re worth more than just lusty sex.”
Val stomped her feet and clapped her hands quickly and lightly. “That is stupid kinds of romantic.”
“Ugh, I know.” Anne feigned disgust.
“So?”
Anne looked at her hands. “If only he knew. If he walked away or I found out he’s married or something, I’d be devastated.”
“Oh.” Val patted Anne’s hand. “You’re in deep aren’t you?”
Sighing heavily Anne nodded. “I swore I wouldn’t ever. But he’s just so perfect.”
“Too perfect?” Val grimaced.
“We argue. he’s annoying and works too much. He has the worst habit of biting his hangnails and slurps his soup. Oh and he puts his feet on the coffee table.”
“Yup. So how doesn’t Tony know cupid shot the crap out of you?”
Anne shrugged. “It’s too soon and I can’t say the words, so if that’s what he’s waiting for we’re doomed.”

I may be tooting my own horn, but I think that revision went well and reads better. The moment was experienced, not shoved down the reader’s throat. I think it’s important to really take a look at conversation and make sure it does more than babble. Anne has trouble with the word love and is reluctantly romantic, Val is a full on romantic and Tony is likable and charming.  That was fun to write and then revise.

My advice about cupids actions in writing.
Awww… everyone loves a little love, so long as the scene or conversation allows the reader to feel the jab of the arrow and live the moment not want to skip over it because it missed the target completely.

-Sheryl

Other posts

It’s a love hate sort of thing

KISS your writing

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Maddening

Lust