Conversing is easy…not!

There are some things in writing that irk me. I do my best not to do these things and try very hard not to let them minimize my writing.  There are some well-known authors out there that dabble in the ostentatious style of writing. Whether it’s a little or a lot, it can be tedious and frustrating to read.

I don’t enjoy when a scene is dressed up unrealistically or conversation is flowery and overdone. Writing can be extravagant without browbeating the reader into a puddle of eye rolling. I’ve talked about establishing the scene in Setting the mood and keeping it simple in KISS you’re writing. What about conversation?

Conversing is easy… not! Well it is in the real world. If I don’t write the way I talk and the way others actually respond then it can quickly become garish or even mundane if the conversation is unnecessary or could be easily replaced by a summary like I talked about in What happened yeserday?.

There are words I find in writing, even current books that are used outside narrative and within dialog that, honestly just don’t belong. Words that would never cross a real person’s lips. Sure I love to use “old fashioned” words and I adore the unusual, but too much is garish. It’s all about moderation.

For example:

The comfortable small lounge bar wasn’t crowded since it was a weeknight and not very late in the evening. “Scott, I do really enjoy our time out together. Thank you ever so much for treating me to a drink. After the overly busy and stress filled day I’ve had it is an extraordinarily kind gesture.”

Amber set her empty glass down on the round table, sat back on the soft cushioned couch and gingerly touched her bandaged forehead. It was so very small a cut, but bled so much it seemed a whole lot worse.

“You’re most welcome Amber, it is my utmost pleasure to cheer up your desolate mood. I too had a day that was hard and stressful. It would seem Dale is determined to the utmost to continuously point out that I was defeated by a woman so impervious and unobtainable.”

Scott waived at a server for refills and smiled at his friend. She was very attractive and extremely willing. That was however the entirety of the problem. He wanted a challenge, he wanted ever so much to conquer and win over a woman of moral fortitude. Amber was definitely a woman lacking discriminate taste when the matters of choosing potential suitor.

“Yes indeed, you can say that again Scott. Dale was gloating ever so much today. It seemed it was all he was capable of doing. Normally I would acquiesce and join in such banter, but Sasha is quite possibly the most elusive heartless stick in the mud I’ve ever acquainted with.”

First of all that was uber awkward and so over the top I gagged a couple times writing it. This is an extreme example but I read a lot and I’ve read some super awkward conversations that realistically would never happen. Or at least not in any situation I can think of. Maybe I’m wrong but if it’s awkward to read then it would be super awkward for people to actually say.

Let me tidy it up and modernize it a bit.

The small uncrowded lounge bar was perfect for an early evening drink. Amber downed the last of her martini. “What a super stressful crap-tacular day. I can’t thank you enough for treating me to a drink Scott.” Amber set her empty glass down on the round table, sat back on the soft cushioned couch and gingerly touched her bandaged forehead. The small attention-causing cut had bled profusely, but didn’t hurt then or now.

“No problem Stitches McGee” He teased. “I needed one as much as you. Dale was a dick all day, gloating about winning the bet. I should have known Sasha was a total unobtainable ice bitch.” He shrugged. “But my ego got in the way.”

Scott waved at a server for refills and smiled at his attractive and willing friend. He wanted a challenge, to conquer and win over a decent woman, which was not Amber. Amber was more fly by night, go where the bed sheets are open, not the kind of girl to bring home to mom and dad.

“You can say that again, I got sick of Dales crowing myself. Normally I would join in, but you didn’t deserve to be snubbed so coldly by princess frostbite.”

It is possible to have a character of wealth or education speak properly or with class, without them sounding like a pompous windbag throwback from an 1800’s romance novel. (Well unless it is a story set in the 1800’s then by all means have at it.) I have a character that speaks properly and never contracts words unnecessarily. He still uses jargon and I don’t overdo the filter words and unnecessary additives. The people he converses with speak normally, and are sometimes more flippant around him for contrast.

People speak differently, they have different lingual quirks and in a story, it’s painful to read dialogue that is the same across the board for each character. It makes for stiff conversation that I personally start skipping over or I’ll just put the book down.

My advice about ostentatious conversation.
Um don’t. Make sure each characters voice is as unique as they are. Give them catch phrases or lingual mannerisms that are theirs alone. Sure, you can have someone pick up a slang term from another and make fun with it, but really, just keep it realistic.

-Sheryl

Posts related and mentioned in this one

KISS your writing

Setting the mood

Missing body parts

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Ostentatious
Conquer

Blood

It is inevitable when I’m writing that my characters are going to get into sticky situations. It is very likely that they will encounter or give up some of their own blood, sweat and tears to entertain my readers. I write a lot about emotions, feelings and the senses, because they are a major part of being human and alive.

I’m not a writer of the undead, be that zombies, mummies or vampires. I don’t write about lycanthropy in any form or paranormal nor the preternatural. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of such fantasy, but I struggle with realism and can’t seem to venture very far outside of it… yet. Maybe someday, I do have some ideas rattling their cages in my brain.

So when I research or ‘people watch’ aka observe I try to compare every experience/action/movement/reaction etc. to how I have felt or reacted in the self and same situations(or near to) Then I think about how incredibly fascinating it is that people are so universally unique.

Recently I have been thinking a lot about blood. Yes, blood. Specifically how people react to it. In conversation, in movies, in real life, coming out of others and coming out of themselves.

Common reactions to blood on TV/movies
Grimace
Eye roll (Too campy)
Close eyes
Turn head away
Cover eyes/face
Turn off the TV or walk away

 These reactions are based on the knowledge that its not real. It also helps that if you’ve ever seen real blood in copious amounts Hollywood rarely gets it right.

Common reactions to seeing someone bleeding for real
Rush to help/Provide help
Turn away
Gag/vomit
Faint
Fear of disease/contamination
Panic
Crying
Grimace
Waving hands in front of self and shaking head
Fear of hurting the injured
Shaking from adrenaline
Calm in order to keep injured calm

Seeing blood is different from bleeding. From a little to a crimson mask from a tiny face wound to a bullet in the chest, bleeding can be tricky to write without overdoing it.

Common reactions to bleeding (Pain is not always a factor with blood)
Disbelief
Shock
Panic
Faint/Fainting
Shaking
Crying
Anger
Vomiting
Calmness (odd but true, some people just mellow out)
Disorientation

The idea is clear, either way blood = bad and blood = good.  Whenever tragedy strikes the heroes step up. They run toward the danger, the blood and those in need. However if there is blood, something bad happened. Duh right?

Like pain, a bloody experience is tempting for me to internalize, to shift POV and slip into my characters mind. Let’s find out what happened to Amber and why her head is bandaged.

 Amber laughed and spilled her drink on the floor as she retold the shrew in Sasha’s desk drawer story. She thought it was even better given Scott’s unscripted shrew comment moments before the discovery.
“It was magic, her screaming and blithering like an idiot.”
Amber’s audience held their martini glasses up in congratulatory cheers.
“I need to visit the loo.” Amber gulped the last of her martini and hopped off the tall chair.

Her foot slipped on her spilled drink and she hit the floor hard. She felt pain instantly as her head hit on the base of a chair at the table beside theirs. She cried out, the sharpness of the impact felt hot. Someone helped her sit up and she touched her forehead gingerly. She could feel the warm thick fluid streaming down her face dripping onto her light pink sweater. Like a suffocating fish, her mouth opened and closed in surprise. Amber pulled her hand away as others called for help. She was afraid and screamed, her shiny red fingers were covered in blood and she felt faint as her eyes fluttered.

That POV went all over the place. In her head, out, and back in again. Let me try a re-do, maintaining and external POV.

Amber wiped the tears of laughter from her eyes and sloshed her drink, spilling it as she retold the shrew in Sasha’s desk drawer story. It was even better after Scott’s unscripted shrew comment moments before the discovery.
“It was magic, her screaming and blithering like an idiot.”
Amber’s audience held their martini glasses up in congratulatory cheers.
“I need to visit the loo.” Amber gulped the last of her candy apple martini and hopped off the tall chair.

Her foot slipped on her spilled drink and she hit the floor hard. Her forehead connected with the chair-base at the table beside theirs, and she cried out.
Someone helped her to sit up on the sticky bar floor. Like a suffocating fish, Amber’s mouth opened and closed as she gingerly touched her forehead. Her fingers slid in the warm thick fluid as it streamed down her face and dripped onto her light pink sweater. Amber pulled her hand away while someone called out for help. She screamed as her shiny red fingers shook before her fluttering eyes.

Oh boy I definitely had to take the ‘feels’ and “ing’s” out of that first attempt, that was for sure. I also had to give Amber a little something for her nasty behavior, right?  I don’t care for the term “pumping” to me that implies gore. So I don’t use it, totally a personal preference.

My advice about bloody writing.
Don’t over describe blood with as many alternate words for red that you can find. Pick one or two and keep it simple. The word red works, and I only used it once.

-Sheryl

Here’s an older post or two

No “Filter Word” Parking Here

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 Fish