Writer's Group this month was hosted by my good friend, Jacqui Johnson. She is a primary school teacher and emerging author. Jacqui is my guest blogger for this month. Welcome, Jacqui.
Easter weekend, the perfect time for a writer’s group get together! As it was my turn to host, other than making sure we had adequate chocolate, cheese and plenty of coffee, I had organised a couple of readings to share as we sat down to chat about dialogue.
As emerging authors one of the biggest challenges in creating engaging fictions texts is balancing narrative, dialogue and action.
In his blog, ‘The 7 Tools of Dialogue’ James Scott Bell gives a mechanics analogy of how dialogue should work in a text.
“My neighbour John loves to work on his hot rod. He’s an automotive whiz and tells me he can hear when something is not quite right with the engine. He doesn’t hesitate to pop the hood, grab his bag of tools and start to tinker. He’ll keep at it until the engine sounds just the way he wants it to.
That’s not a bad way to think about dialogue. We can usually sense when it needs work. What fiction writers
often lack, however, is a defined set of tools they can put to use on problem areas.”
He then goes on to discuss his favourite dialogue tools which include:
A second helpful article we discussed was ‘Writing Really Good Dialogue’ which emphasized dialogue as needing to perform specific roles within a narrative text including; firstly, to reveal characters’ relationships to one another, secondly, to move the story forward and finally dialogue should increase the tension. This article not only gave practical examples but also provided a useful list of dialogue tags other than ‘said’ to use in writing.
Using the information that we discussed, we then applied these tips and tools to write a scene of dialogue that reveal a plot twist in a current piece.
Below is a sample of my current work in progress.
“It’s good to see Nora,” Ruth began as she eased herself onto a seat besides Anabella. “It has been an age since she’s been to the palace. Not since the prince took responsibility to raise her daughter. The laws of hereditary service aren’t usually honoured anymore but in her case the prince chose to recognise her husband’s contributions and sacrifice in his service. She visited her daughter every day in the kitchens after the initial separation, if I could smuggle her out form the dancers’ quarters. But being raised in the palace changed Petra and after a few months she refused to come.”
“Petra! As in Petra?” Anabella felt the hot flush of anger colouring her cheeks as Ruth sadly nodded. “As in Head of the princes’ dancers Petra?”
Anabella looked over towards Nora on the other side of the room tending to Brayleigh and was dumbfounded why she hadn’t recognised the familiarity earlier.
“She wasn’t always as she is now you know” Ruth replied softly.
“Oh, so not always a completely paranoid violent psychotic!”
“Anabella,” Ruth chided. “Until you know what it was like for her, what her life has been like all these years, you shouldn’t judge her.”
“Oh I know enough of her to know she shouldn’t be trusted. How do we know that Nora isn’t just the same? Just another snake in the grass?”
“Both Cailan and I trust her. That will have to be enough for now.” Ruth got up from the table signalling the end of the conversation, leaving Anabella tormented by the uncertainty this new knowledge gave. In Anabella’s mind the journey out of the princes’ realm just went from challenging to impossible.
After sharing this scene with the group, I found using the advice from the articles was helpful. Continuing discussions within the group included critiquing aspects, continue to help me improve my writing style. All of which demonstrates the equal importance of the drafting, sharing and revising processes.
When reading back through a story, you can see better when a scene is top heavy with dialogue, narrative or action.” (Gloria Kepton, 2011, ‘How to balance Action, Narrative and Dialogue in your novel’).
I hope the articles will help encourage and inspire you to use dialogue effectively in your own texts so that your pieces ‘runs as smoothly as a hot rod’.
Thanks so much Jacqui, for being my guest blogger. For further tips, head over to Jen Storer's website at Girl and Duck for her blog on Dialogue: the five main uses.
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