Writing Advice: Dialogue

I’ve always been a sucker for excellent dialogue. Snappy, clever remarks make for memorable characters, situations and so much more! Dialogue has brought me to tears, and laughter, and has infused me with a hundred emotions that I couldn’t have expected would overcome me.

Dialogue doesn’t have to follow perfect grammar

You want the characters you write to be believable, plausible, real — not carbon outtakes with perfect diction, correct pronunciation and no quirks what-so-ever! Dialect can be written, and it should…although you probably don’t want to overdo it. Too much of any dialect might come off as confusing and distracting, and two things you never want to do with dialogue is confuse and distract.

Dialogue advances the plot

No one enjoys reading back-and-forth that doesn’t carry things forward; not for long, anyway.  Note, if you attempt to use your dialogue to dump information on your readers’ poor heads, you will (deservedly) earn yourself a great deal of annoyance. It’s a fine line, between these two states, and one you should take care to walk on. When you do, you should be putting your readers to work, looking for implications in the dialogue.

By adding implications, you make the dialogue a whole lot more interesting and engaging for the imagination.

Dialogue shouldn’t be repetitive

This one is pretty self-descriptive and could be added to the point before it. There are exceptions in certain situations — but then again, there always are!

Dialogue rarely needs speech verbs

Adding the likes of ‘she said, he said,’ and ‘he responded, yelled’ after each line of dialogue you write isn’t only necessary, it also gets boring after a while. Your dialogue will speak for itself most of the time, and will be unique and recognizable on its own merits.

We’re operating on the premise that your dialogue has merits, you see. A vote of confidence, if you ever got one!

Conversation can be direct and indirect

What does that mean? People will not talk about the same thing at the same time; I’ll often get asked some question, and go on a completely different tangent, change topics, sprint through them…and so much more.

That’s my two pence when it comes to Dialogue! See you next week!

 

Ten Things I would do if I were a Cave Troll!

  1. Grumbrum live in cave. Cave pretty. Sparkle much. Really pretty!
  2. Little men come in cave! They poke Grumbrum with tiny hammers. Legs hurt. Stupid little men–dwarves.
    Dwarf soup delicious. Grumbrum happy.
  3. Long time come since Grumbrum have soup. Grumbrum hungry. He go out of cave.
    He miss cave!
  4. Little men throw wooden sticks at Grumbrum. Sticks sharp. Unpleasant. So is sun.
  5. Little men come in different forms! Village is full of them. They tasty.
    Grumbrum just kidding! He only eat men-dwarves.
  6. Village is empty for long time now. No more tasty people come see Grumbrum. Grumbrum sad. He lonely. Maybe he eat shiny man who write list.
    Grumbrum just kidding! He likes man who use tiny feather. Man is funny, he use long words to talk to Grumbrum sometimes.
    Grumbrum will eat writing man last.
  7. Dark Lord come to re-krud Grumbrum. No want to go with him. Try eat him instead!
  8. Dark Lord make everything hurt, then leave. He laugh at Grumbrum! Mean Dark Lord!
  9. Grumbrum dying, he thinks. He turn to stone. Fall into earth. Unto dirt.
  10. A little she-child came today. She left flowers in Grumbrum’s hand, and sang songs to him, and danced under the rays of the sun.
    I am at peace, now.

Sunday ComiX: Kitty Pryde and the Scary X-Lady!

Sundays are for–What do you mean, they’re not for poking fun at everyone’s favorite team of mutant misfits, the X-Men? Of Course They Are!

Today’s focus is — you guessed it! — set on one of my most favorite X-Women, Kitty Pryde.

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Kitty Pryde, aka Spryte, aka Shadowcat, aka about fifty other code names: This one, she’s got loads of things going for her — Kitty started out as the clever smaller sister of the X-Men, and particularly of a newly grown-up Illyana Rasputin;  she was the youngest X-Men at the time of her introduction by Chris Cleremont in the 70’s; Kitty rose to be one of the best and brightest graduates of Xavier’s, and currently leads nearly all the X-Men (!); her greatest feats include saving the entire planet from a gigantic planet-killing space bullet (look upwards…yeah), and is an absolute joy to read about in nearly every comic book you pick up.

She was also Star-Lord’s girlfriend, and Star-Lord.

Yeah.

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Lockheed, aka Lockheed, aka…wait, I’m just doing this by force of habit now;

Lockheed is the dragon companion to Kitty Pryde; he once imagined Kitty as a female dragon, and she imagined him as a human male so make of it what you will — what makes the situation even slightly more complicated is that Kitty was 14-15 at the time; kinky!

He will become a full-grown and intimidating draconic horror someday, but is currently a mixture of cute and downright sociopathic!

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Emma Frost, aka The White Queen: Started out as one of the more persistent and powerful enemies of the X-Men, on account of being telepathic — the diamond form you see in the picture above is a secondary mutation, triggered about the time she joined the X-Men, some 20(~ish) years ago; Kitty loathed her and still is very antagonistic towards Emma, and for good reason; Frost used to run an evil version of the Xavier Institute and Kitty was to be one of the first students there…unfortunately, things didn’t quite go according to the plan, and Kitty joined the X-Men, thus cementing a powerful grudge between two scary powerful mutants!

Also, the picture above actually shows Emma clothed a bit too properly for her tastes. This is how she started off looking:

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I wish my schoolteachers dressed like that.

On second thought — better that they didn’t!

Saturday Night Gaming: My One-Year Anniversary as a D&D Dungeon Master!

I first took the seat as a Dungeon Master a year ago in August. Since that time, I have killed a player character, gone soft on several occasions and not murdered several others, and realized the most important lesson anyone wearing the DM hat could ever learn — convoluted plans are worth squat when your players have the freedom to do as they will!

Planning is great, of course. The type of session I hold, however, is very much about player choice; the action (or inaction) the players take affect the world in many different ways; I try to make the world fluid and never stationary. I imagine many DMs do it, to differing levels of success.

Me? I fumble with words, sometimes. I’ve always been much more gifted with the written word than with the spoken one; I am actively working through that particular flaw, and — though it takes effort — I’ve become better. This last year has helped me improve a great deal — as a storyteller, improviser and even as an actor.

Okay, that’s a lie. I’ve always been an amazing actor!

Improvising has been a problem in the past, however; not so much now. When you’re constantly forced to do something, you either get better at it, or get murdered by a mob of angry players ( or “friends,” as they keep insisting they are) for sucking.

What lessons have I learned?

My players are evil sunsuvbiscuits.

That’s about it, actually.

On a serious note, I had an amazing time exploring D&D. Here’s to ten more years!

With the amount of evil wizards, priests of lost gods and what-have-you-not having been awoken due to dreadful decision-making by said players, we’d be lucky to wrap Act I by then.

 

Thursday Recommendation: A Slip of the Keyboard

Terry Pratchett is one of the writers I most admire.

A few posts ago, I wrote about adding humor to your writing. Pratchett doesn’t simply ‘add’ humor; he weaves social commentary into his impressive body of works — Discworld and otherwise — and then proceeds to mask it with satire and sharpness that can kick your arse seven ways towards Eureka!

But I am getting sidetracked once again. The book itself is a collection of Terry Pratchett’s non-fiction writing,which covers a variety of topics important to the man during his life — both personal and private ones, ranging from musings on his career as a journalist, PR and an author, to his passionate work to protect orangutans from extinction, to a deep-rooted appreciation for libraries and librarians (akin to Neil Gaiman), and wrapping up with his battles against Alzheimer’s and for the legalization and broader acceptance of a sick person’s right to die.

This is the man who described his disease as an “embuggerance.”  His non-fiction captures the weirdness and the ridiculousness, and sometimes the cruelty of the world we all inhabit, of this wonderful, sometime twisted reality we all share.

He fought injustice; in his writing, and outside it. He enjoyed life, and books, and I often think of how much the world could use him now.

 

The Unintentionally Helpful Villain, Vol. 09 – Volunteers

Diary Entry #0170

Mine power sizzles and crackles with a terrible itch to be used. But I mustn’t allow myself any distraction for the chase grows ever closer and more heated. Strange, this heat; unnatural, even. Almost does it remind me of…but no, it cannot be.

Great challenges did we overcome since the foul princeling’s attack on mine men. The fire within their spirits did suffer greatly from the loss of a quarter of our companions. Blight come upon this kingdom!

…I would be much remiss to deny mine own sorrow at their loss. These Librarians are much like an extended family, if mine memories play no tricks upon me — they grumble and moan as each morn and eve comes to pass, and they eat all of mine carefully prepared food only to demand more, and they can make trolls explode with their mental prowess (a fact of which I am very proud).

What kind of Ruler would enjoy burying his relatives?

Well, the Prince that attacked me, that much has been made manifest.

Diary Entry #0171

A villager of this here kingdom, one that heard mine wonderful monologue from yonder day before today, has been following ever since, slinking around. I shall force him into mine aura of truthfulness so that he admits to me his role — be he a spy, I shall cut him unto ribbons and make of him a stew for mine hounds.

Amongst other important tasks today, I have made hounds from clay. It has proven a most curious enterprise. I do believe one ate a Librarian.

Oh, well.

Diary Entry #0172

The Librarian who was eaten is alive.

What wonderful news.

The hounds of clay have turned to non-hounds of clay, and the man I considered might be a spy has ‘volunteered’. I was not aware of this wonderful notion until he brought it up and explained it to me in great detail; now that he has, I plan on forcing every single one of the residents of the next village, town, city or — to the hells with it — an entire country, to volunteer unto mine armed forces.

I have created new hounds of clay, and have added bread to the recipe. My Prime Librarian, Sven, nearly received a heart attack when he realized what I had done with all our supplies of bread.

He is young, and knows little of evocation spells, and he will learn with experience.

Besides, it works with meatballs.

Diary Entry #0175

We have arrived in the town of Kresh. I can sense Her nearby, perhaps watching me from some hidden spot even now. It is time I face my wife.

Ex. Ex-wife.

 

Next Time: We reach the tenth Volume in our illustrious tale! Crazy stuff goes down! Dialogues! Madness! Insanity! And so much more!

 

 

 

Writing Advice: Research is important

Research has the dubious distinction of being an insanely interesting part of writing…as well as an occasionally tedious task that everyone would much rather shove for another point in time.

Researching is a bit like going down a street whose exit is just ahead, but somehow, you keep getting sidetracked by the litany of architectural marvels on the sides of that street. What I mean to explain with this inept metaphor is that finding information on any given subject is easy, in our Information Age; however,

it’s not difficult at all to go further and further into connected topics, which –while fascinating– will usually end up as little more than backstory. That’s not bad by any stretch of the imagination; what it is, is dangerous. Dangerous in that, having all this knowledge tempts you to put it all inside your book–and when you do that, you detract from your story. Flooding readers with historically accurate information (if you’re writing fantasy, for example) might very well create a feeling of authenticity but it will also make for a dull read; fantasy fans are not into the genre for that.

Putting too much research pulls the reader out because your book ends up reading like a technical manual. Use your research-derived knowledge to create the illusion of reality but don’t bog the action and the characters down in minutiae. Too little research in your work makes you seem like you’ve no clue what you’re writing about; too much slows your writing down to a crawl; it’s all about finding balance! Beta readers are helpful in that aspect; point your questions towards how the world you’re building feels — does it lack realism? Does the momentum suffer because of too much details and the like?

Science fiction is more dependent on research, especially some of its subgenres, for obvious reasons. Follow the link if you’d like to know more about those.

 

This is another shorter piece of Writing Advice, but it’s one I thought I might as well cover; research is important and shouldn’t be ignored just because it’s occasionally annoying!

 

Ten Things a Moderately Influential Warlord does!

  1. A moderately influential warlord is only as influential as he is capable at the task of carving up his colleagues, i.e. other warlords. This one would be one hell of a stickler for the collegial spirit; and when I say that, I mean that his belief in killing warlords in order to consume their spirit is deeply held.
  2. The best Warlords are masters at the art of war. This one, while adept at killing, often finds himself blundering his way through the finer points of war — tactics are one thing, strategy–something else entirely. What’re these tiny wooden figurines doing on his dining table, anyway?! Better remove them before the roasted pig servings arrive, else he’ll swing one thick arm and break them all!
  3. His influence can reach high places…but more often than not, it does so as a joke than as threats that kings would flinch at. The moderately influential warlord isn’t aware of this, of course but if he was, he would use his axe as way of diplomacy.
  4. The Moderately Influential Warlord is not apt at the art of diplomacy.
  5. Much can be said about his moderation; but not where alcohol figures. In that here topic, our warlord is most impressive indeed. Why, he could outdrink a squadron of heavily outfitted dwarves; and we all know that all dwarven warriors are drunks.
    Except for Bub. Bub hasn’t had a drink since his fourth wife left him. I’m worried about the poor guy, he’s been through a lot since that happened.
  6. A warlord like ours, he’s good at leading a small population but ambition is far from his mind (if we were to accept that he had a mind, which is a questionable hypothesis on several different levels). That is why he serves this here old king Patrick, for Patrick has treated him well and with some respect, unlike all other monarchs nearby our warlord’s lands.
  7. This here warlord is moderately emotional, as well; ’tis why he tears up so at the news of ye ole’ king Patrick’s death and succession.
  8. Sorrow is a tough emotion to crack, and a confusing one at that. How’s our warlord to let go of it? Simple enough; as he oh-so-often does, he’ll bathe that beautiful axe in blood. The handles, made of ivory are more thirsty than ever, and it is his great pleasure to feed them!
  9. After a good slaughter, a warrior like this one is all too happy to take a romp in his quarters; it’s up to a few certain types of women to go off with a man such as he, all muscles covered in blood and gore — but in a culture that often births moderately successful warlords these types of women are never far away!
  10. But the thirst for vengeance is not yet sated. Funny old thing, that — desire for vengeance sometimes ends up ruining perfectly good mediocre warlords. Sometimes…it gives birth to far scarier men, intent on taking it out on would-be successors.

 

Hello, Monday! For some strange reason, I’m feeling less than motivated today…whatever could it be? Oh, well! Take heed, kids! Keep at it, even when you feel like crap!

Sunday ComiX: The Morally Ambiguous (Sometime) X-Men!

Sundays are for…struggling with the morality of questionable characters who occasionally take part in the X-Men roster!

Bit of a stretch? Oh, well. Let’s start it off with my most favorite character in comic books, drum roll, please…

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Max Eisenhardt aka Erik Magnus Lensherr aka MAGNETO, MASTER OF MAGNETISM: Absolute madman, whose POWERS OVER MAGNETISM™ can allow him to do just about anything you can think of, at this point; enjoys spending time with strong, independent women, killing Nazis, and forging a better world for all mutants.

He’s the best.

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Victor Creed, aka Sabretooth: Like Wolverine, but more of a kitten, and meaner; except when Wolverine is dead — then, Sabretooth ends up filling his shoes…weird, I know; something about losing your best worst frenemy and changing your ways and whatnot; I couldn’t tell you what it’s all about, nope.

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Raven Darkholme aka Mystique: Think of her as an evil, shape-shifting Black Widow without any of the morality  (yup, I went there); she got married to Charles Xavier at some point recently and no one knows how that happened; also, Mystique doesn’t hold onto most grudges, on account of her brain subtly changing whenever she shifts, her personality and memories with it; she’s slept with most mutants in the X-Men universe in one reality or another, and for good reason.

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James Bradley aka Dr. Nemesis: This one is a lot less popular, but has been playing an on and off-again supporting role in several X-Men comic books over the past decade; he’s a scientist who was born in the dawn of the 20th century; here’s where it gets complicated because it was Dr. Nemesis himself that delivered the Dr. Nemesis baby…time travel is complicated and ridiculous and I love it; he and Magneto share love for hunting Nazis, and also, he’s intelligent enough to increase his longevity!

Fascinating man, this one. Wonder what delivering yourself does to you…

 

Well, that’s it for today’s Sunday Comix X-Men Definitions! Watch out for more next week!

 

Saturday Night Gaming: Pyre #01

Supergiant games deliver yet again.

That makes for three outstanlion p kdiglng, visually stunning –breathtaking, even — games, each three years apart from the other, starting with Bastion, transitioning with Transistor and now, the largest of them all, Pyre.

I have played too little of Pyre since it came out on Tuesday (July 25). Not enough, certainly, to construct an in-depth analysis of the mechanics of the strange, fascinating sport-like combat system; nor to talk about the different route choices, the leveling system or several other aspects I would love to take a y look at.

What I can tell you is that Pyre is beautiful. Breath-taking; and yes, I realise I repeat myself, but I can’t accent that nearly enough. I would put each of the landscapes hanging on my wall as posters.

It’s no small thing, that – I don’t own any posters at all.

The story is very easy to get into, and although the narrative takes something of a backseat this time around, it’s not for lacking in plot. To the contrary, there is now more written speech between characters (and more characters overall) than in any of the two previous games by Supergiant.

The music – fantastic in so many ways, once again written by Darren Korb…although I might have that last name wrong. I’ll be sure to check and react it a few hours from now, in the comfort of my home.

Next week, I will go more in-depth in many of those aspects I glossed over. Look forward to it!