Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Q & A How Much Dialogue is Too Much

1ST QUESTION ON DIALOGUE (how much is too much)

"Is it alright to have long sections of dialogue with no action in between?" (paraphrase)

This is a question I received from a friend of mine. I hope this post will answer his question.

To be honest I'm glad he asked it, because I was wondering what on earth I was going to write about for today... now I know :)

ANSWER...S

This question can be answered in different ways, because people have different preferences.

Some would say the answer was that you shouldn't have dialogue without any action or description. But this really depends on the kind of story and/or writing style.

Take the TV Show The Flash for instance. The characters in the show constantly talk to each other about their lives. They analyze themselves and talk some times for, but not limited to, 5 minutes at a time, without any action happening.

So there is a time and place for long lengths of dialogue, but it normally only works if it's planned.When it's an accident is when it's a problem and should be fixed. (The answer for that is coming up in a second)

If  you choose to study any Shakespeare, than you will know that he had ridiculously long conversations between characters that seem so unnecessary, but these conversations actually have a purpose.(Sometimes they don't, but we choose to ignore those. )

So, having a lot of dialogue with little to no action or description is fine if it's done intentionally and correctly.

2ND QUESTION ON DIALOGUE

(There was another half of the first question)

"How do I fix it? I'm stuck and don't know how to get out of the conversation and into action smoothly." (paraphrasing)

Well, this is kind of simple and kind of complicated at the same time.

First of all, if you find yourself stuck and you don't know how to transition into action, then scrap the scene. The whole scene. Just start over. Believe me it's easier this way. If you stick to what you have, you won't be able to transition smoothly out of the conversation.

Once you've scrapped it, start planning the scene. Think about how your characters sound. (I'll talk about character voice in a later post.) Just make sure that whatever they are talking about sounds like something they would say. Then plan the most efficient way for them to get their point across, while omitting long drawn out explanations or having to repeat things.

Don't start writing the actual scene yet, just plan, make an outline, and plan where you want the conversation to transition into action.

TRANSITIONING

The easiest way to transition from dialogue to action, is to slowly introduce action within the 'he said' 'she said' lines.

Example:

"You can't just leave," said Carol.

"Oh yeah?" he asked. "Watch me!" 

Erik walked out of the Chief's office. Carol followed him.

"But we need you." she said, running ahead and turning to walk backward in front of him. "You're the best agent we have."

"I'm sorry," he said, pushing past her. He walked out of the police station.

She watched him get into his old, beat up, grey Sudan and drive away.

So this conversation that the two characters have, transitions from just dialogue into just action. By incorporating tiny pieces of action and description that get bigger over time, is probably the best way to avoid getting stuck in dialogue.

I hope this answers the question.

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Pre-Writing Rules

BUTCHERING STORIES

As writers, rookies and pros, we all know what it's like to completely butcher a story. Either the starting idea was rubbish, you wrote yourself into a corner, or you didn't know where to finish. These are things that can really ruin a story.

SOME ASSEMBLY (might) REQUIRED

The best story I ever wrote was a short story called Ethereal Age. It had a good use of description, character dialogue/thought process, and story. And do you know what? I had no plan for it (other than a theme). So maybe it's not just "having a plan" that fixes things.

Sure, a plan can be helpful, especially if you have a long story to write, but I think that if you've hammered certain important writing tools into your brain previously, they'll generally apply themselves as you write.

This is what I call pre-writing rules. Things that you've set in place before you even start writing. An example of pre-rules in real life is in relationships. It's the guidelines you set for yourself before you date someone. Like, you won't stand for lying, you won't kiss them before the 10th date, or something along those lines.

Basically they are pre-conceived thoughts that will inevitably guide the way you write, without you having to consciously think about them.

OPEN ENDED SOLUTIONS

I've set some pre-rules for myself over the years, such as, I'll leave certain things open ended so that I'll have different ways to write myself out of corners if I happen to find myself stuck.

Example: Say I write a situation that I literally cannot get my character out of without either leaving them there and moving on to another story, or having something magical happen to save them.

Unless the story has magic in it, I'd suggest that you don't use something miraculous to save them. Before you trap them, leave a few things open ended, like their friend became angry and left them, but came back in the characters time of need. Or have a character seemingly die, but then they end up rescuing the main character. Don't show that person die, because that will leave doubt in the reader's mind making the character's come back more believable.

Leave things open to more possibilities before a problem occurs for a character, so that it can be resolved with things the reader may not have expected.

SAY "NO" TO BLAND DESCRIPTIONS

Another rule I have, although it's fairly straight forward is that I won't describe blandly.

"It was a cold and rainy day." (To me this is a bland description. Unless you're going for a child-like or simplistic view point I'd say don't describe like this.)

"The biting rain fell on that chilly autumn day." (To me this is much better. It get's the point across, but it's also a nice description instead of a bland one.)

LEAVE IT TO THE IMAGINATION

Another thing I've set in motion is the idea that I normally won't describe characters. This leaves room for the readers imagination to fill in the blanks (And, being someone who personally aspires to be a director, it helps if I don't have to cast a look alike for a book to movie character.)

If I do describe a character it is normally because their appearance matters. Such as a fantasy creature or a character that is normally notice for they're striking features. Other than that, I normally don't bother. It saves time and words.

Now of course, these are only a few guidelines that I've set for myself. I'm sure it's different for every writer since it's all up to preference, but make sure that you do have your guidelines, whatever they are, before you start writing. It really helps in the long run.



Monday, 21 January 2019

Controversial Writing

CONTROVERSIAL

(Apology: I'm apologizing in advance if this post offends anyone. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but do not put hate in the comments. If you do voice your opinion keep it clean and polite or your comment will be taken down.)

When is it appropriate to write about something controversial?

Of course, this is, in and of itself, a controversial topic and different people have different opinions on this, but this blog post is my personal take on the subject.

The thing about controversial things is that there are different kinds. Like abortion, homosexuality, illegal aliens, and vaccines are on one level. Then there are social media controversies. Such as what people consider to be racist or not politically correct, or what people are allowed to say on social media in general.

These things are normally talked about a lot or kept quiet depending on the situation and people involved. People who are fighting for or against normally are the loudest, people who don't care either way won't talk about it at all, because it either makes them uncomfortable, or they don't want to be pressured into having an opinion on the topic.

So again, the question is... When is it appropriate to write about such things, especially in fiction.

ROSE TICO

There was a lot of controversy about Rose's Social justice warrior attitude when Star Wars The Last Jedi Came out. People hated the character and started to trash the actress (Kelly Marie Tran). I believe it was wrong to hate on her just because she played a fictional character. SHE IS NOT THE CHARACTER!!! CAN I MAKE THAT ANY CLEARER?

Sure, I didn't like the character either, I thought it was a useless addition to the movie, and Rose didn't make sense within the plot in general. So in this instance I don't believe it was appropriate to have a character like this in a movie like Star Wars (considering that's not what Star Wars is about).

GENDER BENDING

In the most recent season of Doctor Who, the character of the Doctor has just been changed into a woman. I haven't seen the newest season yet, but I have heard a lot about it.

Feminism isn't my favorite topic in the world, but it seems to be touched on quite a lot in this new Doctor Who.

(In my own opinion, men and women are different and men are normally stronger than woman in many respects, yet woman are typically better at teaching and caring. The two are different and were made by God for different purposes.)

From that perspective feminism is almost never appropriate to write about as a positive addition to any story.

WWII CAMPS

In an unfinished story of mine I wrote about a Jewish family that was taken to a concentration camp in WWII. 

What some might not know about the camps is that homosexuals were also persecuted, tortured, and killed along with Jews and Christians.

In my story I have one gay man talk to the main character. (Nothing romantic happens). The point of having this character in the story is to give a disappointed head shake to those who hate homosexuals. And the fact that THEY ARE WRONG TO DO SO.

(Again in my own opinion homosexuality is a misled lifestyle, but I do not hate them.)

In my story, this was a very small part, but it was to make a very big, loud point. This was the only example I could think of for writing controversy of this negative sort appropriately. I am sure there are more examples, but this is one that I thought should be addressed.

So I in my opinion, in a normal setting, leave it alone. Don't write super-controversial stories. It'll probably make more people angry than it will provoke thought on the subject.






Friday, 18 January 2019

Stay on Target! Stay on Target!

DISTRACTIONS

You might be asking. “How do I keep myself focused on my writing?” Well, speaking from personal experience, I normally write in short bursts and then get distracted, then go back to writing, then get distracted again, and it's a vicious cycle.

It's a problem that I still have to deal with along with many other people. So I'm “preaching to the choir” when I write about how to stay focused while your writing.

GET OFF THE INTERNET

Close the browser... completely. Don't have it up at all. Unless you need to look something up that is crucial for your story then don't have the internet open. “What if I need to spell a word?” Get a paper dictionary if you have to.

Also, do not have your phone near enough to tempt you. Unless, of course, you're writing on your phone, then that's a different story. Just don't open up the internet or apps other than the one you're writing in.

THE ROOM YOU WRITE IN

When you write, don't be in a room where you normally do other things. I have my computer in the living room and I pretty much don't do anything else in there except be on my computer.

I have a bunch of crafting stuff in my room that I can and will get distracted by if I wrote in there. If I were to write in the dining room, it would be too tempting to be distracted by the idea of food, even if I'm not hungry.

Writing outside is normally really good, especially if you only have a pen/pencil and paper (although a computer or phone would work too).

I normally write if it's calm and not windy, or if it's cloudy and cool out. I suppose it depends on the atmosphere of your book, what kind of place you want to write in, and when it comes to the “feel” of the place itself.

LISTENING TO SOMETHING?

If you are anything like me then you might listen to music while you write. Some people listen to songs with lyrics as they write, whereas some prefer to listen strictly to instrumental.

Personally, I like to mix it up, but you have to be careful especially with songs that have catchy lyrics. Sometimes I find myself singing them... and even (without noticing) incorporating some of the lyrics into whatever it is I'm writing. “Prey you avoid it.” :)


Thursday, 17 January 2019

Fan-Fiction...

FAN-FICTIONS

For those of us who love other worlds such as Star Wars, Doctor Who, LOTR (Lord of the Rings), Marvel, or DC we all know that it brings on a whole lot of fan fiction. I have to admit that most of it is a bunch of crap that fangirls write about their favorite actors, but there are some good ones out there, you just have to look for them... Although, don't look too hard...

Fan fiction is usually written for fun, and lots of people like reading or watching it, myself included, but it's hard to find good fanfiction because the quality or the characters aren't top-notch, but I wouldn't expect top quality from a 7-year-old pretending to be Spider-Man.

GET PERMISSION

The more well-known fanfics are mainly from Star Wars fan's who's work have become canon in the universe that Lucas created. This is an interesting subject, and that's the subject of copyright and when it's okay to use other creators' work for your own personal gain, or monetization.

1. When the original creator says it's okay to use it for monetization.

2. When it's in the public domain and nobody owns it anymore.

3. When you've been given permission to use it.

4. AND.......... When you've been GIVEN PERMISSION!

I can not stress how important it is to get PERMISSION before you use another artist's or author's work for your own monetization. IT'S A WHOLE OTHER STORY if you use it to make fanfics exclusively for fun. If you're not monetizing your fanfic it's fine, but if you plan on making money off of it, then you'd better get permission beforehand because you don't want that artist that you admire to be suing you for copyright infringement.

So you fanficcers out there GET PERMISSION FIRST IF YOU'RE GOING TO MONETIZE!!!!

PARODY

Yes, parody is what we all know and love as The Lord of the Beans, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, and other things of that sort. Disclosure: I've never seen Men in Tights. I have seen LOTB, but those were the only ones I could think of. (LOTB is a Vegetales in case you were wondering).

Anyway, parodies are a good way to make money while still working on your favorite stories and characters. You may have to change some of the characters' names slightly like Robin Good (Another Vegetales reference. LOOK IT UP) or Todo Baggy-pants, or you may have to make a few cheesy jokes along the way.

People love parody. They eat it up for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and the best part about parody is that (whispers: you don't have to ask for permission) 

But anyway, in the end, have fun with your fan-fiction and who knows maybe it'll become canon in whatever world your writing in.



Wednesday, 16 January 2019

The Man Who Invented Christmas Breakdown/Review

THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS

(CAUTION SPOILERS AHEAD: If you haven't seen this movie yet I suggest you watch it before reading this.)

I'm going to start by saying that this movie was absolutely one of my favorites when it comes to historical fiction. Of course, this movie had to have some fiction in it considering we don't know much about the life of Charles Dickens. We do know that he went to a workhouse as a child, and in the movie, they use this to explain his reasons for writing the way he did.

Many of Charles Dickens books were dark and grim stories that were to make a point about the politics or mindsets of the time. A Christmas Carol was the book that made Christmas and charitable actions popular when they otherwise weren't.

In the movie, Charles Dickens (played by Dan Stevens) is facing a financial problem. His last few books have flopped and he has to create a new story or he will go into debt. He tells the publishers that he will have a book done by Christmas and it will be about an old miser who hates Christmas and isn't charitable at all.

THE SURPLUS POPULATION

The ever so creative way they tell this story is by having Charles witness or be involved in a series of events that will eventually inspire different aspects of A Christmas Carol.

One evening Charles talks with a woman and her husband. The woman says that she adores his books. Her husband retorts by saying that he doesn't like Dickens use of pick-pockets and scrappy street children... the poor. His last remark is one Charles takes note of.

“What do you suggest we do with 'those people' (the poor),” Charles asked.

“Are there no workhouses?” asked the man.

“Do you know how many people would rather die than go there?” he asked.

“Then they'd better do it and reduce the surplus population.”

Personally, I think this scene was an ingenious way of incorporating those words into Dickens' mind. Who's to know how he really thought the phrase up, but I have a feeling that something along the lines of this conversation is not too far off.

"If they would rather die," said Scrooge, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."

There are many other lines from the book that are cleverly worked into the movie.

TALKING TO CHARACTERS

In the movie, Charles imagines his characters as people whom he talks to (Although who knows if this is how the real Dickens did it). I think many writers probably pretend to talk to their own characters. I know I have. It's like having a conversation with a part of yourself you've never met before, either that or its one that you constantly argue with.

In the movie, we see many traits that are in Charles come out through the characters. Scrooge is the crotchety cranky side that doesn't care about anybody but himself, but we also see the wisdom of Charles in the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.

LIFE OF AN AUTHOR

I think the depiction of Charles as an author is probably pretty accurate considering I myself sometimes tend to push people away so I can finish my work. I block out the world so I can focus. This is something Dickens does in the film, and I can relate to the frustration of trying not to be distracted. I don't think I've gotten out of control as he does in the film, but I believe it's appropriate and accurate considering his circumstances.

Throughout the film we see glimpses into what it's like to be an author. A writer is a world's worth of words (try saying that 5 times fast). This particular author, I think, had more than just a world's worth. He wrote a lot about people struggling through poverty and the muck and grime of the industrial revolution when children were being sent to dangerous workhouses while their parents sat in debtor's prison. Charles Dickens tried to address this because he himself had been one of those children.

DICKENS DEMONS

Near the end of the film, Charles is suffering from major writer's block. (Link to my post on how to prevent Writer's Block. #shamelessplug) Charles ends up re-visiting the abandoned workhouse that he'd worked in as a boy.

In the workhouse, he is confronted by his demons, one of which takes the form of Scrooge himself. Charles eventually overcomes the idea that he's worthless and that he is irresponsible just like his father. It is an incredible ending and everything is uphill from there. I'd highly suggest watching it, especially for writers in general.

Of course, we can't know how Charles Dickens really came up with the idea for A Christmas Carol, but I believe this movie was envisioning the experience he had at the best possible level.


Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Background Check

BACKSTORY

The backstory is important for both story and characters. Such as in a story I wrote. Almost half of it is “backstory”. Sometimes the backstory isn't necessary for the reader and other times it is. In my story, I have to show an entire world and it's history for the plot to make sense.

In the beginning, I have the narrator tell the reader about the world and how it was before evil came into it. Then the narrator talks about the history of the main character since that is also important to the plot, only then does he move on to the main story. The history in this novella is actually a part of the main plot rather than an aspect of the backstory, even though it is about all the events that took place before our main character was even born.

Other stories don't need a "background check" so to speak, at least not for the readers. Although I think it's wise to always have some sort of history in mind for either the world, the plot, or the characters. Because it's better for the author if (s)he understands how things got to the way they are now in that particular world. Even if you never write it down, at least know the backstory.

Backstories for characters can be about them as a kid, or a certain event that made them the way they are now.

Example: Smeagle finds the ring and it turns him into Gollum

Example: Benjamin Franklin Key's grandfather told him stories about old treasures, turning Ben into a treasure hunter, but his grandfather also encouraged him to protect the treasures and not just use them for personal gain.

Example: Charles Dickens worked in a factory as a child and that prepared him to write Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, and A Tale of Two Cities.

THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS (Charles Dickens)

That last example was from real life, but I believe every person who wants to be an author should watch the movie The Man Who Invented Christmas. It's about Charles Dickens as he was beginning to write A Christmas Carol. I won't spoil anything, but the movie gives the audience great insight on what writing actually looks like and what creative authorship means. It has great character development and very deep lessons to be learned.

(In fact, I may do a review/breakdown of The Man Who Invented Chrismas, since it has many beautiful moments and the script and story were amazing.)

The aforementioned examples are some of what I like to call cause and effect. Smeagle finding the ring caused and affected him into becoming Gollum.

The backstory for worlds and places can be different but usually, it's very similar to character background.

Example: The world of Arda (read the Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien) was ruled by the Valar, but Melkor rebelled and their great battle split the two continents into three.

This is a rather drastic example but hopefully, it gets my point across. The whole world was affected by a giant battle fought by god-like beings.

Plot backstory, usually just consists of character and world background, it's really what someone means when they mean the overall background for the story.

I know today's post is short, but I've touched on a few of these in previous blog posts. Comment below if you have a question or if you'd like me to elaborate on a specific point. (I'll write that Review/Breakdown of The Man Who invented Chrismas. It'll be out soon.)