Saturday, April 02, 2005

Being Clear as MUD - Showing & Telling



From Phil Phantom’s: Guide to Writing Good Trash"
I know, you hate to think of your writing as trash, but if done well, others will. If done poorly, your magnificent creation is just crap, shit, or garbage. Excellent trash can rise to the level of good shit, but you and your good shit will never be studied in English Lit. As for riches, sure, but it helps if you are wealthy when you start.

Being Clear as MUD
The greatest fault I find in the writing of most writers is the plethora of ambiguities in sentence after sentence. Most can be figured out, but why make the reader work? If reading becomes too much work, or the reader keeps getting lost, confused, and disoriented, your creation will join crap and be thrown, not tossed.

Simple-Pronouns (Should be drowned at birth.)
Simple pronouns are the most common culprit: he, she, it, we, us, they, them.
- Give THEM a name.
- Give IT a name.

Here is a typical example where the author has four men in the scene and keeps using the pronoun, he. The men have discussed several objects: dicks, hands, twenty-dollar bills, beer. The author tosses this line out:

He took it out and slapped it on the table.
- He who? It what? Slapped what? Why?

This is what he should have written:
- Bill hauled his dick out and slapped that fat puppy on the table.

Now, we see the picture, a who-has-the-biggest-dick challenge. We also know Bill has to haul his out and IT is a fat puppy.

Yes, that took more words to write but added so much more color and clarity. You must see ambiguities as opportunities to add color and clarity. Seek out the ITs and the THATs, the THINGs. Change them where needed.

He-Saids & She-Saids
When you have two or more same sex characters in a scene, be very careful with the he's and she's. Switch to names. At least refer to one by name.

In dialog, you can clear away some mud by using the name of the person being spoken to.

Example:
- "Look, Fred, I am not interested."

With just two people involved, you may now go several lines without any he-said she-saids.

NEVER drop a he-said she-said in the middle of a statement.
- Example: "Look," She said, "I am not interested."

Dropping a he-said she-said at the tail end is almost as bad.
- Example: "Look, I am not interested." She said.

If the speaker needs to be identified, clue the reader up front. Best of all, as much as possible, rid your writing of he-said she-saids. Someone may think you're an English teacher or head a journalism department - proof reader or editor.

Good trash writers don't need he-said she-saids, nor do their readers.

SHOW ME; Don't Tell Me
Now, we are going to cover the principle of showing without telling, especially when writing dialog. Characters make a story, but characters that speak and interact make a story come alive.

Our readers don't want to read, they want to eavesdrop while jerking off. Place them where they can hear and peek, but don't sit them down and tell them.

History is all about characters, and history books tell us who did what to whom, when, where, and why. The question is, how many people curl up with a good history book? That was a rhetorical question. I'll tell you how many. Not many. The best sellers are pulp fiction.

A good novel has characters, but the characters show who did what to whom, when, and where. It's up to you, the reader, to figure out why. A good novel is fun to read because you feel transported into the action. A writer who can transport you into an orgy and make that trip so real you end up wet, writes good shit.

The principle is to SHOW, Don't TELL.
Realistic dialog between characters is a great way to show the reader what's going on and can move a scene along much faster than a narrative description.

Let me give an example of the TELL Method without dialog:

Abigail Binderbutt sat alone in the cavernous anteroom of her sprawling mansion, looking around at old paintings, old books, antique furnishings, breathing stale air. She was bored. She reached to her side table and rang a brass bell.

Moments later, Reginald, the English Butler, arrived. Reginald never hurried. He walked in measured steps so as not to slip on the highly polished marble floors and thereby appear undignified. His class and culture he cultivated himself; therefore, he guarded it carefully. Abigail's came with her birth certificate and she took class for granted as she did everything else she owned.

Reginald made his presence known, then waited.

Abigail told him to bring the car around. She could tell by his expression that he found the request odd. He knew she had nowhere to go. He kept her schedule. She hated having her orders questioned, even by expression, and sternly added that she was bored and wanted to go for a drive in the country and that he'd be going along.


Reginald bowed and left the room with measured steps exactly as he had entered. This flustered Abigail more than his questioning expression had. When he stopped to ask if she'd need a driver, or would she be driving, or would he be driving her, she exploded. She told him she'd be driving him if he drove the way he walked, like a man with a croquet mallet up his ass.

He simply acknowledged her and went for the car.

Okay, that wasn't bad. You've read scenes that open that way a hundred times before. You get the picture, because the writer described the picture to you. You're getting my picture, a sketch, actually. You wouldn't get my picture if I spent all day describing minute details.

Lets try this another way.

Here's the SHOW Method using dialog:

Abigail Binderbutt surveyed the ornate room for the last time, reached for the brass bell and tinkled hard, shouting, "Reginald! Come in here!"

The polished butler carefully negotiated the polished marble floor and stood at the proper distance before saying, "You tinkled, Madam?"

"Yes, I tinkled. Do all Englishmen move so slowly?" Dropping the bell on a seventeenth century inlaid table, she said, "Fetch the Bentley. We're going for a drive."

"Madam, if there is something you require, perhaps..."

"I require the damn car! I'm bored out of my skull. If I don't get out of this antebellum mausoleum in the next two minutes, I'll scream."

"As you wish, Madam." He gave an exiting bow and began the return trip. Pausing at the arched entryway, he turned and said, "Will we need a driver, or will you be driving, or shall I drive you?"

"If you drive the way you walk, like you have a croquet mallet up your ass, I'll drive you. Mush, Reggie!"

"Mushing, Madam.

What picture do you have of these characters, now?

These two people seem more real because you are looking at your picture, and your own mental picture will always be a much fuller one than your impression of my mental picture sketch.

If you picked up a novel that began this way, would you be inclined to keep reading?

Which raised the most questions that you'd like answers to, and do you want to be told the answers or would you rather figure them out for yourself?

The overwhelming majority of readers who read for pleasure want to be shown not told. The action must start right away and move quickly. They want the story shown to them in the active voice with realistic dialog. If you're writing for an audience of pleasure readers, you must develop this skill.

If a scene needs describing, let your characters describe it. Let the scene unfold gradually. Clue the reader, don't tell 'em.

Readers also love SURPRISES!
By not telling all up front you can lead with clues then hit them with a big surprise. They'll be so excited, they can't wait for another surprise. They'll keep reading.

When a read becomes predictable, readers quit reading.

Story tellers are predictable, but story showers are a surprise a minute. Be a story shower. I'm not wearing underwear - SURPRISE!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
From Phil Phantom’s: “Guide to Writing Good Trash"
(Click article title to read the whole thing.)

Morgan Hawke
www.darkerotica.net
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

2 comments:

  1. I've actually noticed that you don't do the 'he said' 'she said' thing, and you've also taught Sammie not to as well lmao. The danger of telling authors not to do this is that an editor then ends up with: she prophesised, he wondered, she accentuated. Said is still the most invisible dialogue tag.

    Using the characters name in conversation can actually turn quite annoying. It isn't realistic. I don't sit in a cafe with you (I wish *g*) and say:
    "Morgan, how are you today?"
    "I'm fine Jaynie."
    "Jack, how are you?"
    "Great Jaynie."

    "How are you both?" Jaynie asked.
    "Fine," she said.
    "Great." he added.

    Tell I'm wrong, but I like the second better than the first


    "Good trash writers don't need he-said she-saids, nor do their readers."

    Why is the erotica genre to be singled out as not using them? Personally I think they are better than a lot of alternatives.

    hugs,

    ReplyDelete
  2. JR - I've actually noticed that you don't do the 'he said' 'she said' thing, and you've also taught Sammie not to as well lmao.

    The danger of telling authors not to do this is that an editor then ends up with: she. Said is still the most invisible dialogue tag.

    MH - ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Ahhh! But you've missed something - I don't use the others: prophesized, wondered, accentuated, either!

    I think ALL Dialogue Tags are BAD.

    The "said"may be gone but they are still making the Same damned Error that was there in the first place!

    - TALKING HEAD SYNDROME - Dialogue in a Vacuum.

    JR - ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Using the characters name in conversation can actually turn quite annoying. It isn't realistic. I don't sit in a cafe with you (I wish *g*) and say:

    "Morgan, how are you today?"
    "I'm fine Jaynie."
    "Jack, how are you?"
    "Great Jaynie."
    "How are you both?" Jaynie asked.
    "Fine," she said.
    "Great." he added.

    Tell I'm wrong, but I like the second better than the first

    MH - ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    You're wrong. They're BOTH - JUST As BAD.
    - A big peeve of mine is Dialogue in a VACUUM, also known as Talking Heads Syndrome.

    Dead give-away that dialogue is happening in a vacuum? - Look for the word: SAID or ANY of its cousins: Spoke, Asked, Stated, Prophesized, Wondered, Accentuated...etc.

    "Bla bla bla," said Mary
    "Bla?" asked John.
    "Bla bla? Bla," Mary replied.
    "Bla bla bla. Bla. Bla bla!" insisted John.
    "Bla! Bla bla," Mary said in exasperation.
    "Bla bla. Bla? Bla bla. Bla," stated John.
    "Bla," agreed Mary.

    Dialogue is happening - But NOTHING ELSE!!!
    - It's pure talking heads - a radio show - not a movie. You can't SEE anything, only Hear it. When I go to read a book, I want to SEE what I'm reading like a movie. Not listen to a Radio Show with no sound effects!

    I use body-language tags - ACTION TAGS to keep the story MOVING while my people yap.

    Small body-language tags on dialogue are not just there for decoration, (to differentiate speakers,) they keep the Mental Movie rolling and the MEANING of what is being said crystal clear.

    A small simple action can tell you right away what's going through the speaker's head.
    ~~*~~*~~*~~*~~
    She rolled her eyes and sighed dramatically. "I love you too."
    She dropped her chin and pouted. "I love you too."
    She glared straight at him. "I love you too."
    She turned away and wiped the tear from her cheek. "I love you too."

    She slammed her fist into his jaw with a very satisfying crunch. His knees buckled
    and he dropped at her feet. She smiled. "I love you too."
    ~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

    JR - ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    "Good trash writers don't need he-said she-saids, nor do their readers." Phil Phantom

    Why is the erotica genre to be singled out as not using them? Personally I think they are better than a lot of alternatives.

    MH - ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Because Erotica is a victim of Literary Chauvinism! - We have to be TWICE as good to get HALF the credit. (sigh) It's just the way it is.

    Morgan Hawke
    www.darkerotica.net

    ReplyDelete