Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Fix It and Forget It

I've got a fun exercise for you today, but first a little bit of To-Do Tuesday news. Former chapter member Jennifer Grosse has sold her first book, Wedding War to The Wild Rose Press. She'll be publishing as Jenny Gilliam. I'm sure you all join me in wishing her the best of luck! Her fast rise from newbie to published author should inspire us all (and/or make us insanely jealous!)!

Anyone else have good news to share? How are all you challengers coming along? Is Alice cracking her whip hard enough?

Now, onto to today's exercise. I just had to set aside a mystery with a great premise, fun characters, and good voice. Why then is it currently keeping the dust bunnies company? Dialogue. Now, I know I've done at least two previous posts on dialogue, but bear with me. Danita has hooks, I've got dialogue. Nothing makes me loose interest faster than poor dialogue, and with limited reading time these days, I'm finding it way easier to chuck books against the wall and move onto the next contender.

This particular book suffered from the disease known as paragraphitis. This harrowing affliction shows up most frequently in contest submissions, but it's been known to plague more than a few published authors as well. Paragraphitis occurs when your characters are prone to speaking in monologues. Yes, I know it worked for Shakespeare. Trust me, you're no Shakespeare, and your readers certainly aren't Elizabethan peers of the realm. In order to capture the attention of modern readers, your dialogue needs to be short and snappy with plenty of give and take. Plus, we really need to understand what's going on behind the dialogue--emotions, facial expressions, body language, and inner thoughts.It needs to read like people really talk--pauses, interchanges, incomplete thoughts, and interruptions.

In fact, it needs to be BETTER than how we talk. No one really wants to read one of my husband's monologues on Linux or suffer through my aunt's cat stories. Let your characters come up for air. If you have to picture the other characters rolling their eyes or frantically waving their hand to get a word in edgewise, you too may be suffering from paragraphitis. Luckily, this is a pretty easy disorder to treat.

I thought about using the book I just tossed as today's example, but I know how painful it would be to have my novel serve as a teaching point, so I'm using an example of my own devising. What I want you to do is take this monologue and turn it into a true, snappy dialogue. You get to decide who's talking and what the context of the situation is. I always love seeing how each of us has a different take on the same prompt.

"Of course you're upset. I would be too. I mean anyone would. But we can't wallow in it. We just have to move on. I know just ticket. We need to get out of the house. First, we should head to Dutch Brothers, then we should hit the mall. A new dress is exactly what you need and Nordstrom's is having a sale. They have the best dressing rooms, and the saleswomen will make you feel like a queen. We'll gorge at the food court--I know how you love a gooey, buttery pretzel! Soon you'll forget he even existed."

"Ok."

"Great. Let's get our purses and head out. I'll bring the car around. But, would you rather freshen up first?

Now, fix it. And share your thoughts on paragraphitis.

12 comments:

Paty Jager said...

Congrats, to Jen!

Here's my try at your exercise, Wavy!


Marcia eyed her friend. "Of course you're upset. I would be too. I mean anyone would."
"it isn't like I didn't see it coming," Roxie said, shaking her head.
"But you can't wallow in it. He isn't worth it." She grasped her friend's hand. "You have to move on." Roxie needed a change, something to take her mind of that creep.
"I know just the thing. We need to get out of the house." She pulled her friend from her curled up position on the couch to her feet.
"Go put on that faded pair of jeans and your bright red sweater, we're headed to Dutch Brothers for espresso and croisants before we hit the mall."
Roxie shook her head, trying to fall back onto the couch.
"Don't even think about staying here and fretting over that scum." Marcia moved behind her friend and pushed her down the hall to her bedroom. "A new dress is exactly what you need and Nordstrom's is having a sale. The saleswomen will make you feel like a queen."
In the bedroom, she dug through the dresser drawers, pulling out garments and tossing them at Roxie. "Come on, it'll be fun. After trying on dresses, we'll gorge at the food court--I know how you love a gooey, buttery pretzel! There's nothing like drying on fancy clothes and eating all the wrong foods to make you forget."
A wisp of a smile turned up the edges of Roxie's mouth. "Can we forget about the pretzel and go to Cold Stone?"

Paty Jager said...

OOPs!
There's nothing like drying on fancy clothes and eating all the wrong foods to make you forget."

This should read: There's nothing like trying on fancy clothes...

Sorry! should have done a better proof reading! Yikes!

Karen Duvall said...

Bonnie looked at me, her puppy dog eyes filled with sympathy. "Of course you're upset. I would be too. Anyone would."

Except that I had more reason than anyone. My boyfriend slept with my sister, for crap sake. Upset was an understatement.

When I didn't say anything, she sighed so deep I thought her chest would cave in. "But we can't wallow in it. We just have to move on. I know just ticket."

"Me, too. Pass me the Cuervo."

She tsked. "Come now, Lacie, we need to get out of the house. Dutch Brothers first, then the mall."

"Like hell." I blew my nose for the hundredth time. "I'm not going anywhere looking like this. I. Need. Tequila."

She shook her head. "No you don't. You need a new dress and Nordstrom's is having a sale."

I rolled my eyes and slid deeper onto the couch. "I'm not going and you can't make me."

"Don't be such a baby." She tugged playfully at the sleeve of my sweatshirt. "Nordstrom's has the best dressing rooms, and the saleswomen will make you feel like a queen."

"I'm having a pity party and you're not invited." I folded my arms. "Now go away."

But she wasn't about to give up. Grabbing my arms, she pulled me up off the couch. "We'll gorge at the food court--I know how you love a gooey, buttery pretzel! Soon you'll forget he even existed."

Yeah, right. "Fine, I'll go. But only because you forced me to."

"Great." She clapped her hands and did a little hopping dance. Could she get any more lame? Brother, best friends could be a real... They could be a real lifesaver. I smiled at her and she said, "Let's get our purses and head out. I'll bring the car around. But, would you rather freshen up first?"

Karen Duvall said...

That was fun, Wavy! Thanks! 8^)

Alice Sharpe said...

Hey Bethany, thanks for sharing the news about Jen's sale. I bet she's walking on cloud nine. How's that for an old saying?

Bad dialogue is a deal breaker for me, too, though I am still shaking my head over the realization that I am not Shakespeare. I didn't know. It's hit me hard.

Bucking up, I'll give your exercise a try though to tell you the truth, Paty and Karen did such great jobs with it, it seems a little pointless! Maybe I can find a spin...

Harry looked down his long nose at George and said, "Of course you're upset. Mr. Prizer is a beast to say you're too burly for the show. I'd be upset, too."
Danny, sitting on the sofa arm, said, "Anyone would. But we can't wallow in it, Georgie. We just have to move on."
"Listen to Danny," Harry said, pulling on the skirt of his sequined gown. Really, evening clothes were so hard to wear sometimes. The undergarments alone were a crap shoot.
"I know just the ticket," Danny said, his expressive face lighting up.
George, flinging his arms back, said, "Oh, please. I'm totally washed out. I don't want to do anything tonight --"
"Hear me out," Danny said, clapping his hands together under his chin. "What you need is to get out of here for awhile. Let's head to Dutch Brothers for caramel mochas!"
Harry readjusted his sagging bosoms as George said, "That is so fattening."
But Danny wasn't to be stopped. "Then we'll hit the mall. A new dress is exactly what you need."
Harry forgot about his own ill fitting gown and broke into a smile. He dearly loved to shop. Hell, they all did. George still looked listless, though.
"Nordstrom's is having a sale," Danny coaxed.
"And they have the best dressing rooms in town," Harry added.
"Plus the saleswomen will make you feel like a queen."
That came from Danny and all three men grinned.
Danny jumped to his feet and teetered on four inch heels to the closet where he snagged Harry's coat. "We'll gorge at the food court later," he said.
"So many calories," George groaned, but he stood up nevertheless and allowed Danny to help him shrug on the fake fur jacket. Harry had to admit it went perfectly with George's blue satin slipper dress. Hs shoulders did need a shave, however. He'd mention it later...
"Oh, come off it, we all know how you love a gooey, buttery pretzel!" Harry said. He was mentally debating if he should take a moment to change into something a little less glittery.
"Soon you'll forget Mr. Prizer even existed," Danny the optimist added.
George sniffed as he dabbed at his eyes with a lace hanky. "Yeah, okay, I know you're both right."
Danny tossed a set of keys to Harry. "Great. Let's get our purses and head out."
"I'll bring the car around," Harry called over his shoulder, then noticing George's tear streaked face added, "Would you rather freshen up first, hon?"

Elisabeth Naughton said...

ROFLMAO, Alice!

You know what's sick? That's the same sort of scene that popped into my head. But since you wrote it, now I don't have to. Hee hee hee.

Fun blog, Wavy. I've enjoyed reading everyone's takes. Paty and Karen did a great job as well.

And big congrats to Jen on her sale!! Jen, if you're reading this, way to go, girlfriend!!

Karen Duvall said...

LOL, Alice. That was a different take on it, all right. You took making someone feel like a queen to a whole new level. Heh. Good one.

I think it's really interesting how we each went at Wavy's exercise a little differently, injecting our own voice and character quirks. Very creative. Now it's back to my revision cave.

Karen Duvall said...

Oh, yeah, Jen! Congrats! The Wild Rose Press is a decent publisher. It will be a good experience for you. I hope you enjoy doing a lot of self-promotion online. You'll have fun! Good luck! 8^)

wavybrains said...

AWESOME dialogue, ladies!! I had hoped to give it a try myself, but I'm dealing with the ninth circle of hell here: teething. GRRR. And yes, Jen is definitely on cloud nine.

Alice Sharpe said...

Karen, the queen thing was a funny coincidence. I pasted in the original conversation and then worked my way through it. When I read that line I almost fell off my chair (I hadn't remembered it from the original read-through.) Talk about kismet!

Good luck in rewrite land.

Danita Cahill said...

Jen, if you're reading this, way to go! From PRO to published in one easy step....

Child is napping. My time to write. Sorry to not join in on your paragraph fun, Wavy. Good topic though. As you well know, I never get tired of a good topic.

Mmmm...Friday is my blog day. I wonder if there's anything left to say about hooks???? Ha! Just kidding, I have another idea in mind.

Genene said...

You ladies are awesome! I loved your dialogue. Alice, I have to agree with Eli. I was ROFLMAO over your example.

Nothing left for me to say but congrats, Jen, if you're reading this! Sooooo glad to hear of your first sale!