Wednesday, December 6

Questions for the writers

And I know you're out there.

• How do you decide what POV to use? First-person is so hip and visceral, but third person gives you all sorts of possibilities with that nifty omniscience thing...

• How do you pick a tense and then stick with it? Why is it that I am constantly morphing into present continuous?

• How can I make dialogue seem less manufactured and more fluid?

• How can I convey accents without seeming like a total moron?

Seriously, suddenly I'm realizing I have so much to learn when it comes to fiction writing. In short spurts, I can write fiction like a champ. But when I have to stretch my imagination and my prose, it begins to suck, and hard. And these are my four biggest problems.

Perhaps a writing class is in order.

9 Comments:

Blogger Rob Robinson said...

Great questions. I have no clue, but I'm curious to see the light that anyone offers to shed (especially on questions 3 and 4).

Wed Dec 06, 11:27:00 AM  
Blogger Nashville Knucklehead said...

I wrote a novel in first person. It is very limiting. I later discovered that it is something first time writers do because it seems easier at the time, but it really isn't.

Also the consensus is to not try to "spell" accents. It is tiresome and doesn't always work in the readers' heads. I had a Jamaican character, and after saying "yeah, mon" 100 times, I bagged it. It's preferred to just describe a character as saying it in 'his thick Louisiana drawl.'

Having said all that, it's your work, do whatever you want.

Good Luck.

Wed Dec 06, 11:33:00 AM  
Blogger Rob Robinson said...

I just spotted this post that might be a good read. Many of the links are devoted to copywriting, but some of them aren't.

Wed Dec 06, 12:00:00 PM  
Blogger Kat Coble said...

I had a long response to this that I was gonna post at NiT and then I was gonna put here.

It was so damned long that I just left it up over at my joint.

Wed Dec 06, 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger Lance P. Martin said...

(1) Read "The Art and Craft of Novel Writing" by Oakley Hall.

(2) Read some of the books on his recommended reading list.

(3) Write.

(4) Repeat (1) and (2) as necessary.

Good luck.

Wed Dec 06, 02:42:00 PM  
Blogger theogeo said...

Thanks, y'all, for all your suggestions. I'm glad to see everyone has struggled with this stuff too.

Thu Dec 07, 08:19:00 AM  
Blogger Palm Tree said...

I struggle with everything you listed. It's nice to know that I'm not alone.

I hate dialogue. Reading my dialogue is like going 30 mph on a golf cart in a parking lot full of speed bumps.

Unlike kat coble's examples on NiT, the more I work on dialogue the worse it sounds. Below are some particularly horrid examples of dialogue that I struggled with, ruined, and then shat on. These are from a writing blog I ended up deleting out of sheer embarrassment:

Dammit. I'm still wearing my neckstrap. I swear to god, I'll walk up to the pearly gates with this damn thing hanging forgotten around my neck.

This isn't dialogue, but the POV was so limiting that I decided to change it. And what better way to change your work than to blur the POV with plain old bad writing?

Dammit. I was still wearing my neckstrap. I swear to god, I'll probably walk up to the pearly gates with that damn thing hanging forgotten around my neck.

The last one seems to have the most promise structurally, but it simply blows, in my opinion.

"Dammit," she muttered. She was still wearing her neckstrap.

I know. Who farted? I ditched this story because by the time I finished butchering one of the funnier bits I felt nothing but contempt for the entire idea.

Fri Dec 08, 09:50:00 PM  
Blogger Wendy said...

As odd as it sounds, I like first person, but not the same person throughout. Does that make sense? Kind of like Gut Symmetries. I really like that.

The whole tense thing escapes me - I can't stick with one.

Sun Dec 10, 10:17:00 PM  
Blogger Freedonian said...

• How do you decide what POV to use? First-person is so hip and visceral, but third person gives you all sorts of possibilities with that nifty omniscience thing...

When you're mapping out your story, you need to figure out if there's anything that the main character couldn't know. If there's not, I personally lean toward first person POV--- It pulls the reader in in a way that third omnicient really can't. For a great example of first person, read some Joe R. Lansdale short stories--- I thought it was limiting until I read his work. He has a folksy style that's equal parts Mark Twain and Daschiel Hammett, and it works incredibly well.

• How do you pick a tense and then stick with it? Why is it that I am constantly morphing into present continuous?

Reread and revise is the only way I know. It's a trap we all fall into--- It's how we talk.

• How can I make dialogue seem less manufactured and more fluid?

No real secret to that--- It's just practice. When I'm trying to hammer out some tough dialogue, I'll generally relax for a night and watch a Kevin Smith movie. His dialogue is superb. If you insist on reading to get past it, try any of Greg McDonald's "Fletch" novels. Before they were bad Chevy Chase vehicles, they were well written novels that Smith borrowed the dialogue style from.

• How can I convey accents without seeming like a total moron?

I disagree with some of the advice I've seen here--- I think this is one of the areas where Stephen King really gets it right. Even as his storytelling skills have waned, his style has improved, and one of the things that helped it along is spelling out accents and affectations of his characters. See Dolores Claiborne for example.

Wed Dec 13, 09:22:00 AM  

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