Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Let's TALK

In the book THE FIRST FIVE PAGES, Noah Lukeman says if there is even one extraneous line of dialogue on the first page of a manuscript it's a clue there's lots more to follow. And more than likely will result in a big fat REJECTION for the writer.




Here's one scene he uses as an example that made me laugh.out.loud (and pray my very first manuscript didn't look like this):


"Hey Jack, how ya doing?" Dave asked.
"Okay, Dave, how about you?" Jack answered.
"I'm all right, Jack. Listen, can I talk to you for a second?"
"Sure Dave, I'm all ears. Tell me what's up?"
"Well, I've got this story to tell you," Dave said.
"Yeah? Tell me what happened?"
"I just got hit by a car."
"No!"
"Yeah, I didn't even see it coming. I'm all right, now, but I must tell you something...I don't think it was an accident."
Jack just stared at him.
"I think they're after me, Jack."


Heh heh. Of course, I know we're more seasoned writers and would set the scene up differently. Maybe Dave limps in, pants torn at the knee, and right off the bat groans, "I just got hit by a car."


Despite being much better at dialogue than when I first started out, I still find extraneous words that weigh it down.


Here are my culprits: SO, THAT, WELL, OKAY, EVEN, LISTEN, ALL RIGHT, JUST.


I go through and cut, cut, cut. It makes the dialogue flow and gets right to the point.


How about you?


(photo)

19 comments:

Jen Daiker said...

I've learned about those little culprits and I too go throughout my manuscript and adjust. It isn't easy, somehow you always find one that doesn't belong. Those little stinkers take the creativity and beauty out of a sentence.

Good thing we're here to take our creativity back!

Christine Danek said...

That example cracks me up. Those words are such sneaks. I know them well. :) Thanks.

Matthew MacNish said...

I can't even count how many "I think" and "I mean"s I've removed from dialog. People may say those things sometimes, but not nearly as often as I write it.

Meredith said...

Ha, that example made me laugh out loud! I'm definitely guilty of extraneous words in my dialogue. They're just so sneaky sometimes!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I seem to have a new list of no-no with each ms. I write 'I think' a lot, but it's easy to delete.

Sarah Pearson said...

Wait? You mean that example is wrong?

Kidding :-) (I think!)

JEM said...

I think my bigger struggle is the stuff that happens between the dialog. The dialog tags, the action to move the scene forward, etc.

Christina Lee said...

I hear you, JEM. Pacing is tough!

Jaime Morrow said...

I definitely have words that I fall back on way too much. I'll have to skim through and eliminate probably about 3/4 of their usage. I think we're probably all guilty of this in some form or another :)

DL Hammons said...

I don't think I've ever seen being hit by a car talked about so non-nonchalantly. *yawn* :)

SharleneT said...

Unlike lawyers, we don't get paid by the word... great post! Come visit when you can!

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I write fat in my early drafts. I go through each successive one with a scythe.

Call me the Grim Reaper of Excessive Dialogue, Unnecessary Modifiers, and Repetitive Reflections.

Kelly Polark said...

HA! What if one of our children came up to us and after all that nonsense talk said he got hit by a car nonchalantly.

Maddy said...

Too funny! I find that I use "so" alot when writing my blog posts...I have to stop!

Robin Bielman said...

I'm definitely guilty of but. But sometimes it's necessary! But probably not as often as I think. But I'll learn eventually. :D

Lindsay N. Currie said...

Dialogue is always a challenge. My writing partner once gave me the best advice about it - and that was to listen to the characters have the conversation in my head first, then write it down. Good post Christina!

SA Larsenッ said...

Agreed. One thing I've recently discovered about myself is that I recognize those unnecessary words or phrases and don't seem to cry when I cut them. When I first started writing, cutting a words was almost like cutting my arm off. So foolish. lol

Lourie said...

A reader wants to be grabbed by the throat and not let go until the very end. At least that is how I want it. :) For reading that is. Wanted to clarify that fact. *ahem*

Lourie said...

A reader wants to be grabbed by the throat and not let go until the very end. At least that is how I want it. :) For reading that is. Wanted to clarify that fact. *ahem*