Just Use Said: A Writerly Discussion on Dialogue Tags

There are a lot of articles and blog posts on this subject, but I wanted to open a discussion here.

Before I joined a writer’s critique group, my writing was far from publishable. I had adverbs everywhere, along with a lot of ‘said’ synonyms. The more my work was reviewed, the more I realized I had a lot to learn in the writing department.

Like the use of adverbs, I realized that when I began avoiding said-synonyms, I was forced to strengthen the narrative and clarify the action.

I’m not sure about you and your writing, but when I was using said-synonyms, it was as a means to avoid excessive use of ‘said.’ BUT the glorious thing about changing all those tags back to ‘said’ is that you begin to see all the holes in the narrative, giving you the opportunity to strengthen the prose and clarify tone.

Here’s an example:

“And what about you?” I whimpered.

Or.

A shudder rippled through my chest, spilling tears onto my cheeks. I pulled my sleeve over my knuckles and wiped them away. “And what about you?”

The first one is fine, sure. But the second gives a sense of what’s going on outside of the dialogue. As a reader, I start a book for the concept, but stay for the characters. When you take the time to reveal those subtle character traits, like how they interpret what they’re feeling or how they respond to what they’re feeling, the reader is able to get a clearer picture of the character, leading to a better connection between your writing and the reader.

Substituting action for dialogue tags also provides a more cinematic reading experience. Going back to the example, whimpered describes how it is said, but when you add in the details of the character wiping away the tears with her sleeve, you get to see what the character is doing. Again, this gives the reader more insight into the character, making the reader more sympathetic to the character’s cause/goals.

Of course, these are just my thoughts and preferences as a reader and writer. I believe that writing, like most arts, is incredibly subjective, so if you have additional thoughts, please share them in the comments section below.

 

 

The 7/7/7 Challenge: A Writer Tag

Nicolette Elzie from A Little Bookish, A Little Writerly tagged me in the 7/7/7 Challenge. The incredible featured graphic was also created by her talented self.

She saw this writer’s tag on John’s blog @ Am I Doing This Right, and because she has an addiction to tags, she passed it along. Check out the synopsis and excerpt of her current WIP, Dreamweaver, here. I’ve been lucky enough to read the first few chapters, and I can already tell I’m in for a FANTASTIC adventure. Where I’m at in the MS, the world feels like a cross between Shadow and Bone and Cinder. So if that doesn’t wet your appetite, I don’t know what will!

Please don’t kill me for gushing about your story, Nicolette! ❤

The 7/7/7 Challenge Rules:

  • Go to page 7 of your work-in-progress
  • Scroll down to line #7
  • Share the next 7 lines of your manuscript in a blog post
  • Tag 7 other writers (with blogs) to continue the challenge.

My current WIP, Guarded, is a young adult fantasy that I hope will appeal to fans of City of Bones and Daughter of Smoke & Bone.

Because I don’t want to give away any spoilers, I’m going to give you the pitch instead of the full synopsis.

Three years have passed since Kjersten Taylor killed her parents’ murderers by pulling all the water from their bodies. She hasn’t spoken a word of the incident to her twin sister, Chloe, and has even convinced herself that it was a hallucination, a product of Post-Traumatic Stress.

But when she begins levitating coffee at work, Kjersten can no longer escape the truth: she is one of six Aeons, manipulators of the natural world.

Her ability to control water makes Kjersten a target as the Council tries to round up the Aeons to drop the veil between the magical realm, Tearmann, and the rest of humanity. Before Kjersten can warn her sister, Chloe is taken hostage by the Council’s enemies, and Kjersten must wade into the brewing war and put her own life on the line to get her sister back.


And now the challenge:

I opened my mouth to speak but quickly shut it. I wanted to lash out, to scream about how my parents weren’t here, so their opinions didn’t matter anymore. I wanted to rant about the different things my father could have done to keep us together, to keep us safe. We could have moved around. We could have changed our identities. He could have hired bodyguards. There were so many could-haves, yet my father chose to stay and die.

His choices orphaned Chloe and me. His choices left me alone with this burden.

His choices left me mourning fourteen years of campfires and Tae Kwon Do lessons and water gun fights and Thanksgiving dinners. And mourning him.


I am currently on the last leg of this manuscript, polishing it up for querying early 2016, and I am beyond excited for how it’s turning out (and how it’s been perceived thus far – Nicolette, you are a saint!). I left poor Nicolette on a cliffhanger in the last section I gave her (SORRY!), but I’m just a few short days from having another completed draft. EEK! I can’t wait for the next read-through.

*clappy hands* Okay, I’ll stop rambling… Here are my victims. Sorry if you’ve already been tagged!

Hanna @ J.L. Gribble | Thoughts and Conversations On Writing, Editing, Life, and Cats

Aura @ Into The Imagination Vortex

Cara @ Geek Girl Senshi

Cait @ Paper Fury

Aine @ Writing on a Vintage Typewriter

Jesse @ Books At Dawn

Sarina @ Cookie Break

Of course, you don’t have to participate in the tag. Lord knows I have a long list of tags I have yet to get to. These are only meant to keep conversations going between bloggers, and who wouldn’t want that? Y’all are awesome!

Happy Writing!

Multiple Books at Once: I’ve gone off the deep end.

Before I jump into this post, I think I need to provide a little background information on the series I’m writing, specifically about the structure.

I am working on a 5-book YA Fantasy series that is structured similarly to the Avengers movie franchise. (Book 1 is Ironman, Book 2 is Captain America, 3 is Thor, ect.) Even though each book has its own separate MC and plot arc, they all converge into the main plot of the series. I made the crazy decision to write them all from First-Person Limited, but right now, they’re all yelling at me for attention. Screaming is a more appropriate term, but they’re at least supportive of one another, so yay.

Did I mention I’d gone off the deep end?

road-to-el-dorado-horse-jump-2-o.gif

Anyhoo, I’m in the process of polishing Book 1 for querying, beginning of next year, and just finished the rough draft of Book 3 for NaNoWriMo. BUT I’m also re-outlining Book 2 because that’s going to need a total rewrite. AND Book 4’s MC suddenly wants to talk to me and reveal all her secrets.

Basically, my head feels full. But I’m choosing to see this as a blessing because any time I get warn out from revisions, I crank “Frag Out” by DJ Assassin, and start working on the outline.

I have a SUPER eclectic taste in music and sometimes that includes electro dubstep. If you’re into that, I HIGHLY recommend listening to this track. It’s a little different, but super powerful (and a bit addicting). Here’s the link.

Of course, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t drawn to the fun awesomeness of brainstorming for the newer, shinier project, but a girl’s got to prioritize.

Here’s what’s working for me while I juggle these different projects. If it also works for you, awesome! If not, share what does in the comments below. I’d love to see how y’all handle this nonsense.

PRIORITY NO. 1: Polishing Book 1 (working title, Guarded)
No matter what else is going on, I make sure to polish at least two chapters a day. None of the other books will get published if this doesn’t, so this is my No. 1 until I begin the query process.

PRIORITY NO. 2: Outlining Book 2 (working title, Overwhelmed)
Because I already have a draft of this book, a lot of the messy work is done, so now it’s a matter of refining old ideas and weaving in newer, stronger ones. When I start querying Guarded, I’ll jump into revision on Overwhelmed, so it would be nice to have the outline finished before then.

PRIORITY NO. 3: Brainstorming Book 4
So here’s the dealio, I thought I knew what Book 4 was, then the Book 3 NaNo draft happened. One of the main characters switched camps on me, but I’m really excited about the change and all the plot/tension possibilities that come along with it.

The more time I spend with these characters and their stories, the more excited I am. Of course that translates to my creativity getting pulled EVERY WHICH WAY. But I’m okay with that as long as the world keeps growing the way it has. Hopefully, y’all will get to love with me one day! *fingers crossed*

What about y’all? Are you juggling multiple projects? How do you manage them?

Side note: Just realized I need to add synopsis to my To-Do list. One for each book… ::face:palm::

Happy writing, everyone!

 

 

November Wrap-up & Plans for December

 

Did anyone else’s November just pass by without so much as a “hello”?

… apart from Adele’s album release that is…

Mine sure has. Then again, I spent most of the month inside a fictional world where the characters were throwing all the things at me all the time.

So I guess that’s a good enough place to start as any with this wrap-up… THE MANUSCRIPT!

For NaNoWriMo this year, I decided to vomit out a draft of book 3 of the YA Fantasy series I’m working on. There are still scenes that need written and stuff that needs to be fleshed out, but I now have a skeleton draft of a story that has been clawing for my attention since the conceptualization of the series.

I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed writing this story. There were things that popped up that not only challenged the MC but also challenged me. The biggest hurdle I had to get over during this draft was allowing Meredith (the MC) to take each hit. She is not the warrior Kjersten of Book 1 is; she does not have the training nor the strength to defend herself physically. But dear lord can she take a hit.

Meredith managed to find herself in the most mentally and physically painful situations possible in this book and all I could do was sit there and watch it happen. BUT despite everything she goes through, everything she loses, she still fights to survive. She digs up whatever token of strength she can and holds onto it, determined to move forward. Always forward.

SIDE NOTE: After I wrote that last bit, I realized that it was my company’s motto during military training. SMH. Crazy what seeps into your subconscious.

This book also provided some of the world building answers I’d been looking for for a while. It just took seeing the alternate dimension through Mer’s eyes to find them. (She can manipulate time and space.)

GAH! I could gush about this story and the characters ALL DAY! The more time I spend working on this series, the more excited I am to [hopefully] share it with the world some day.

Looks dreamily off into the distance.

Anyhoo, that was pretty much the gist of my November. I did get to meet my long-time CP Lynanne for the first time, which was AWESOME! I took a weekend, drove up to see her, and spent the weekend writing, laughing, and procrastinating by way of THE MUMMY. But seeming as how Ardeth Bay is the inspiration for the father of one of my characters, I’m choosing to think of said procrastination as inspirational material. Totally legit. *cough cough*

Again, I apologize for my radio silence on the blog and on social media. I guess I can’t multitask when I’m in the rough-draft stage. SORRY!

Now onto plans for this month…

I should be back on my normal posting schedule (MWF). Might be discussing some writerly things like handling character deaths and other emotionally complex issues (I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit miffed by that PW article. I mean seriously?! YA isn’t emotionally complex. Here, let me throw a bookshelf at you.). If you have a writing topic you want to discuss, PLEASE leave it in the comments below!

But the big To-Do in December: Get Book 1’s MS ready for querying. I’m so close, SO CLOSE! And I’m so excited to see what it looks like in a couple drafts. Hopefully, it’ll look somewhat like a representable manuscript. *fingers crossed*

What about y’all? What did you do this past month? What are your plans going forward?

Happy Writing!

 

 

Last Minute Plotting: Because I’m a wimp & can’t pants.

Alright, so I thought I was going to have to pants this year’s NaNoWriMo. My MC had only given me bits and pieces of the story, so when the calendar kindly reminded me that I had less than a week before the challenge started, I began to freak out about the in-between scenes (the stuff between the major plot points).

Here’s the thing, I am a plotter through and through. I like having a plan/map to guide me through a draft because I have an awful habit of writing non-linearly, which is a fancy way of saying I like to jump around. Last year, I wrote all my fight scenes within a week (I had a lot of tension to work out I guess). And the idea of not having that freedom scared me into finishing my beat sheet for my NaNo project.

For information on the beat sheet, you can check out my post on outlines here. And if you’d like to see what fresh hell I’ve cooked up for myself for next month, you can check out my NaNo Q&A here.

I know plotting isn’t for everyone. Some writers can just start writing and come out the other side with a finished, coherent MS. I am not one of those people, so I’ll be taking my beat sheet and expanding it to a heftier outline between now and November 1st. I know, I’m working at the last minute, but characters don’t always like to reveal their secrets. Side-glances at MC

But regardless of my inability to pants a novel (pants: write a story by the seat of your pants without any outline or plan), I’ve learned how incredibly useful having a MS’s blueprint is post-drafting.

In the past year, I wrote what is now book 1 of a [slated] 5-book series, revised it, sent it to beta-readers, demolished it then rebuilt it. During that demolition/rebuilding stage, I was able to look at my previous outline and build over it with something that may [hopefully one day] be worth reading. Having that reference point kept me anchored during the process, so I didn’t go off into crazy, hair-pulling, head:desking la la land.

Basically, this…

giphy

So instead of driving myself to insanity later (basically the equivalent of running away from cannibals), I will be last-minute outlining between now and November 1st, like that habitual little plotter that I am.

What about you? Are you doing NaNoWriMo? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

If you are doing NaNoWriMo, add me as a writing buddy here!

Happy Writing!