Tag Archives: wit

Just Say It, Already!

Welcome to the 7 Scribes and a happy Friday to you! Casey here.

IMG_2221One of my favorite parts of writing is dialogue. Well written dialogue between characters can inform, entertain, anger, laugh or even make you cry. For me, when I begin a story and even while writing it, I can hear the characters talking in my head. They always begin as a voice, long before I have any idea what they look like!

As a reader, I am drawn to dialogue. If I see pages and pages of words with no one speaking to anyone else, chances are the book is getting tossed in the corner.That doesn’t mean I want to read pages of endless conversations. Like everything in life, there must be balance.

So I am offering my tips for writing dialogue.

Do:

~ Use humor! But only if you’re funny (and it’s appropriate for the scene). Not sure what I mean? Pick up a book by an author who makes you laugh and study how they do it. Authors who do this well: Kristan Higgins, Julia Quinn and Jim Butcher.

~ Be clear about which character is speaking. And take the opportunity to show action when appropriate.

~ Let your character’s personality shine through their speech patterns. If all your characters sound like the same person, you have a problem.

~ Remember that men and women see the world differently. And that women do tend IMG_2223to be more verbal!

~ Use dialogue instead of long descriptive passages. During editing, I always ask myself if a scene would work better as dialogue between my characters rather than relying on deep point of view.

~ Keep in mind that dialogue is an opportunity to allow characters to interact, to show conflict, to be sexy, act dastardly or to showcase a myriad of other emotions and behaviors.

~ Be crisp and concise. Like all writing, omit needless words.

Don’t:

~ Don’t use dialogue to info dump on your reader! They know it and will skip over it. In my house, we call this shameless exposition. Television shows do this all the time. Some do it better than others. If you watch anime (Japanese animation), the characters break out into long-winded monologues at the weirdest times. Like in the middle of a battle, characters recap the plot line from the episode before. Or in police procedurals where two cops will exchange “information” through dialogue. This can work in television but on the printed page, not so much. Remember, this is where showing comes into play. Using dialogue to tell is still telling!

IMG_2231~ Don’t waste dialogue in banal exchanges. For example, the play by play:

“How was your day? Could you hand me the salt?”

“Good, until I had to spend two hours sitting in traffic. How was yours?”

“Awful. My boss hates me. Everyone is getting a raise except for me. Please pass the potatoes.”

This is about as much fun as watching paint dry. Nothing is happening here. Sure, it’s like a real life dinner conversation but when you’re writing fiction, you need to use conversations to move the plot along, not lull your reader into a verbal coma.

~ Don’t leave off dialogue tags. Establish who is speaking right up front. Then you can drop the “he said, she said.” But not for too long, otherwise the reader will lose track of who is speaking and you will take them out of the story!

Let’s hear from you. Do you love or hate dialogue? And who do you think does it well?

Laughter: The Third Greatest Gift

Happy Friday everyone! Casey here.

Humor, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

Some of us enjoy our humor dry and witty. While others prefer slapstick, raunchy or down-right rude. Or maybe your mood dictates what you think is funny.

I think part of the reason I fell in love with urban fantasy is the genre embraces snark in a serious way. While some level of “funny” isn’t required in the books I enjoy, I always love it when an author gets me.

You know, that moment, when the laugh comes out of the blue. I don’t how other authors do it, but when I’m writing, humor sneaks up on me and comes from the characters (not me!!). And often times, I don’t realize I’ve written something “funny” until someone else points it out to me.

And what you find funny, someone else may not. Like wine, there are different vintages of funny. Personally, I fall into the witty, sarcastic camp. The snarkier the better. I enjoy authors like Bill Bryson (Tales of the Thunderbolt Kid: one boy, one sleeping uncle, a magnifying glass and mysterious burn spots). The book is a non-fiction memoir of his childhood and it’s hilarious.

My favorite urban fantasy authors are: Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden, Simon Green (Eddie Drood or Nightside books) and you can never go wrong with Christopher Moore (A Dirty Job - love those sewer harpies!), Terry Pratchett (The Hogfather- the wackiest Christmas story ever) or A Lee Martinez (Gil’s All Fright Diner - who doesn’t love a roadside diner that’s constantly attacked by the undead?).

If UF isn’t your thing, check out Kristan Higgins (the shovel scene in Too Good To Be True still gives me the giggles), Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum Books or our soon to be published Scribe - Jamie Pope (aka Sugar Jamison).

How do these writers do it? Well, I can’t tell you how to be funny and I don’t know the magical spring where their talent comes from, but I can suggest some logical places to sprinkle humor into a story.

Narration -this kind of humor is often found in first person books, think Bridget Jones’ Diary or see the aforementioned urban fantasy authors or Ms. Kristan Higgins! Just having a window into the character’s thoughts can be funny. What they think about other characters - the annoying neighbor, the crazy aunt with lipstick on her teeth or how the character views herself -  are all areas to slip in the funny.

Situational – humor can be injected by using the circumstances in which characters find themselves. Think Stephanie Plum and all her captures gone wrong. Another popular choice is The Date From Hell, The Family Event from Hell (wedding, funeral, graduation) or the plan that goes horribly awry.

Banter - This is my personal favorite. Here, the heroine/hero engage in witty exhanges with other characters.I jones on characters verbally sparring in humorous ways. For example – The Princess Bride by William Goldman or A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore.

Note: these can be mixed and matched as needed.

One thing to keep in mind – forced humor is not funny. Readers can smell phony attempts from a mile it away. Don’t be lame! And, remember, the normal rules of storytelling apply – don’t add humor for the sake of it. If it doesn’t advance the plot or grow your character – axe it!

In case you’re wondering about the title of this blog post – check out The Muppets (2011 version) and enlightenment will find you!

What kind of humor do you enjoy? Favorite funny writer? Have a technique or advice to share?