Ah, my wife.  She is my muse, that’s for sure.  Yesterday I received a super early Christmas gift, a leather bound journal that I can write thoughts and story ideas in and carry around with me.  A little big for my pocket, but still pretty damned awesome.  Marry a thoughtful woman, it’s a wonderful thing.

We went out for lunch, then a little shopping at Goodwill.  I highly recommend it, even if you’re not into old clothing and furniture.  They had a huge book selection, and I picked up a couple, two Stephen King novels (Desperation, and the collected Bachman books) and an Anne McCaffrey book set in her world of Pern.  I hadn’t read any of those since I was in high school, but very much enjoyed them then and expect I will now as well.

Then it was off to the movies where we saw The Martian.  Good film, but I made the usual mistake of reading the book first.  If you’re still planning to do both but haven’t yet, I highly recommend seeing the movie first.  It’s good and enjoyable fair, but the book is significantly better as is usual with these things, with lots more detail in the science parts of the plot, some scenes that were left out of the movie due to time constraints, and a stronger sense of who this person is and what their relationship with the rest of the crew was/is.  I felt that last was lacking in the movie, there should have been more of the scenes where he talks about the crew that Weir included in the book.  We relate to characters best when we see their emotional connections to others, the dialogue between them (although there’s not much of that in The Martian for obvious reasons that aren’t spoilers).

Dialogue is the one thing I’ve worked on a lot in the last three years of writing crap.  So much of what we show of our characters is going to come through dialogue, you absolutely need to practice it often.  I used to fear it, found my dialogue stilted and flat.  But its improved with practice, and by using a couple of techniques that work wonders in creating more vivid conversations in text:

  1. Subtext – people don’t always say exactly what they mean.  Your characters should talk around issues, hint at them, leave them as subtext without elaborating.  It helps set up conflicts when you do that, which is a bonus.
  2. Banter is important – listen to your conversations with friends around you on a daily basis.  I’ll bet you find a large portion of it is small talk and banter.  While banter won’t help advance the plot, bantering while your characters are acting towards a goal can help show a good deal more of them and their relationship, who they are as people.  For example, think of the scene at the start of Pulp Fiction, the Quinton Tarantino film.  Terrific scene with two guys driving in a car, one talking about the words they use for food in France.  It’s all banter, but the scene is driving towards something important in the plot, and by showing them as PEOPLE, it totally changes the following scene which shows them as KILLERS.  How different is that second part if you don’t have the first.
  3. Interruptions – conversations are full of people talking over each other, interrupting to interject their point or control the conversation.  I’ve started doing this lot more, and it begins to really create a vibe of actual conversation.  Don’t overdo it of course, but that’s true for any writing technique.  Do what works for the story, what feels best, then read it out loud to make sure and have others read it later.


And remember:  marry a good woman, you’ll be happier (long as you keep HER happy, too).  And you’ll get a spiffy notebook to use.


EDIT:  Late edit, seems I misspelled every authors name.  Corrected now.

One thought on “Skinning a Mole”

  1. I love those notebooks, and have quite a few. Some have stuff written in them, and some don’t. Sometimes, when i’m procrastinating writing, i put them out of sight, though, so i don’t feel guilty.

    I’ve read the Martian, but haven’t seen the movie. I might skip it because i’m so often disappointed in the film version of a great book.

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