1. GoldenGhost
    Offline

    GoldenGhost Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2012
    Messages:
    505
    Likes Received:
    58
    Location:
    Pennsylvania

    exercises, exercises, and more exercises

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by GoldenGhost, Jan 14, 2012.

    I am in the midst of a short story and could use some feedback regarding exercises people may use in order to improve their descriptive/interactive vocabulary and how to acknowledge the start of a new paragraph. Generally I create a new paragraph when I am introducing a new thought or a change in direction. Also, does anyone have any to help better and strengthen/practice dialogue?

    As well, I was recently browsing the internet and I came across a comment referring to dialogue saying that dialogue is used to "tell the reader" what the author cannot "show". Is it safe to say that dialogue is just a means of displaying your characters depth/personality? And that dialogue should be written with personality kept firmly in and solely mind?
     
  2. pinkgiraffe
    Offline

    pinkgiraffe Member

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2012
    Messages:
    41
    Likes Received:
    1
    That's interesting. I read in a book recently that dialogue is the ultimate in "showing" rather than telling, because you're getting what was actually said by the characters without any filtering from the author.

    Dialogue has many purposes: imparting plot information, giving a sense of a character's background and personality, and communicating the relationships between characters. Ideally, it should be able to fulfill more than one of those functions at once.

    Reading (attentively) is the best way I know of to improve vocabulary. Make a note of any words and phrases you particularly like but wouldn't have thought of using. Also, pay attention to how authors you admire approach scenes with a lot of dialogue. Read a dialogue-heavy scene, and then ask yourself what you learned about the characters (and/or plot) during that scene.
     
  3. GoldenGhost
    Offline

    GoldenGhost Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2012
    Messages:
    505
    Likes Received:
    58
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    The short story I am writing is Fantasy and it is slowly growing into what may potentially be a much, much larger story. (One can hope) I have found myself starting over and re-reading the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan which is an absolute favorite of mine. Also, going back and looking at scenes within a few David Eddings novels in his Belgariad and Mallorean series. To look at descriptions, dialogue, grammar regarding dialouge etc. I do so hesitantly though, even though my intentions are academic, I sometimes find influences manifesting themselves within my work, unconscious until I revise when I am trying to develop and originate my own style. Any advice for applying influence without "plagiarizing" or mimicking a style of a certain author?
     
  4. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Writing challenges I have given myself:

    Write a scene entirely in dialogue between three or more characters. Beats are acceptable, but no scene descriptions, no literal thoughts, no separate action. [Dialogue exercise]

    Write a scene that reveals character emotions without directly expressing any thoughts or feelings. [Exercise in showing instread of telling]

    Write a short story about a very mundane premise, like a trip to the mailbox in front of your house, or walking down the street twiddling your thumbs. [Demonstrates that there are no bad story ideas, it all comes down to the execution]

    Such exercises are not intended to create masterpieces, but to explore specific writing techniques or principles.
     
    1 person likes this.
  5. Ettina
    Offline

    Ettina Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2011
    Messages:
    436
    Likes Received:
    18
    Good ones, Cogito.

    Here's another challenge, that I ran into in a recent story: write a mute character (eg, says nothing but 'nngg') and make the person's emotions and intent clear by how they say it and their body language. (Then I had her progressively lose other communicative skills, such as nodding or pointing, which made it even harder.)
     
  6. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    here's an exercise i assign to mentees who need to work on imagery:

    in re paragraphing, just take any 6 successful novels by 6 different authors and see how paragraphing can vary...
    'just'?... absolutely not!... that's only one reason dialog is important in fiction... the first and most obvious reason is to keep it from being unrelieved narrative... unless all the characters are mute, it would make no sense for no one to be saying anything... dialog also helps advance the plot and reveal the intent and relationship of the characters to each other, among other things that i'm sure other posters will point out...

    kept in mind, of course, but i can't tell what you mean by 'firmly in and solely mind'... if that was a typo for 'and solely in mind,' again, definitely not... it must also be written taking each character's actions, intent, state of mind, and involvement in the plot into consideration...
     
  7. GoldenGhost
    Offline

    GoldenGhost Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2012
    Messages:
    505
    Likes Received:
    58
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Good, good. I thank everyone for the current feedback and anyone for feedback to come. I will take the advice and play around with what I can.
     
  8. TheWritingWriter
    Offline

    TheWritingWriter Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2011
    Messages:
    106
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    A little to the left
    An exercise in order to enhance your skill toward description? Once my mother had to describe the colour red without using the colour red. I haven't done it myself and couldn't imagine doing it myself, but she said that it was a nice challenge that helped her description.
     
  9. AmyHolt
    Offline

    AmyHolt Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2011
    Messages:
    475
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    Warsaw, IN
    A couple thoughts on dialogue from my writers' conference notes-

    Dialogue is not conversation, it's converstaion's greatest hits. It leaves out all the boring hi, how are you's. It's more succinct than real converstaion and leaves out unimportant information.

    Effective dialogue always delivers tension. If nothing is at stake and they are just chatting or making small talk, your dialogue needs help.

    If your dialogue is rehashing events that have already happened or is commenting on events that are happening instead of showing them, then it will dilute the tension.

    Don't have a character say something they already know just so the reader will know it. Make sure you characters are speaking out of their own needs and not to inform the reader.
     
  10. GoldenGhost
    Offline

    GoldenGhost Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2012
    Messages:
    505
    Likes Received:
    58
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Recently, a couple people read what I have of the story I am currently writing. They are mostly reading for aesthetic value, giving an opinion on whether or not the story flows well and puts them in the scenes, the conversations etc. One of them refered to the feel as being a 'stream of consciousness'. Is this something I should stay away from? It is a third person narrative fantasy and I am wondering if I should continue or do away with it. If I should keep it, would having a steady journal help the stream? What is a good way to practice?
     
  11. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    I agree with Amy. Dialogue is not conversation. It is another storytelling technique that is particularly valuable for revealing character and emotion, relationships and hidden agendas.

    Dialogue operates on two levels (or more). The literal content of the dialogue is one, but it is usually the more trivial. The other level is the subtext, the context the reader picks up by reading between the lines. What is not being said? How does each speaker choose his or her wording, and what is implied by that choice? Are there ambiguous statements, and does the ambiguity carry a message of its own? What emotion is being displayed, and what emotion is simmering just below the surface?

    Good dialogue reveals layers of meaning in fewer words and greater subtlety than can be expressed in the same number of words of straight narrative. Don't waste dialogue on idle chit chat, unless the very triviality of the talk carries meaning that advances the story (example: talking light gossip instead of the fact that one of the people present is bleeding to death).
     

Share This Page