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Jan's Writing Basics #7--Final lesson on dialog

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

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Postby glorybee » Mon Mar 01, 2010 7:12 pm

AnneRene' wrote:
OldManRivers wrote:
Shirley's voice jumped in, "Mary. MacKenzie's Sunrise is ready."


Maybe I am just burnt out today, but can either of you tell me why you would use a period after Mary instead of a comma?


Because Shirley's voice jumped in is a complete sentence.
Jan Ackerson

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Postby OldManRivers » Mon Mar 01, 2010 7:24 pm

The period after Mary is found in the grammatical phenomenon called the "typo".
May God's gentle grace be with you.

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Postby PamDavis » Mon Mar 01, 2010 9:32 pm

My sweetheart tried to persuade me to make a personal commitment to Jesus as Lord and Savior. I resisted his efforts. I believed in God; I prayed. His attitude offended me. We started attending church; and I even tried to read the Bible.

Talking on the phone one Saturday night, Norm said, “I’ll pick you up tomorrow around 10 for church. Love you.”

“Love you more than you love me!”

“No, I love you more, he replied.”

“Can’t keep my eyes open. Yawning I said, Good night.”

We silently slipped into a pew of the large church. The pastor delivered God’s word; and I felt the burden of my sins. My heart began to race and my conscience really bothered me. The hour passed; and we made our way out to the car.

He looked at my somber face and asked, “What’s the matter?”

“I wanted to make a decision.”

“Why didn’t ya’ say something? We’ll do it next week, Norm said. I’ll go forward with you, need to rededicate my life.”

The following Sunday morning we walked down the long aisle to the front of the church. We both spoke to the pastor, and were directed to a room for counseling. On wobbly knees I prayed with a godly elderly woman, and she noticed my engagement ring.

“She asked, What’s your fiancé’s name?”

“Norm.”

“When you get married you’ll take your vows and say: I take thee Norm. Now, just say I take thee Jesus.”

The two vows were the best decisions I ever made. As husband and wife we pledged faithful love to be broken only by death. My commitment to Jesus is to be never ending. Yes, I take thee Jesus.

Pam
With God All things are Possible!

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Postby glorybee » Mon Mar 01, 2010 10:08 pm

Pam, how lovely! Is that a true story?

I like the way you mixed up the different dialog techniques that I mentioned in my class. I didn't see any of #5, where you describe an action instead of using said or a similar word. You came pretty close here:

He looked at my somber face and asked, “What’s the matter?”

Take a look at this amended version:

He looked at my somber face. “What’s the matter?”

There's a subtle difference; it saves two words (very important in the writing challenge where you're only given 750), and it shifts the attention to his action--looking at her face. That helps the reader to get to know Norm better.

I said I wasn't going to correct punctuation this time around, but you've made a mistake in several places that I just can't let go. Here's an example:

“No, I love you more, he replied.”

You've put the quotation marks around the whole sentence. They should only be around the actual words that he spoke. Think of quotation marks like the "word bubble" in a cartoon. It should look like this:

“No, I love you more," he replied.

You've done that same thing in several places...I'll let you find them and fix them.

Back on the plus side--your teeny story touches your readers' emotions, and will appeal to romantics and doubters alike. A moving testimony!

Thoughts? Questions?
Jan Ackerson

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Postby PamDavis » Mon Mar 01, 2010 10:56 pm

Jan,
Thanks for the punctuation corrections. I still have so much to learn and really appreciate these lessons. Yes, it is the true story, my personal testimony from October 22,1967. I'll look at your suggestions again tomorrow.

Thanks,
Pam
With God All things are Possible!

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Postby Green Leaves » Mon Mar 01, 2010 11:06 pm

Oh dear, oh dear...do I HAVE to? This is SO hard for me.

I need to make this quick because I think I'm having kidney issues again.
Here goes:

Carol got up to clear the table she had so carefully laid for she and her husband. "Amy called today," she said. "Little Eli was showing his daddy how to put together a transformer."

"Oh? And just how did he do that?"

"Eli told him you just have to follow the 'indrections'."

"He got his grandma's creativity," said Marty with a twinkle in his blue eyes, "and her glib tongue as well."

As she rinsed the plate and loaded it in the dishwasher, Carol replied, "Let's face it. Our little ones don't stand a chance. The way I twist words around, I'll soon be publishing my own dictionary."


I'm afraid I'm just not very good at this business, but I hope at least I got in various types of dialogue. Now I'll go back and read the others' submissions and TRY not to get discouraged.

Carol Penhorwood
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Postby Cajunluvie » Mon Mar 01, 2010 11:23 pm

Carol,

I thought that was a cute start!

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Postby Cajunluvie » Tue Mar 02, 2010 12:08 am

Well, I'll give it a try....

Adrian Beecher smiled at his wife of twenty years. Sliding his arm around her shoulders he remarked, "Cathie, have I mentioned how beautiful you are, lately?"

He heard her giggle and saw her head shake a little.

"Silly you. You just told me that an hour ago. What's all this talk for?" Cathie looked up in his eyes. Her lips twitched before she could stop it.

"Ah, I just wanted to say it."

"Uh-uh."

"Wha...” Adrian held up his hands in the air, palm forward. “You don't believe me, babe?"

She reached across the sofa arm and pulled out a book, The Five Love Languages and waved it in front of his face. Adrian’s heart beat quicker. He managed to keep his face stoic.

"Does this have to do with why you're giving me a lot of compliments today?"

Cough. Cough. She busted you, Adrain Beecher. Got ya real good. Just look at her, grinning like the cat that ate a canary. Jeez, I love that woman. Can’t get anything around that one. Might as well fess up, old man.

“Well, Mike told me it helped with his marriage. Figured it couldn’t hurt to read.”

Cathie glanced at the book, flipped through the pages, and held it against her chest. “So, you think we need help in ours?” She leaned her head to the right and waited for his reply.

“Hey, I said I read it. That’s all. It just put some things in perspective, ya know?” Adrian flashed a teasing grin, “Besides, you are a beautiful woman.”

“Humph.” She rolled her eyes. “Sounds like the Beecher charm is working overtime.”

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Postby glorybee » Tue Mar 02, 2010 9:17 am

Cute little story, Carol! How did you know that I love stories about grandchildren?

I liked the rhythm and the pacing of your piece, and I've done a double-check for errors in writing mechanics--none there. Great job!

But like the previous gals, I think you could hit technique #5 a bit harder. For example, instead of this:

As she rinsed the plate and loaded it in the dishwasher, Carol replied, "Let's face it. Our little ones don't stand a chance. The way I twist words around, I'll soon be publishing my own dictionary."

You could tighten it up a bit by this slight re-write:

Carol rinsed the plate and loaded it in the dishwasher. "Let's face it. Our little ones don't stand a chance. The way I twist words around, I'll soon be publishing my own dictionary."

I saved three words there, and and I left the reader looking at Carol's actions. We don't need "Carol replied" because the action points to Carol; it's her paragraph.

You're far better at this than you give yourself credit for!
Jan Ackerson

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Postby glorybee » Tue Mar 02, 2010 9:38 am

Cajunluvie, that's really cute! Your two characters have lots of personality, and they sound very natural. You're doing a lot of 'showing, not telling', and I don't see any of the kinds of punctuation and capitalization errors that tend to trip people up when writing dialog.

I do have a few suggestions, but they're subtle tweaks--not necessarily things that you've done incorrectly.

Adrian Beecher smiled at his wife of twenty years. Sliding his arm around her shoulders he remarked, "Cathie, have I mentioned how beautiful you are, lately?"


I'd use 'said' in place of 'remarked'.

He heard her giggle and saw her head shake a little.

"Silly you. You just told me that an hour ago. What's all this talk for?" Cathie looked up in his eyes. Her lips twitched before she could stop it.


Since this is all Cathie talking and acting, I'd put it all in one paragraph:

Cathie giggled and shook her head a little. "Silly you. You just told me that an hour ago. What's all this talk for?" She looked up in his eyes, and her lips twitched.

"Ah, I just wanted to say it."

"Uh-uh."

"Wha...” Adrian held up his hands in the air, palm forward. “You don't believe me, babe?"


This is all fine!

She reached across the sofa arm and pulled out a book, The Five Love Languages and waved it in front of his face. Adrian’s heart beat quicker. He managed to keep his face stoic.

"Does this have to do with why you're giving me a lot of compliments today?"


Here, you end one paragraph with Adrian, and then follow with a bit of tagless dialog in a second paragraph. The reader might be temporarily disoriented--who's speaking now? Consider giving that last bit of speech a tag.

"Does this have to do with why you're giving me a lot of compliments today?" Cathie perched her hands on her hips, awaiting his reply.

Cough. Cough. She busted you, Adrain Beecher. Got ya real good. Just look at her, grinning like the cat that ate a canary. Jeez, I love that woman. Can’t get anything around that one. Might as well fess up, old man.

“Well, Mike told me it helped with his marriage. Figured it couldn’t hurt to read.”


This can all be in one paragraph--it's all Adrian.

Cathie glanced at the book, flipped through the pages, and held it against her chest. “So, you think we need help in ours?” She leaned her head to the right and waited for his reply.

“Hey, I said I read it. That’s all. It just put some things in perspective, ya know?” Adrian flashed a teasing grin, “Besides, you are a beautiful woman.”

“Humph.” She rolled her eyes. “Sounds like the Beecher charm is working overtime.”


This is fine.

See what I'm saying here? A person's actions and her speeches, in general, go in their own paragraph. If you switch to another person, either in speech or action, give that person their own paragraph. And if you have taglass dialgoue, be sure that it's evident who's speaking.
Jan Ackerson

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Postby Cajunluvie » Tue Mar 02, 2010 10:25 am

Yeah, I see what you're saying.

I liked your rewrite of the beginning with Cathie much better than mine. :D

Let me rewrite this again to see if I've got this right this time around.

She reached across the sofa arm and pulled out a book, The Five Love Languagesand waved it in front of his face.

"Does this have to do with why you're giving me a lot of compliments today?" Cathie's eyebrow curved and her hands perched on her hips, awaiting his reply.


Adrian managed to keep his face stoic yet his heart was beating double-time. Cough. Cough. She busted you, Adrain Beecher. Got ya real good. Just look at her, grinning like the cat that ate a canary. Jeez, I love that woman. Can’t get anything around that one. Might as well fess up, old man. "Well, Mike told me it helped with his marriage. Figured it couldn't hurt to read."


Is this better?

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Postby glorybee » Tue Mar 02, 2010 10:40 am

Yes, Cajunluvie--except that your first tow paragraphs are both Cathie's, and could be combined.

I went through my previous entries to see if I could find one with a dialogue between a husband and wife that'd be somewhat equivalent to this. Try this silly story and see if that makes more sense.

Keep up the good work!
Jan Ackerson

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Postby Green Leaves » Tue Mar 02, 2010 2:16 pm

Aw, Jan, I feel like I've just been given a great big hug. Thank you. This truly is hard for me. I'm just not that creative.

In reading your story example, which I loved, by the way, I have a question for you. Here's the part I'm questioning:


****
His wife cleared her throat again, and Paddy tumbled out of bed and began to dress, as Bridget busied herself with sausage, black pudding, and soda bread. Paddy loved her stubborn Irish-ness, and he ate with gusto while mumbling about the day ahead.

“Ah, Paddy, ‘tis not sich a bad job ye’re goin’ to, my love. Ye wander the forest and count yer blessed gold…’tisn’t a hard thing ye do, my Paddy.”

****

I thought in your lessons what you were saying was that the actions and dialogue of one individual goes in the same paragraph. Yet in YOUR story it is in two paragraphs. How do we know when to make it two paragraphs or just one? I'm confused on that now when I thought I understood it.

Or is it, perhaps, because the paragraph beginning with "His wife cleared her throat" really involves BOTH individuals?


Carol
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"...not to advance in the spiritual life is to go back. But those who have the gale of the Holy Spirit go forward even in sleep.". Brother Lawrence

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Postby glorybee » Tue Mar 02, 2010 2:25 pm

Great question, Carol!

The paragraph has both individuals in it, but it ends with Paddy, so he's the one on the readers' minds when they get to the end of the paragraph. Since Bridget is speaking next, I gave her a paragraph of her own. If I'd had Paddy speaking, I probably would have tacked it to the end of that paragraph.

And to be sure my readers knew it was Bridget, I had her address Paddy in her speech.

Thanks for your kind words!
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Postby Cajunluvie » Tue Mar 02, 2010 3:01 pm

glorybee wrote:Yes, Cajunluvie--except that your first tow paragraphs are both Cathie's, and could be combined.

I went through my previous entries to see if I could find one with a dialogue between a husband and wife that'd be somewhat equivalent to this. Try this silly story and see if that makes more sense.

Keep up the good work!


Yeah, I purposely separated them so it would be easier to read.

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