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Jan's Writing Basics #5b--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 Green Leaves » Wed Feb 17, 2010 2:10 am

"Mom, I'm going with Ashley and Tiffani to the movies tonight, okay?" yelled Jocelyn as she threw her books on the table and raced for the fridge.

"What movie?"

"Spring Break Axe Murderer. And before you start, all the other kids get to go."

"You know I don't like you going out on school nights."

"Mom, come on, PLEASE!"

What can it hurt? She probably sees worse on TV. as she absently flips through the latest "Glamour" magazine. It never hurt me any.

"Well, all right. But be sure you're home by 10:00, okay?"



Is this any better?

Carol Penhorwood
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"God has not called me to be successful, God has called me to be faithful." Mother Teresa

"...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 DanielK » Wed Feb 17, 2010 3:25 am

This is my entry. I got a bit carried away, and so Jocelyn sounds almost like a mad girl. Hope you like it.

"I don't believe it! You won't let me go see Spring Break Axe Murderer? That's not fair! I've arranged everything with Ashley and Tiffani. We've even said who'll buy the popcorn. And now you won't let me go? Everyone who's anyone is seeing this film this afternoon. I just don't believe it. Is it because I'm only fourteen? You've let me see 18 movies before this. What makes this one so special? I'm not standing for this."

"Well yes, honey, I understand you're upset, but don't get too uppity, it's nothing very big is it?" Tina, Jocelyn's mother, was worried about her wild daughter.

"Nothing big? Nothing big? Are you deaf, mum? It's the biggest event of the month. I bought glitzy lipstick specially for this occasion. It cost me thirty quid! And now I can't go?"

"All right, all right. I give in. If it's really that important to you, then you can go. Just one thing. No, don't yell at me. I'm not trying to be a pain. I'm trying to be your friend. So, be careful honey. Don't get mixed up in any shady stuff. Just enjoy the film."

Okay, I know that I put in quite a few exclamation marks. It was on purpose. I felt that a ranting teenage girl should deserve a few exclamation marks for the areas when she shouts loud enough to deafen a snake. Okay, that's a bad analogy, I just said it that way because snakes can't hear, so to deafen them would be quite a feat.

I'd value feedback from others as to whether you think the writing would be more effective without them. Thanks
Daniel

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Postby glorybee » Wed Feb 17, 2010 8:45 am

Hmmmmm, my wonderful students always make me feel so inadequate for this class I've taken on!

After reading Pam's and Leah's second try, I think I may have to do a class in "internal monologues"--or expressing thoughts in writing. Maybe it's just me, but do people really think in such well-organized, complete sentences? I'm going to have to go back and re-read some of my own entries, and perhaps to publically eat my words.

Not picking on anyone, I promise. These "homework" assignments are definitely getting better and better. You've just got me thinking...about thinking!
Jan Ackerson

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Postby glorybee » Wed Feb 17, 2010 8:48 am

Green Leaves wrote:"Mom, I'm going with Ashley and Tiffani to the movies tonight, okay?" yelled Jocelyn as she threw her books on the table and raced for the fridge.

"What movie?"

"Spring Break Axe Murderer. And before you start, all the other kids get to go."

"You know I don't like you going out on school nights."

"Mom, come on, PLEASE!"

What can it hurt? She probably sees worse on TV. as she absently flips through the latest "Glamour" magazine. It never hurt me any.

"Well, all right. But be sure you're home by 10:00, okay?"



Is this any better?

Carol Penhorwood


Carol, I'm giving you the gold star, for your combination of words and actions that really reveal Tina's personality, with no "telling."

But I'm also taking you back to class #3--choose a tense and stick to it. I highlighted the two most important verb phrases in red; do you see that one is in past tense and one is in present tense? If you change that last one to "Tina absently flipped...", it'll be fine.
Jan Ackerson

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Postby glorybee » Wed Feb 17, 2010 9:01 am

Daniel, thanks for your homework--I love how creative you are.

First, about the exclamation points--a paragraph from my lesson on that topic:

It seems that in all of my lessons, I’ve had to note the exception, and that’s true here, too. Sometimes you just need an exclamation point. After all, sometimes the cat urps on the new carpet. If you’re writing fiction, restrict your exclamation points to within the dialog (not in the narrative), and then only sparingly. If you’re writing non-fiction, it’s almost certainly not necessary—but then again, who am I to argue with this:


So your exclamation points were fine--they're consistent with Jocelyn's mood, and they're in the dialog.

Other than that, I'd love you to take a look at this one sentence:

Tina, Jocelyn's mother, was worried about her wild daughter.

There's some 'telling' going on here. The relationship between the two is implied in the situtation, so 'Jocelyn's mother' isn't necessary. If you want to be doubly sure of it, just have Jocelyn call her 'mum' in her first speech. Most important, try to avoid telling your reader how a character feels (worried). Instead, show it by that character's words or actions. Have Tina reach out and adjust J's hair behind her ear, or turn her back and fuss with something with a trembling hand, or just have her voice shake. And show us that Jocelyn is wild (actually, you've done that) with her words and actions.

Again, your entry was fine--creative and well-written. You're an outstanding writer!
Jan Ackerson

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Postby PamDavis » Wed Feb 17, 2010 9:37 am

Jan, I'll make another try later. I really want to master dialog. I know I have so much to learn. I appreciate all you do.

Pam
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Postby A Nonny Mouse » Wed Feb 17, 2010 10:45 am

Okay, I'm going to try this. Feel free to rip it apart.


"Mom! This is like... SO unfair! I can't believe --"

"I'm sorry, but the answer is still 'No.'" Tina calmly placed her purse on the kitchen counter, and began going through the day's mail.

"But... but... Ash and Tiff are going! Their moms don't care! You are just -- I can't believe -- O... M... G!" Jocelyn stomped from the kitchen into the living room, hurling her book bag to the floor. Dropping to the couch in a huff, she pulled out her cell phone to check for text messages. Her mother, angered at hearing the young girl's exclamation, followed close behind.

"Now hold on, young lady," Tina began, "let's go back and review a couple of things here. The movie title has the words 'Axe Murderer' in it. Hello! This isn't some silly movie you're wanting to see! It's going to be graphic and it's going to contain scary details, and..."

"MOM. I'm 14." Jocelyn stared at the floor as she proclaimed the number, and then turned her attention back to the phone.

"Let. Me. Finish." Tina's voice was stern enough to elicit a look from her irritated 14-going-on-30 daughter.

"Fine." Jocelyn sat back, crossed her arms and sighed noticeably.

"Look, young lady, I was 14 once too, and it was't that long ago! There were times I didn't get to do what everyone else was doing. And it wasn't fun. But it was for my own good. You have to remember, Jocelyn Nichole, I make the decisions I make because I care about you. I'm not responsible for Ashley and Tiffany. I'm responsible for YOU. I'm not trying to be mean.."

The cell phone buzzed, distracting Jocelyn. Tina waited. She knew there was no point in continuing while a text message was coming in. Because ALL text messages are more important than Mom! She frowned as she watched her daughter's face for some hint of what this new message was about.

"Perfect!" Jocelyn threw up her hands, tossing the cell phone on the couch. As her hands dropped to her sides, she tilted her head back and moaned. "Why me?"

"What is it this time?" The constant teenage drama was wearying, but Tina really was interested in whatever had made Jocelyn's countenance grow darker.

Jocelyn sat upright and grabbed the phone to spout the newest information at her mother. "Everyone going. Can pick you up. Gonna be wicked cool!" The anger was all too evident in her voice now.

"Jocelyn, I just think --"

"But Mom! Everyone is gonna be there! Everyone! Not just Tiff and Ash! And tomorrow? What's gonna happen? Everyone will be talking about it... but ME! Because MY mom decided... oh, whatever!" Jocelyn jumped to her feet in disgust, jerking her bookbag from its resting place.

Another text came. Tina watched as Jocelyn read the message and then closed her eyes.

"Great." The word was almost imperceptible. The two stood like statues as silence enveloped the room.

Tina rubbed her forehead and sighed. "Jocelyn, come here, please."

"What?" Jocelyn turned to face her mother, bracing herself for yet another string of reasons why the movie was not acceptable.

"Come here."

Slowly, Jocelyn let the bookbag drop to the floor, and trudged toward her mom.

"You really want to do this, don't you? It's that important?"

"Mo-o-om!" came the whiny plea. "Everyone, Mom! Everyone is gonna be there! Just this once.. can't you... please?"

The big puppydog eyes and the lower lip that appeared to fall all the way to the floor were too much for Tina to resist. My gosh, she is just like me, Tina groaned to herself. Crossing her arms, and squaring her shoulders, she locked eyes with her daughter.

"We have rules, young lady."

"Yes, Ma'am."

"You WILL call me when you arrive at the mall."

"But... Ash's mom is gonna drive us! Why do I --"

"JOCELYN NICHOLE."

The response was quiet, and controlled. "Yes, Ma'am."

"You WILL text me when the movie is over."

Jocelyn's face slowly brightened. "Yes, Ma'am."

"You WILL call me when Ashley's mom arrives to bring you home."

"But.."

The look from her mom was all it took to stifle her disagreement. "Yes, Ma'am."

"AND..."

Jocelyn began to fidget in place. "Wha-a-a-at?"

"You will NOT be anywhere but at the theaters. No hanging in the parking lot. No running all over the mall. No talking to boys you don't know. And you especially will NOT get into any other car, other than Ashley's mom's car. Is that understood?"

Jocelyn's face was as bright as the noonday sun. "Yes, Ma'am!" The warm hug she gave to Tina clearly showed her change in disposition. Tina returned the gesture by hugging her daughter just as warmly.

"I love you, Joc."

"I love you, Mom."

"Always?"

Jocelyn grinned and giggled. "Always, Mom." She wiggled free from her mom's embrace.

"Gosh, I gotta text Ash back!"

Fingers flew over the small keys, as a weary mother watched, wondering if she'd won this battle, or lost. She is SO much like me...

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Postby glorybee » Wed Feb 17, 2010 11:33 am

Nonny, beautifully done and WAY more than was necessary! Extra credit for you!
Jan Ackerson

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Postby violin4jesus » Wed Feb 17, 2010 1:45 pm

Seriously. That one put mine to shame! :oops:

(And the fact that it's been 14 years since I was 14, and I was a pretty docile and reasonable teen, although certainly not without the typical hormonal histrionics....life was so dramatic then....)

:mrgreen:

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Postby A Nonny Mouse » Wed Feb 17, 2010 2:52 pm

glorybee wrote:Nonny, beautifully done and WAY more than was necessary! Extra credit for you!


Thank you, Jan! Wow. I am humbled by your kind words.

I stayed up through the night to get caught up on your homework assignments because I've been sick for the past couple of weeks, and really bad last week.

:idea: Maybe I should stay up through the night more often? :wink:

Actually, what you read is a pretty good take on some of the arguments that my now 19-year-old son and I have had throughout his teenage years.

On the other hand, Jan, herein lies my biggest problem: longwindedness. (is that even a word?) Is there any way I could cut my story down? Make it cleaner? Streamlined? I am "Miss Wordy" and I'd like to get rid of that nickname!

I'm going to try the challenge on the blog, and see if I can actually write something in 50 words or less. Wish me luck. I'm not sure I can accomplish that.

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Postby A Nonny Mouse » Wed Feb 17, 2010 3:01 pm

violin4jesus wrote:Seriously. That one put mine to shame! :oops:

(And the fact that it's been 14 years since I was 14, and I was a pretty docile and reasonable teen, although certainly not without the typical hormonal histrionics....life was so dramatic then....)

:mrgreen:



But, Leah, I liked yours! I thought your take on the situation was very well written. I liked how you added in Tina's thoughts, especially when you said Breathe, Tina, breathe.

After Jan commented, I went back and read mine, and then realized just how long it is. Way too long, in my opinion. My writing is not clean and precise. It's more like a vine that just rambles and wanders all over the place.

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Postby glorybee » Wed Feb 17, 2010 3:43 pm

Okay, just because I have time on my hands and this looks like fun, let me see what I can do to tighten this up. I used to have to do this to my Challenge entries all the time, and it was great fun.

A Nonny Mouse wrote:Okay, I'm going to try this. Feel free to rip it apart.


"Mom! This is like... SO unfair!"

"I'm sorry, but the answer is still 'No.'" Tina placed her purse on the counter and sorted through the mail.

"But... Ash and Tiff are going! Their moms don't care! You're just..." Jocelyn stomped into the living room, hurling her book bag to the floor. Dropping to the couch in a huff, she pulled out her cell phone to check for text messages. Her mother followed close behind.

"Now hold on, young lady," Tina began, "let's review a couple things here. The title has the words 'Axe Murderer' in it. Hello! It's going to be graphic and scary, and..."

"MOM. I'm 14." Jocelyn glowered, and then turned her attention back to the phone.

"Let. Me. Finish." Tina's voice was stern enough to elicit a look from her irritated daughter.

"Fine." Jocelyn crossed her arms and sighed.

"Look, young lady, I was 14 once too, and it was't that long ago! There were times I didn't get to do what everyone else was doing. And it wasn't fun. But it was for my own good. You have to remember, Jocelyn Nichole, I make the decisions I make because I care about you. I'm not responsible for Ashley and Tiffany. I'm responsible for YOU. I know you think I'm a meanie..."

The cell phone buzzed and Tina waited. No point continuing, texts are more important than mom... She frowned as she watched her daughter's face for some hint of what this new message was about.

"Perfect!" Jocelyn threw up her hands, tossing the cell phone on the couch. "Why me?"

"What is it this time?" Tina quinted at her daughter. She's really mad, now.

Jocelyn waved the phone in Tina's face. "Everyone going. Can pick you up. Gonna be wicked cool!" Her voice rose and cracked.

"Jocelyn, I just think --"

"But Mom! Everyone will be talking about it... but ME! Because MY mom decided... oh,]whatever!" Jocelyn jumped to her feet, jerking her bookbag from the floor.

Another text. Tina watched as Jocelyn read the message and then closed her eyes.

"Great." The word was almost imperceptible. The two stood like statues as silence enveloped the room.

Tina rubbed her forehead and sighed. "Jocelyn, come here, please."

"What?" Jocelyn turned to face her mother, bracing herself.

"Come here." Slowly, Jocelyn trudged toward her mom. "You really want to do this, don't you? It's that important?"

"Mo-o-om!" came the whiny plea. "Just this once.. can't you... please?"

The puppydog eyes, the lower lip--they were too much for Tina to resist. My gosh, she is just like me,. Crossing her arms and squaring her shoulders, she locked eyes with her daughter. "You WILL call me when you arrive at the mall."

"But... Ash's mom is gonna drive us! Why do I --"

"JOCELYN NICHOLE."

"Yes, Ma'am."

"You WILL text me when the movie is over."

"Yes, Ma'am."

"You WILL call me when Ashley's mom arrives to bring you home."

"But.."

The look from her mom was all it took to stifle her disagreement. "Yes, Ma'am."

"AND..."

Jocelyn began to fidget in place. "Wha-a-a-at?"

"You will NOT be anywhere but at the theaters And you especially will NOT get into any other car, other than Ashley's mom's car. Is that understood?"

Jocelyn's face shone. "Yes, Ma'am!"

Tina reached out and tucked a lock of hair behind Jocelyn's ear. I just lost this battle. "I love you, Joc."

"I love you, Mom."

"Always?"

Jocelyn grinned and giggled. "Always, Mom." She wiggled free from her mom's embrace. "I gotta text Ash back!"

Tina sat down and closed her eyes. She is SO much like me...


***

I got rid of redundant dialog, lots of positioning of people and objects, and almost every phrase that tells how they felt. I'd far rather SHOW feelings than TELL them.

Yours is 844 words, mine is 607. And I have to say that if this were part of a larger work, 607 is still way too may words to devote to an argument about a movie. It could easily be trimmed to 300 words or less.

As a challenge entry, I'd still lose much of the argument, pick which character to focus on, and add considerably more depth.

What do you think?
Jan Ackerson

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Postby A Nonny Mouse » Wed Feb 17, 2010 6:24 pm

I love it, Jan! This is the very thing I needed to see. Thank you so much!

I will try to take your version and trim it down to 300 words or less. That will be quite a challenge for "Miss Wordy" me. :)

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Postby PamDavis » Wed Feb 17, 2010 7:19 pm

One more try....

Jocelyn yelled in her mother’s face. “I’m not your little baby girl! I guess you think I should go see a Disney movie! Give me one good reason I can’t go! Spring Break Axe Murderer might be gross, but big deal. It’s not real!”

“I don’t care. I said you aren’t going.”

“Why, why won’t you let me see the freaky movie?”

“Because I said so, that’s why!”

“That’s not fair! Ash and Tiff have a crush on the star. Twitter says he’ll be there signing autographs. Cut me some slack. I cleaned up the dirty dishes.”

“Keep your voice down. Do you want your step-father in here?”

Tina flashed back to conflicts with her mom. Squirming in her computer chair she tried to decide how to handle Jocelyn, 14 going on 21.

“Mommm… It’s not rated X! She folds her arms and taps her toes while glaring in Tina’s eyes. Lot’s of movies are gory.” Sarcastically she says: “I’m not afraid of the boogie-man.”

Jocelyn looked like she did the first time she begged to ride the roller-coaster alone, spoiled and ready. I didn’t want her to go.

“Tell me again. What theatre? What time? Who’s driving?

Jocelyn bounced up and down, hands clasped at her chest in hopes Mom weakened.

“Cinema-Max, 7, Ashley’s Dad…. I can go?”

“I guess so. Stay together, do you hear me?”

“Yes, together, I hearrr you.”

“Set your mobile on vibrate. Text or call when you get there, and when the show gets out. Are you listening?”

“Yes…enough of the third degree. I need to call the girls and get a shower.”

Walking away she turned back, giving her Mom a big squeeze. “I owe you one!”

She has my recklessness. It got me in trouble. Heaven help us….




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Postby glorybee » Wed Feb 17, 2010 7:59 pm

Great, Pam! I really got a sense of the personalities of these two characters.

Two VERY minor things: Take a look at the red phrases below.

“Mommm… It’s not rated X! She folds her arms and taps her toes while glaring in Tina’s eyes. Lot’s of movies are gory.” Sarcastically she says: “I’m not afraid of the boogie-man.”


You've got present tense verbs there, when the rest of your vignette has past tense verbs (yelled, flashed, bounced...)

Also, it's more effective to put characters' thoughts in italics, to distinguish them from speaking aloud.

This is a SUPER job--I can really see your writing improve with each lesson.
Jan Ackerson

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