Tracy S. Morris

Quirky Mysteries, Screwball Fantasy and Sassy History

Monday Musing – Con DFW Schedule and Blocking for Writing

Written By: Tracy - Feb• 14•11

Right now I’m working on my third draft of my epic novel of 2010. On this pass through the book, I am working on the blocking. Blocking is a stage and screen term. It means character movement. In other words, everything that isn’t in between quotations.

What the character does in writing is as important as what they say. A character can reveal (or even betray) by their actions things that they don’t say. A character can say "I’m fine" but if they are frowning while they say it, they may reveal that they really aren’t fine after all.

When going through a re-write such as this, I analyze all of my character’s actions to determine if I really meant to have a character doing something, or if I am simply using the action as a dialog tag to avoid having to say "Said."

Said is a dialog tag that is almost invisible. If I can use "said" and convey the same meaning as "smiled" then perhaps I should have used "said" all along.

A thesaurus is another good way to avoid overusing the same gestures, as long as you don’t overuse your thesaurus. A major warning sign that you might be alternating your dialog tags too much is when your work starts to sound like a Tom Swifty.

A Tom Swifty involves using a dialog tag in a punny way. As in: "The Faucet is broken," she gushed. "This pencil should be sharpened," he pointed out.

When your work sounds like that, it’s time to go back to using said.

Think of dialog tags like bits of Valentines day chocolate. Chocolate is good every once in a while. It even has things in it that are good for you. But when I eat the whole box of Godiva in one sitting, I gain 5 pounds. It’s better for me to dole out that chocolate just when I need it most.
In the same way, you should dole out the alternate dialog tags only when they provide the maximum impact for your story.

When I finally do allow myself a little bit of chocolate as a reward, I usually read the chocolate key on the lid of the box and pick through the chocolate. I skip the maple creams and go straight for the ones with the caramel centers. Using dialog tags is like that, as well. You should stay away from melodramatic tags like shrieked, screamed, yelled. Do you know of anyone who yells all of the time?

In the same way, avoid using verbs as dialog tags. Do you know of anyone who can speak while laughing, sneering or scoffing? Maybe if your main character is a ventriloquist. If so, they probably belong on America’s Got Talent instead of in your story.

Con DFW has just released the schedule for the convention this weekend. You can find their full programming schedule here: http://www.condfw.org/programming/ 

My particular schedule is as follows:

Friday

2:00 pm – Writing Short Stories for Anthologies
9:00 pm – Yard Dog Press Traveling Road Show

Saturday

10:00 am – Self Help For Selling Yourself
11:00 am – Can You Keep A Secret?: The Mystery About Writing Mysteries
2:00 pm – Traveling the World by Wood, Brass and Steam: The Science of Steampunk

Sunday

12:00 pm – What If . . .  Writing Alternate History and What to Avoid

I hope to see everyone there!

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42 Comments

  1. bogwitch64 says:

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  2. bogwitch64 says:

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  3. bogwitch64 says:

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  4. bogwitch64 says:

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  10. bogwitch64 says:

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  11. bogwitch64 says:

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  20. bogwitch64 says:

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  21. bogwitch64 says:

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