Seeking Inspiration

Written by Vic Peters

Seeking Inspiration

I remember times where I would just sit and stare at my blank computer screen, trying to come up with some kind of inspiration. I wanted to berepparttar author ofrepparttar 129758 Great American Novel. Those wererepparttar 129759 days before I was published, before I had learned how to finish a manuscript, before I knew what it “took.”

“Write about what you know!” screeched that old tired voice inside my head. “Yeah, right,” I retorted. “I don’t know nuthin’. Who wants to read about that?” It was over. I had to face it. The book would never be finished. I would never be published, and Oprah, well, she wasn’t gonna call me either. Damn.

I was going to have to get a real job, and, worse than that, all my friends were going to say, “I told you so.” I was a loser, and that thought made me sick to my stomach. Looking outside throughrepparttar 129760 bedroom window, I was struck with a brilliant idea. “Of course! That’s it!” I was going to jump, except thatrepparttar 129761 fall was only about twelve inches. “Okay,” I told myself, “I’m going to have to jump a lot!”

Nine jumps later, more depression set in; now I was a failed jumper as well. This wasn’trepparttar 129762 way it was suppose to happen. But that ninth splat inrepparttar 129763 dirt must have shaken something loose in my pea brain, because that was when I figured it out: Writing isn’t about what you know, it’s about what you feel andrepparttar 129764 way in which you share those feelings with your reader.

For instance, a man came over torepparttar 129765 house a while back. He wasrepparttar 129766 friend of a young mother in our town who had lost her ten-year-old son just days before. The boy and his best friend had fallen throughrepparttar 129767 ice just before dark and had drowned. No one knew for sure what had happened; they had gone out to play and never came home. Inrepparttar 129768 darkness, volunteers searched through wet snow and dense brush, looking for any clue to their whereabouts. By morning hundreds had joinedrepparttar 129769 cause. We wanted to believe thatrepparttar 129770 boys had run away, or were hiding, or anything other than what we feared. But our calls for angels went unanswered, asrepparttar 129771 reality of an underwater camera testified. It was a terrible experience for all of us.

The mother had asked my friend, “If God said to you that he was going to give you a beautiful gift—a perfect little boy who carriedrepparttar 129772 sun in his smile,repparttar 129773 stars in his eyes and…” she stuttered as her face pulled together and tears slid down soft pink cheeks, “and more love in his heart than you could ever know, would you still want him, even if you knew that He would take him back in ten years?” My friend had no words to comfortrepparttar 129774 woman, so while shaking, she criedrepparttar 129775 answer for him. “Yes, yes…I would,” she said, nodding her head up and down. “I miss him so much.”

Writing Narrative vs Writing Dialogue

Written by Michael LaRocca

Writing Narrative vs Writing Dialogue Copyright 2001, Michael LaRocca

One ofrepparttar nice things about being an author is that we can break any rule we want. (I just did.) It’s part of our job description. Language changes through usage -- definitions, spelling, grammar -- and authors can help it do this. But onrepparttar 129756 other hand, we have to have some sort of agreement onrepparttar 129757 language or we won’t be able to talk to each other.

When we as authors break a rule or two, it’s not because we’re ignorant. It’s because we have reasons to break them. That’s one ofrepparttar 129758 joys of writing.

Having said that, now I’m going to explain some rules. There are two types of writing in your novel. There is your narrative and there is your dialogue. The rules forrepparttar 129759 two are notrepparttar 129760 same.

For example, comma use. In dialogue, it’s not so difficult. Put in a comma wherever your speaker pauses in his/her speaking. In narrative, you have to consultrepparttar 129761 style guides and hope that you and your editor, working as a team, can sort it all out.


A cop thriller like my Vigilante Justice has a simple set of rules forrepparttar 129762 narrative portion. Third-person, straightforward writing, light on adjectives and adverbs, easy to read and grammatically correct. Sentence fragments are acceptable if communication is achieved, and you’ll note that I use them often in this article. Why? Simply because it’s more effective that way.

To a degreerepparttar 129763 genre will help you identify what’s appropriate. For a cop drama, write inrepparttar 129764 dry style of a journalist. For horror, a bit of hyperbole may be acceptable inrepparttar 129765 most dramatic sections. For romance (not my genre), you can probably use lots more adjectives (swollen, heaving, throbbing, etc.) than you’d normally dare.

When I wrote Rising From The Ashes,repparttar 129766 true story of Mom raising my brother and I alone, I tried to adopt a “childlike voice” early inrepparttar 129767 narrative. Asrepparttar 129768 character of Michaelrepparttar 129769 storyteller grew older, I abandoned that childlike quality. (An entire book of that would get old fast anyway.)

When I wrote An American Redneck In Hong Kong,repparttar 129770 humorous sequel, I once again used first person narrative. Butrepparttar 129771 narrative of Rising is first person only in that it uses “I” instead of “Michael.” It still follows allrepparttar 129772 rules of “conventional” narrative. In Redneck, I threw most ofrepparttar 129773 rules outrepparttar 129774 window.

I used what one author referred to my as “conversational” tone to maximum effect in Redneck. This fellow author felt like he wasn’t so much reading my book as just listening to me tell some stories over a few beers. That’s exactly what I wanted.

In Rising, while I wasrepparttar 129775 “first person” character, I wasn’t reallyrepparttar 129776 book’s focus. In Redneck, I am. Center stage, inrepparttar 129777 spotlight. Using more of a “dialogue” style in what should have been “narrative” allowed me to focusrepparttar 129778 reader’s attention onrepparttar 129779 first person to a greater degree than simply describing him ever could. You may love me or you may hate me, but you’ll know me and you’ll laugh at me.

If you want to see such a technique used to maximum effect, I recommend A Monk Swimming by Malachy McCourt. (I read it after writing Redneck, byrepparttar 129780 way.) It’s about an actor who gets drunk and does very bad things to himself and his family, and it’s amazing just how much I laughed out loud reading about it. Doesn’t sound like a funny subject, does it? It’s not, and yet it is, thanks to his unconventional narrative style.

To tell yourepparttar 129781 truth, I don’t even think McCourt “wrote” that book. I think he just said it all into a tape recorder and transcribed it later. It reads that much like “a guy atrepparttar 129782 pub telling a tale.” If he usedrepparttar 129783 grammar checking function in MSWord, I bet it underlined every sentence. And, bright fellow that he is, he ignored them all and didn’t change a word.

If you’re going to use a more conversational tone in your narrative, don’t think that means you just write something down and don’t have to edit it. You still have to organize your thoughts, and that means rewriting. While your style may be unconventional, you have to makerepparttar 129784 ideas easy forrepparttar 129785 reader to follow.

(I’m not entirely serious when I say McCourt just spoke into a tape recorder, and even if he did that doesn’t meanrepparttar 129786 rest of us can get away with it.)

I originally wrote Redneck in chronological order. It worked for Rising, and it works for memoirs and novels in general, right? Well, inrepparttar 129787 case of Redneck, it was a disaster. Way too much “remember what I said before about…” and so forth. So while it was accurate, and while it was conversational, it stunk. I changed everything to more of a “theme-based” approach and that didrepparttar 129788 trick. Still conversational and accurate, but organized. The ideas are as easy to follow asrepparttar 129789 writing style, and that’s alwaysrepparttar 129790 goal. Ease of reading.

Inrepparttar 129791 case of narrative, you haverepparttar 129792 choice. If you want to spotlightrepparttar 129793 storyteller to maximum effect, you can go with first person and letrepparttar 129794 storyteller’s narrative and his dialogue readrepparttar 129795 same. If you’d prefer to “moverepparttar 129796 camera” back a bit, makerepparttar 129797 narrative conventional in contrast torepparttar 129798 dialogue. As a rule, this reader likes contrast, because he gets bored readingrepparttar 129799 same thing over and over again unlessrepparttar 129800 style is really special. Or perhaps you can find a point somewhere betweenrepparttar 129801 two.

Every story has a way that it should be told for maximum effect. Maximum effect inrepparttar 129802 author’s eyes, of course, as it’s a subjective thing. Keep it in mind as you write. Makerepparttar 129803 call, stick to it, change it if it’s not working. It might even be okay to be inconsistent, but only if you do so deliberately. Just keep stuff like “ease of reading” and “maximum effect” in mind and go be creative.


Have you ever read a book whererepparttar 129804 narrative andrepparttar 129805 dialogue readrepparttar 129806 same? I hope you haven’t. But as an editor I’ve seen such things, and they’re very ugly.

Do you know why they’re so ugly? Because they remindrepparttar 129807 reader ofrepparttar 129808 one thing an author does not want to remindrepparttar 129809 reader of. Namely, that every character onrepparttar 129810 page is a puppet underrepparttar 129811 author’s control.

As readers, we put that thought aside so we can enjoy reading. “Willing suspension of disbelief,” to quoterepparttar 129812 phrase an English teacher used when describingrepparttar 129813 performance of Shakespeare’s plays. Ifrepparttar 129814 author ensures thatrepparttar 129815 reader can’t suspend disbelief,repparttar 129816 book will not be read. Stilted dialogue is one ofrepparttar 129817 quickest ways to make that happen.

I’ve decided that writing dialogue isrepparttar 129818 hardest thing we do. It’s certainly notrepparttar 129819 something we can go look up in a style manual like Strunk or Turabian.

What arerepparttar 129820 rules? “Make it sound real.” But withrepparttar 129821 corollary, “not too real because people always say um and er and crap like that.” Oh yeah. That explains everything! End of my article, right?

Nope. I’m still writing it.

Ideally,repparttar 129822 greatest ofrepparttar 129823 great creators of dialogue will have every character “speaking” in a voice so distinctive that he/she need never identifyrepparttar 129824 speaker. Okay, that’s enough fiction. Back to reality. None of us are writing dialogue that well, are we?

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