Thursday, October 27, 2011

"Let's talk about dialogue," she said.

This is a Back-to-Basics kind of post. I could call it One of Nancy's-Pet-Peeves post, but that doesn't sound nice. ; )

I remember a day in second (or was it third?) grade when Mrs. Meyers marked up my perfectly wonderful story. Perfectly wonderful story was filled with action and had lots of interesting characters doing interesting things. (*cough* Well, sort of.) Ted talked, then Judy talked, then the dog and cat talked. In that same paragraph, Mom yelled, and Dad said he was going to mow the lawn. It went something like this:

"I want to play kickball in our yard," Ted said. "Me, too," Judy said. "Let's get a team together." Judy said. Mom called to us from the porch. "NOT today," Mom said. "Dad is planning to mow the lawn." "WHAT? Dad's mowing the lawn?" Rover chimed in. "I just got comfortable." "You're always comfortable," Kitty meowed. "You're lazy." "Oh, kids!" Dad called from the shed. "Clean up the sports equipment. I'm mowing the lawn in ten minutes. And you can sweep." Ted stomped his foot. "I'd rather play kickball," Ted said. Rover yawned. "I'd rather nap," he said.

What's wrong with that paragraph? I'll give you a minute to think it over...

The problem is that a new paragraph was not formed when a new speaker took over the conversation. New paragraphs make the story flow better, and you don't need so many he said or she said tags.

Rewrite my paragraph, giving each speaker his/her own paragraph. They deserve to be heard! While you're at it, ditch a bunch of said words and see if it still makes sense. It may or it may not, and you'll have to decide where to clarify who is saying what.

HERE's a cool story from Ellen Garvey, an English professor at New Jersey University. It stars Tarzan and Jane, and is pretty darn clever.

"Dialog or dialogue?" she asked.
"BOTH are correct!" Yahoo answered.
"Later," she said.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Inspiration Station

Color photograph of Jon Scieszka National Ambassador for Young People's LiteratureThis week I had the opportunity to attend a fabulous writer's conference where I heard Jon Scieszka speak. You know of Mr. Scieszka, don't you? Let me remind you who he is. In 2008, Jon Scieszka (rhymes with Fresca) was appointed to a two-year term as the first National Ambassador for Young People's Literature in the United States. I saw the pics of him with President Bush and First Lady Laura. It happened. Believe it. Soooo awesome, yes? You may know him better as the author of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, Knucklehead, The Stinky Cheese Man, and more.

Anyway, Jon talked about his life and growing up with his brothers. HILARIOUS STUFF! I can so relate because I remember nuggets of things that happened to me as a kid that ended up (or will end up) in my stories. I also look back at the childhood years of my own kids and the silly situations they went through. More HILARIOUS STUFF!

Well, WIT-ty people, young and old, like or not, things will happen to you. They may be funny, serious, upsetting, dramatic, sad, or happy, and guess what? It is all fodder for a book. Think about it.
: )

Guys, be sure to check out Guys Read, a site started by Mr. Scieszka to encourage guys to read.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Character Education

Oh, no! Not the character education talks you may get in school.

Fooled ya!
Some schools have character education lessons and these involve learning how to get along with others, working on self-control, sharing, behavior, being patient, and more. But that's not what's going on here today because we have those things mastered, right? RIGHT? You do, right? RIGHT?!! (Ok, so we can work on that character ed stuff. Always.)


Today it's all about creating interesting characters in your stories. Take a minute and reread what I posted about character on May 12, 2011, then pop back over here. I'll wait...hum dee dum dee dum...

In a recent workshop, we chatted about character, and I realized there is so much more that can be done to develop a great protagonist, a great main character. The University of Missouri ethemes site is actually a resource for teachers, but the first two activities can easily be done by kids in 3rd-6th grade, and they will help you get your brain in gear. The first is a list of cool adjectives; the second is a character wheel that you can make. These things will be especially helpful at the start of a story when you aren't sure what character traits your boy, girl, troll, butterfly, monster, bully, or whatever will have.

Now get started and build a terrific character!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

More Moodiness

Remember last week when I had you think about similes? Similes are one way to add mood to your story, but here are two more ways:

1. Fast, clipped sentences are great when you want to show fear, panic, anxiety, and anger.
She needed to leave now!

Repeating a word adds to that.
Now! She needed to leave now! Right now!

2. On the flip side, longer sentences filled with adjective and adverbs are best when you want to describe happiness, contentment, or even loneliness or sadness.

When the coach handed me the golden trophy, I felt as though my heart would burst.

His brown eyes gazed down at the messy spill on the cafeteria floor, and he desperately wished he could make himself invisible.

You can do this with dialogue, too.
"I can't leave now!"

"Leave now? I can't leave now!"

"Getting this shiny, golden trophy has meant the world to me. I've never thought I'd be this excited to get a mini statue of a soccer player."

"I cannot believe I spilled my lunch," Jake said. "Everybody is staring at me like I'm a loser."

Your turn. Dig out a piece of writing and edit, edit, EDIT!