Hiya, I’m not dead – yet. Give me four more days and come November 30th I’ll be doing a Frederick and trying to drown myself in the sink basin.
People keep giving me books. This is lovely and I love all my geeky, literary friends for their passionate areas of writing, but I’m drowning in books. So many books. SO MANY BOOKS.
The finer points of today’s lessons, both led by the wonderful Professor Sara, were on how to write good scenes and how to get an Agent (with a capital ‘a’ and everything). I’m going to be concise and to the point otherwise I might as well write up three hours of lectures! My notes on how to write good scenes are what I shall share with you. Here we go.
How to write good scenes
-If story is character then character is dialogue.
REVEAL THE CHARACTER’S NATURE THROUGH REACTION TO SITUATIONS. Don’t tell me that Daisy was sad, show me. Telling me that Daisy was sad reveals nothing and is flat. If you tell me that ‘Daisy fell to her knees, clutched her chest and wept her heart out’ then not only do I know how sad she is, I can guess what kind of person she is.
A good exercise to reveal a character is to know what is in their fridge! Opening a character’s fridge door tells you a lot about a person. The example Sara gave us was when she visited a new friend (in real life) and opened the woman’s fridge, all that was in it was a glitter ball and a bottle of vodka. I think that says a lot.
**Dialogue is NOT like real life. Though you may quote people, cut out the boring bits and make every word essential.
**How people speak, not what they’re saying. Writing colloquial language and dialect is perfectly fine, but capture the essence of their verbal ticks; not, like, every, like, verbal tick, like, yeah, like, y’know?
**Know when to shut your characters up.
**Unnecessary formalities. We don’t need to hear all their greetings.
“Hello, how are you?”
“Oh, I’m fine thank you. How are you?”
“Yes, lovely, thanks. Would you like a cup of tea?”
Cut straight to the scene where they’re drinking tea and having meaningful conversation; unless their greeting is riddled with subtext and/or conflict.
**Writing the fight – don’t. You can show conflict in more creative ways that just yelling. Show, don’t tell. Subtext.
**Over explaining or exposition – be careful. Allow your audience to read a situation. Exposition through dialogue is the worst. It’s lazy writing and just bad.
**Don’t say it if we can see it.
**Subtext is a wonderful thing – use it!
“A cup of tea is never just a cup of tea.” – Sara
After being told all of this we were informed to write a very tight, concise scene riddled with conflict and subtext. Here is mine:
INT. ENGINE ROOM
With an agitated growl, JIM finishes her work, throws her tools onto a neighbouring workbench and pushed REMUS’ feet off the table.
You can go now.
She steps back, hands on hips and Remus slides onto the floor. With a sigh, Jim grabs a hand rag and strides over to him, whereupon she heaves herself onto the workbench.
She slumps over her knees, moping her face and avoiding Remus’ gaze as he moves to stand in front of her.
Why don’t you visit the upper city?
She shrugs, playing with the rag.
It’s nice this time of year. The colours
in the light are like amber.
You and your colours.
I’ll take you somewhere with clean air.
How could you possibly know if the air
With a smile, Remus taps his temple. Jim slides off the table and throws her hand rag at him. He catches it.
Let me know if your eyes blank out.
Though I wrote it as a script, the same principles apply to writing a novel. I hope you found this helpful!
So, about my NaNo… A new character has appeared! Did you know, ‘Dangerfield’ is a real British surname? It sat perfectly with my new character and I hope it doth amuse you. Also, let me state now, I don’t have anything against Americans (unless we get political, but that’s beside the point). My boyfriend is American, so our relationship would be a bit of a struggle if I did. I’m just saying.
A smile spread across her face and for a moment, Frederick was distracted from the flashing knife.
“You nervous, Freddy?” she asked, raising her knife hand. “You keep looking at it.”
“More for your own safety.”
“Are ya sure?” Li-ling threw the knife over her head, intending to snatch it out of his face at the last second, but Frederick caught it with a steady hand. She halted; her mouth open, and Frederick lowered his arm.
“Wow,” was all she could say. “Where did you learn that?”
Turning the blade into his hand, Frederick held it out for her to take back, staring at the cold metal and patterned hilt. “I didn’t,” he said, “each of us have gifts, my Brothers and I. Mine is impeccable accuracy.”
“Accuracy?” Li-ling wrinkled her nose and resumed walking. “My, what an exciting gift.” She bit her lip to show she was teasing him again and Frederick glanced away, watching the woodland and gave her no reaction.
“I’m teasing,” she said.
With a contemptuous laugh, Li-ling cried, “Hey!” and once more flung her knife into the air. Frederick caught it without hesitation, but he was the one to stop this time. Shrugging her shoulders, Li-ling gave a smile that confused him as she carried on her way.
“Just checking,” she said.
“Oh no,” sighed Li-ling, stopping without warning. Next to Boots, the leading pharmacy chain, she was staring at a Bounty Agency (BA). It was a sleek looking place with sterile colours, large glass windows and a bright interior.
“What?” asked Frederick, hoping she didn’t plan on taking him into a shop crawling with demon hunters looking for a new bounty hunt, or summoned by popular demand for the details of a specific call.
“That poster,” she said, nodding at the full body image of a man dressed in camo trousers, a tank top, and held a machine gun in both hands. A cigar hung from his mouth, the image stuck on one of the BA windows. “That’s Tom Dangerfield. He’s some big shot American.”
Frederick snorted. There was a phone number printed across Dangerfield’s feet and a slogan above his head. Want something done fast and without any uncertainties?
“He thinks he knows what he’s doing,” Li-ling continued, “but he’s just a dolt with a gun.”
Frederick took in Dangerfield’s thick arms, shaven head and square jaw – seriousness etched into his face. “Maybe he does know what he’s doing,” Frederick mused.
“Oh sure,” Li-ling flipped hair over her shoulder, “shoot until it stops moving. I’m amazed anyone hires him, he’s got a damage warranty rated higher than the mortgage of two detached houses!”
“In some places they’d call that a reputation.”
Frederick and Li-ling whipped around to see none other than Dangerfield, garbed up in blue camo trousers and a tight long sleeve top. Despite being the same height as Dangerfield, there was no way Frederick could compare to the man’s presence.
“I like to think of it as a credit rating,” the American continued, “the higher you rack up the points, the more likely they are to give you a big loan.”
Unimpressed, Li-ling folded her arms and tried not to glower. Frederick, on the other hand, felt a sweat spring up on the back of his neck and tried to think of a way to escape. He had learnt never to underestimate any demon hunter, especially the gun-ho types.
With a polite laugh, Li-ling forced a smile. “Oh, hello,” she said in her sweetest voice. “Are you really Dangerfield?”
“Why yes, darlin’. But if you’d just excuse me, I got a call to see to.” He pointed at the Bounty Agency with a smug sneer.
“Oh do you?” said Li-ling, forcing her smile even brighter. “Gosh, I can’t wait for my first call. I’ll be licensed in two months time. I’m Miss. Redgrave,” she clasped her hands together, looking so false Frederick bit on his tongue and hid his eyes behind his hand. “I hope my family’s reputation will be of good use.”
Dangerfield laughed. “You’re a Redgrave? Sure don’t look it.”
A jolt of anger vibrated through Frederick’s chest to peer up and see him assessing her features. Rolling his shoulders and cracking his neck, Dangerfield kept his leering expression in place. “Anyway, it don’t matter what your name is. Like I said, s’all about credit ratings. Gamer points. How many successful hunts do you got to your name?”
“Three actually,” Li-ling snapped. Dangerfield laughed and Frederick had never wished for a hunter to have a high demon-count as much as he wished Li-ling did right then. A grumble tried to rise in Frederick’s throat but he suppressed it, clearing his throat instead.
Dangerfield glanced across at Frederick then, who at once tipped his chin down, not wanting direct eye contact. The sizeable man paced closer, invading Frederick’s personal space so he could almost feel the hunter’s breath. “Say,” he grumbled, “those are some interesting lookin’ marks you got there.”