Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Dialogue First

Someone asked me yesterday what I meant by turning the dialogue into prose. Most of you writerly types out there probably know what I'm talking about, but for those that don't, it's a writing method. For me, it's the method I like best.

When I start outlining a new MS (like I did for my NaNo novel back in early October) I start with a list of goals. That turns into an outline, what I want to happen from start to finish, that's about 3K words long. Then I break that into chapters and scenes, add details and makes changes. The final word count for my NaNo MS outline was about 21K words.

Basically, by the time I start writing I know exactly what's going to happen. My first draft doesn't very often deviate much from what was in the outline. If changes are going to happen the the overall story, they'll happen in the next round of revisions.

I like to think of the actual writing not as the telling of the story (I already know the story from the outline) but getting to know the characters and finding out how the story affects them all individually. So I start each chapter by writing just the dialogue first. Like this:

S      Hi, what's your name?
F      Frodo Baggins, what's yours?
shayla punches frodo.
S      Shayla Smith. Pleasure to meet you, Frodo Baggins.

I'll toss in a few words for description, expression, actions, but it's mostly the dialogue. I find it allows the characters to lead the way through the story, keeping me from spending too much time internalizing the MC. Once the chapter is finished I turn around, go back to the beginning, and start re-writing the dialogue into prose:

"Hi," I said with a smile, opening the door. "What's your name?"
The stranger hesitated. "Frodo Baggins, what's yours?"
I leapt over the counter and punched him in the face, sending him sprawling head over furry feet.
"Shayla Smith. Pleasure to meet you, Frodo Baggins."

So that's turning my dialogue into prose. And actually, since I'm talking about it, here's how Scrivener makes that whole process awesome:

Left window: dialogue. Centre window: chapter four outline. Inspector (right side): synopsis and Project Targets

But now I'm apparently having an allergic reaction to either cats or smoke, so I gotta go dig up a Reactine. Until tomorrow,


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