August 8th, 2013

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Writing Excuses 8.31: Combining Dialogue, Blocking, and Description

Writing Excuses 8.31: Combining Dialogue, Blocking, and Description

From http://www.writingexcuses.com/2013/08/04/writing-excuses-8-31-combining-dialogue-blocking-and-description/

Key Points: Dialogue, blocking, description, exposition -- all of that provides context for the reader to understand the story. Provide it in the order they ask the questions! Provide the blocking, the geography, before the action to avoid interruptions. Use description to establish the scene, and tell us something about the character. Use the pyramid of abstraction -- lay out concrete description, then pile abstract thoughts and dialogue on that base.  Set the scene concretely, then reduce the beats as you get into the dialogue. Use concrete images and multiple senses to set where we are, and the character's description and choices to hint at who the character is and what they feel. Give your reader the context they need to understand. Use what the character notices and how they describe it to reveal character. One tip -- when you're writing dialogue, instead of stopping to write beats, nonverbal communication, and description, just put a bracket note in and then fix it later. Also, reading your work out loud can help identify where beats need to go.
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[Brandon] Okay. Our writing prompt is actually again going to be Mary, because she has a writing exercise for this on her website.
[Mary] So basically I'll give you the short form of this, and then we've got the actual link in the liner notes. Basically, what I want you to do is sit down and just write description, not worrying about anything else. Just write description for half an hour. Yeah, I really mean half an hour, because that's going to force you to dig deep into what you can describe in a room.
[Howard] Set a timer.
[Mary] Set a timer and don't let your fingers stop. Believe me, you'll hate me for a little bit, and then you'll be like, "Oh..." Try to use all five senses. Then what I want you to do is go back and rewrite. Just a paragraph, one paragraph, so that we know that the person who is in that room is a specific person. So it's a ballerina, it's a schoolteacher, it's a fireman, whatever it is. But you cannot say the word ballerina, schoolteacher, fireman. So that just by POV, you let us know what they are. Then, I want you to go back and do one more pass in which you let us know their emotional state. This time, you're only allowed three sentences. You should be able to let us know their emotional state and their occupation and what the room looks like in three sentences. That is one way that you can handle blocking and that. The other exercise that I have on the website is narration and context. There you're going to find a transcript, so you don't have to write the dialogue yourself, but you're just going to provide the context to go with the dialogue. There are long instructions on how to do this on my website.
http://www.maryrobinettekowal.com/journal/exercising-your-story-telling-techniques/
[Brandon] Excellent.
[Howard] That's less writing prompt and more homework.
[Mary] Yes. That's right. I've given you homework.
[Brandon] Well. This has been Writing Excuses. You're out of excuses, now go do your homework.
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