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Monday, October 26, 2009

Describing Description Descriptively

Once more it has been quite a while since my last post, due again to my growing business (I've had LOTS of school work lately). But due to the amount of people bugging me about a new post, I've kicked homeowork out of site and am typing this out for all of you.


Hope it's worth it to you.


I've been told by some of the few who've read my real writing, as in stuff I took my time on and actually EDITED, that I'm pretty good with descriptions. Complimants are always nice to get but ones referring to detail are especially appreciated, mainly because I've worked so hard at honing descriptions.


I'm sure all of you know what a description is, but I think I'll define it for the sake of this post.


Descriptions in writing are the words, sentences, and paragraphs that let the reader feel and imagine the world in which the story being read takes place. Whether this world be real or fantastical writers must prove to their readers its reality by way of description.


Clever definition eh?


But it is so true!


Without descriptions a story is rendered powerless and pointless. Because if it is true that descriptive writing is a necessary tool in making the reader believe the story and if it is also true that without the suspense of disbelief (the term referring to when a reader/movie-watcher loses sense of reality and falls into a story) a story is no good, then it must be absolutely needed to have good description in writing.


A lot of words to say something so simple, I know. But I think it's best that way.


Descriptions are a must in writing, and once more it can be difficult to find the right amount of it needed and the right way to portray it.


Well, I've picked up a few tricks and advice from others in my short time in the writing world. Seems I now have a way to pass them on to others.


First off is the question of what to describe.


Some writers describe everything, often even unneeded information. Some people like having an over detailed description, more power to them....but I don't.


And I honestly don't know anyone personally that does.


The answer to this question is simple, describe only that which is direly important to a story. If your character is swimming from an enemy there's no need to say that a sparkling blue fish, with glowing round eyes, swam by. It's distracting--detailed yes, but unimportant and distracting from the scene.

You can still describe this in detail, but describe things based on their worth not in the whim of the moment (don't anaylise that statement :P ).

Next begs the problem of how much to describe

Detail, as noted, is important. But how much is too much? In my opinion, hopefully I don't get shot here, some older works including the Lord of the Rings go a little overboard in descriptions. It is my belief, and others it seems, that detail should be based on two things.

Number one, the pace of the scene.

If the scene you are writing is a fast paced action-packed scene don't bother with description at all! I say this to make the point. If a guy is sword fighting the enemy don't be like "The swords clashed above their heads. The tree to his right was a sparkling green on the left though the leaves on the opposing side had all died."

No one cares!

Once more this is distracting.

Now, that's not where I meant to go with that <_<

Oh yes, fast paced scenes require faced paced description. Simply said, don't use big, long, words and sentences to describe a racing cheetah. It will make the animal seem slower. Descriptions take the place of time. The longer the description the longer the time. Think of a movie.

The same goes for slow scenes. A snail crawling up a tree should not be penned simply as "The snail went up the tree."

NO! This is the scene where you get to use some vocabulary. Break out that thesaurus and look up words for slowly and describe the residue on the branches leaving a trail behind the creature. Get down into the grit of things and write.

I hope that made sense. I'm starting to get tired ;)

Number two is simply relevance to the story. Which has already been overly discussed (people will think I hate descriptions or something). Just write enough to set the scene, you can do this eloquently and with detail. But if it doesn't matter at ALL, don't tell it.

Do YOU have any advice for writers on description? I sorta botched this post but I believe we can get some good discussion going. What kinds of things do you try to do with descriptions? What fun tricks do you do?

I like posting dialogue and then posting description, or truly any combination of the two. Especially to start a scene. Another thing I, along with others, like to do is use descriptions to get ideas across into the story. To get into the character's head. This is a scene hastily written with some description, not the best in the world, that I used to dive into the character. The rest of the scene does some more inner searching but contains spoilers so....I'll not post it.

Nerp Keeneye walked out on the battlements of Kinth’s very own capital, Defender. He wasn’t dressed in the common armor of a Kinthian knight, or even that of an officer. Rather, he proudly displayed the colors of Sentor.

He looked over Kinth’s ancient fields, the very place—it was said—that the Most High crafted the first Lak├»ethian horses. Farmers were plowing the battle ravaged land, trying as best they could to bring back life to the place of death.

Nerp wrapped his hand around the pommel of his sword, expecting the warm heat that was usually emitted from such a touch. But the feeling did not come; he was no longer the wearer of the great Sword.

He tapped his blade once again and turned around to face Defender’s insides. Reconstruction was happening here as well. Sujes wanted everything back to the way it had been before the Rindorian captivity of the city. The only difference Nerp could make out were simple things—less detail applied here, a little less color here—nothing major, but it pained his heart to see the city become a place of war and not beauty.

He had voiced these thoughts to Sujes, saying, “Why must our brightest light be dimmed? Why should we allow the enemy to win by simply creating a shadow of what once was?”

The King had shown a weak smile at this. Obviously he didn’t like it either, but he had peace in something no man could have but himself. “Nerp, my son, things are not always meant to be the same as they were in the past. Some things are meant to be made better.”

“But the city isn’t becoming any better!” Nerp had exclaimed. He could remain silent. Even though Defender was not in fact his home, he felt a sense of reverence for the place. It was the home of the King.

“Is it not?” Sujes had showed off one of his smiles yet again. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What I see when I look upon the men and women that are rebuilding our city, is men and women trying their best to please their Master, men and women striving to imitate the works of their King.”

At this he had leaned in and rested a hand on Nerp’s shoulder. “Rejoice in our rebuilding, my son. It is an act of worship made by those who love their Maker.”

And so it had ended.

Nerp sighed. Sujes could always make the simplest of things sound so beautiful and eloquent that they would never again be overlooked.

He felt a firm hand on his shoulder. “How does it feel to be dressed again in the colors of Sentor? The kingdom named Defense again being represented in Defender by one who could claim greatness men can only dream of.”

Nerp turned. The now trimmed up face of John Oakwood smiled back at him. He laughed. “John, you flatter me with too many words.” He patted his friend’s arm. “You know that I no longer seek authority.”

John smiled and looked up at the rising sun. “Ah yes, humble as ever my friend.” He let out a contented sigh and looked down at his feet. “You know, I saw your boy through.”

Nerp straightened. “Did you now? Where was this?”

“Back in Division. Saw him right on through to Glexotam├Č.” He chuckled. “Wonderful lad, chip off the old block if I say so myself.”

Nerp smiled. “Wonderful he is. But I certainly hope he turns out nothing like me.”

“Ah.” John slapped Nerp’s armored shoulder. “You turned out alright. You just needed to get out from the castle is all.”

Nerp looked down. “I did get out. You came with me.” He looked up and gazed deep in thought at the sunrise. “She looked right at me…I saw the fear in her eyes. And I…I…”

“That was years ago.” John interrupted. “And like you stated, I was with you then too.” He squeezed Nerp close to his side. “And now look where we stand, atop the walls of Kinth preparing to war against the tyrant who caused all this.” He sighed and turned, joined by Nerp, to gaze off into the north. “Rindor’s end will come soon. Evil cannot stand.”



Thursday, October 22, 2009

NaNoWriMo

It's obviously been a while since my previous post, a fact for which I apologize. I've been quite busy with school work, Youth Group, family stuff, and all things of the like. Lif'e's busy! And sometimes that keeps blogs from being updated.

Aside from the usual business I have been avidly, aka a few times a week, preparing for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Am I participating? No, not officially. But I plan to use the month to dive back into the story.

I plan to finish the novel. So why am I not participating? Well, there aren't 50,000 words left to write, so I figured I'd write solo.

In preperation for this month I've begun to compile my notes, outlines, and previous versions of the chapters I will be writing. I am so stinking excited to do this! Four years in the making and the book will finally have a draft that I'll be mainly happy with. Of course I will then begin traditional editing, or my own version involving a TON of rewriting along with editing.

Here's a pic of what my desk looked like the other day.


Fairly messy I'd say, wouldn't you? And that's only the desk...I didn't post pics of the top of the dresser and the FLOOR. But that's my writing for ya. All digital copies of the first draft were lost in a computer crash so all I have from the originals is what you see.



Of course, that's not the originals proper, but it is the draft I am rewriting (I'll stop now to avoid confusing *laughs*)


I'm so pumped to finish this draft. Some of the cooliest scenes are coming up next.


Many of you are joining in on the writing fun I hear (with the NaNoWriMo propper) and I'd love to hear what your story is and what your goal will be. Perhaps I can host a few writing challenges on this blog to help with the competition. I'd love to do Word Wars with you all, just shoot me an email or Facebook me and I'll try and join you.


Every Friday in November I might post an update on TSOF as well as a word challenge. Would that be cool? I hope to see many of you hop on board. As long as one or two people comment or email me saying they'll do it I'll start ones.


Now for a bit of off-topic-ness


Very soon I will be hosting a book giveaway ::looks over his shoulder:: Very soon.


I've started a book reviews blog so you all need to check it out! (Books For the Kingdom) There's only one post now, but expect many more to come!


I'm entering the Scholastic Arts and Writing contest. I'll post my stories and such later, so I'll need your all's feedback!


As always, thanks for reading! Sorry about the late post, but I'll get back on schedule soon.

Vote in the poll at the top for the type of posts you like best! (it's a four way tie now)


To the end!

-Nathan R. Petrie

Friday, October 16, 2009

Novel Update and Contests



Heyo! Seems it has been a while, far too long, since my last blog post. So I figured that since it had been such a long time that I should post the coolest topic so far right? I was then faced with the problem of deciding what the coolest topic was. The answer?

My novel, and free stuff.

That's right. I'm writing a novel.

Which of course, if you know me, you should already know.

This novel is part of a trilogy, with a prequel, that I've currently titled Redemption's Journey. While I personally find the story exciting, an obvious bias I know, I am not entirely sure what others will think. If the story is found not good enough...I've got a few other projects up my sleeve. :D

Considering that I now have a blog I thought I'd post where I'm currently at in the story. Keep you all on your toes if you will. Many of you have read bits and pieces of the first book, The Sword of Fire, and so I thought it'd be best if I let you know how the book is coming along.

I just recently finished a chapter I've called Worth Dying For. This is the book's 46th and is the highest point of the climactic battle (If one could consider this scene the "big" battle). The word count surpassed the 100K mark in this scene and I've been writing on it ever since August.

What's this mean?

The book is almost finished.

So I am super stoked to finish. The scenes will be easy to write as I draw nearer to the end. I've been rewriting for all these years and I'll finally be reaching scenes yet to be rewritten. The end of this novel might be one of the best endings EVER! (no...that's not biased at all). So I am really pumped to write it.

BUT

I also have a life. And lives involve frustrating homework, and awesome contests.

As most of you know I am a major competitor, or would like to believe that I am, in the Alternate Reality Game hosted by m'lords Batson and Hopper. And seeing as how this contest is now taking back off more of my writing time will be taken by this, as well as the usual stuff.

On top of that there is the Tribe Building contest which I seem to be utterly failing at. Hopefully things will shape up shortly.

Not sure what these strange terms I'm using are? Check out the links I gave. The ARG is hard to descirbe...but essentially it is a treasure hunt throughout the internet. One must begin here and fall down the rabbit hole to begin.

Tribe building is explained in the the link I gave and is REALLY awesome. Lots of great prizes and opportunities.

And all of these challenges revolve around Mr. Batson and Hopper's new book. The Curse of the Spider King. I for one plan on purchasing this book, supporte the two awesome writers, but there are MANY oppurtunities to snag this puppy for free.

Up-and-coming author Jacob Parker posted a giveaway on his blog (three chances to win).

There are a few others that expire shortly. So check 'em out!

So considering I'm a part of all of these completely awesome contests I'm having difficulty finding time to write. I've got these, school, and family to balance...and that's not always easy.

So here's my question for the day. When do you write? How do you write (type or by hand, music or without, pen or pencil, etc)? And are there certain rituals you do before hand (such as reading over something, listening to music, dancing, lighting a red candle, etc. lol)?

Oh...and to keep you all jumping...here's an excerpt (VERY unedited) from my novel.

Happy writing/reading/breathing all!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Live by Faith


Habakkuk 2:4
"...the just will live by his faith"

Those words are timeless, and at least to me they are some of the most powerful words transcribed in the Bible. If the Word of God is a double-edged sword Habakkuk 2:4 is its tip.

Live by faith.

Timeless.

In this life we will have struggles, those are the words of Jesus Himself. And these struggles often threaten to uproot us, to tear us to pieces, lock us away, and throw away the key. They are seemingly overpowering, shaking us to our very core, and threatening all that we've called dear.

They are the meat of life.

You see, if we truly believe that we were made for another world, that we were created to live different lives in the midst of a different land, that leaves nothing to this life but struggles. Our time on Earth is a time of testing, it will sift out the weak from the strong. Those who will cling to their Master and those who will reject Him.

Once we decide to cling to our God, our lives become a storm. A never-ending storm. It is through these times of misery that our strength is tested.

Let's use that lovely lighthouse at the top of this post as an example. That raging sea is life.

And we're a ship wreaked human.

A light shines into the darkness.

A solid rock is revealed.

It is during the storms of life that we are forced to cling to the one solid foundation that has built us. Only when the wind blows is the cornerstone proven firm. And a lighthouse does no good until there is a darkness for it to shine through.

God allows the storms for the joy of revealing Himself to us, and to test our faith in Him.

And when the storm finally clears we will have learned to cling to that rock. We will have learned the meaning of faith.

Then we will continue to live with it.

The just will live by his faith.

This idea is important to me, as it should be for all who claim the mantle of Christianity. Recently I not only wrote a poem about it but also wrote an entire chapter of my book in dedication to this thought.

To complete this post I shall let you see them.


Josh stood tall on the mountain-top post of the archers. This was the archers’ post, and yet Tarth—taking lead over Ithcar—had decided to allow the army to wait in their midst, three sword or axmen for every archer. When the signal to charge was sent, two for every three solider would rush onto the field, leaving the remaining dwarves to protect the archers. The sun was slowly climbing higher as Mollidia’s army suddenly appeared on the field, a few miles away from them.


A large speck, silhouetted against the sun, flipped and turned through the sky—Yahsor, with Glorf atop his back.


He looked about the mountains surrounding him. He could see clearly the posts for the archers. He and the other three commanders—Okran, Brontoc, and Tarth—stood clumped together for now, but when the battle began they would split up. Okran and Tarth would charge at the signal, and across the valley, far to Josh’s left, a flag had been set up to designate the command post of Brontoc. That was where the dwarf would run. And nearby to his left was his own. On the field of battle these would be the only two command posts. Above and behind him was the post of the Jreen Ithcar. The signals would come from him. The king had a better view of the battle than they did.


Josh sighed and opened his leg quiver to check his arrows. He had plenty to spare. He shrugged his shoulder and let down the quiver on his back. Yup, there was more than enough. And a whole bucket full was at his side.


The boy stared out onto the battlefield. Their army was drawing closer to the Tiriks.


He began to hear a sound in his mind—a young girl weeping. Josh shook his head as the wind blew his hair. He knew that voice, it belonged to the one he loved—Zark Keeneye.


Josh pinched the bridge of his nose. He loved that girl, loved her. And if she hadn’t been kidnapped he would have been engaged to her. He would have done it. He knew he would have. And now…


The boy wiped a tear from his eye and sat down on a chair set for him and let the tears fall. For once in his life he had been so sure, everything was going his way. But Zark had been taken! And he had to rescue her!


In his mind he wept along side her. He could only hope that Zark was still alive.


“Are you alright?” Josh looked up to see the elf turn his way, a worried expression on his face.


“I…I’m fine.” But he wasn’t, and the tears streamed all the harder.


Tarth nodded his head and then walked over by him, crouching next to the boy. “Josh, there is always hope. I once said that I was not sure if the hope was for us, but it is.” The Prince stared out at the battlefield and pursed his lips. “We walk in a time that will forever be remembered. History is being made, son. Zark is held captive by darkness’s claws, but the light is dispelling the darkness. Soon all will know and bow with trembling at the feet of the Most High, and we shall stand beside Him.” The elf laid a hand on his companion’s shoulder. “And Zark will stand as well.”


The boy looked up, eyes still shinning from tears. He believed this all in his heart, but he couldn’t make it clear to his mind.


“The light is shinning amidst the darkness, Josh. Embrace it, and do not hide from it is sting. Live by faith, my lad. And cling to the hope which you have.”


Josh wiped a tear, nodded his head, and forced a smile.


Tarth stood and placed a hand on the pommel of his sword. “Stand firm. Let us make clear the way for the justice of our King!”


I love this scene! Story lines such as this always excite me. And what's the lesson here? It's the same as what I've said thus far. When all fades away cling to the cross! Cling to the King! And live by your faith!


Verse 1;

The storm is blowing, that I know

There is a power down below

He’s pushing me, and blowing snow

And I can’t see, where I’m to go


I hear a voice cry out to me

His tone is sure, rings out with glee

His words delight the whole of me

And once they’re spoke, I fin’ly see


Chorus;

On Christ the solid rock I stand

All other ground is sinking sand

All other ground is sinking sand

And death is raging in that land


The rock it will not ever leave

Oh, never since I first believed

I stand with pride, in my great king

Who’s words are true and rescuing


Verse 2;

Though the storm blows I’ll never fall

Because of hope and grace to all

There’s not a giant that’s too tall

For me to surrender the call


Chorus

Verse 3;

Take hope my friends and lend an ear

There’s one that I’d like to bring near

His name is Christ, slayer of fear

His sword is bright, God’s fin’ly here



(music)


Bridge;

There is a hope for you

There is nothing left to do

Join hands and sing out loud

Our God’s a rock, of this be proud


Chorus


While I do not find this poem particularly well written, I believe God understands.

Thoughts such as these, the truths about the power of faith, have been my passion as of late. I've been going through a whole lot of...testing, though nothing compared to many of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and it is only my confession of faith and Christ's solid rock that have gotten me through it.

I chose to grab onto the lighthouse.

The light is shining in the darkness.

Have you embraced it?

Do not hide from its sting.

Live by faith.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Group Writing - The Underground Edition


How many of you love to write? Most of you do I believe, if not....give it a shot. I dare you.

For those of you who do love to write, and actually for those who do not, have you ever participated in a group writing project/game? Typically I refrain from such activities, as I find them distracting and generally discouraging, but I seem to have found one story that works for me.

The Official-Un-Official Story of the Underground

That's right, I'm an elf.

For those of you who do not know, there are a certain two amazing authors that have begun their own forum--for a book not yet released. Who are the authors? None other than Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper themselves! Not heard of them? You will. Their books are amazing!

So this forum is called the Underground and is for a new series the two guys have coauthored entitled The Berinfell Prophecies. The first book is The Curse of the Spider-King, currently ranked at about 600 on the top Amazon sales list. That's higher than Ted Dekker's latest novel Green.

Cool stuff.

So this forum, The Underground, is growling rapidly and one of the big things we members do on there is write. Most of us are writers, and most are descent enough if not all, and so we have begun a group writing project.

And I'm actually enjoying it.

The way we do it is different from the other ones I have tried before. In here, we each control our own characters...and that's it. We write for the story and not to show off our skills. Often our writing stinks but it doesn't matter. In this case it's all about the story...not the skill with which the tale was written.

It's very encouraging for me. The story is original enough, though it would likely fall under the category of fan-fiction, but the Christian writer fellowship is amazing. I love bouncing ideas off people.

Which makes me think I may have coauthoring in my horizon.

So that's that.

If you'd like to read our lovely story you can check it out here. The beginning, most of it, is on the first post...the rest is on page two.

For reference purposes...my character's name is Theodore.

Now, time for some reading suggestions.

Like I said, this forum is for authors Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper. And their book is coming out shortly.

This book looks to be one of the best I've ever read.

Which means it will likely be the best you might ever read.

So you should buy it...now!

Seriously though, from the things I've read and heard about this book (which received a silver Moonbeam Award for teen fiction) I have the feeling that I'm going to be blown away. So you should give it a try with me.

The link to the Amazon page is in the picture. Also, those who order today get signed book plates (it's a bit late for today...but they will probably give you them anyhow).

So what shall we talk about? Here's an idea. Tell me about any group writing you've done, what you thought of it, if it was encouraging, and if you'd do it again.

I absolutely am having a ton of fun with the story on the Underground. But I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Chat me up :D

Monday, October 5, 2009

Cat Pans, Magazines, and Poems - Randomness


Welcome to the world of randomness.

Beware!!!

Alright...time to be serious.

I've had an interesting time lately. I haven't written much on my novel, The Sword of Fire (see word count at top right), but my poetry has finally picked up the pace.

The way I write...is really weird. To write on my novel I need to be excited and energetic, nothing else can be on my mind, and I need to really feel the story. I need to easily get into the minds of my crazy characters. But though while to write poetry I also need to feel what I'm writing, it seems I often need to be worn out, tired, and down trodden. "What a downer Nathan!"

Yeah...guess so.

It just has seemed that most of my poems come across that way. I've written happy ones, but not often. Today, you will see an example of a poem that borders both joy and sorrow. Mainly on the sorrow side of course, but that just seems to be my style. But shhhh you'll have to wait till the end.

I figured it was time for some randomness, and seeing as how I just completed one of the most disgusting tasks known to man...I simply couldn't resist.

How many of you have cats? How many of those cats...well...you know...poop?

It's disgusting I know.

In the Petrie house it is my job to clean the cat pan. If done every day on time there should never be a problem. Perfect kitty-dump-facility. BUT never fear. I am a creative one am I not?

I find it boring when things are always the way they should be you know? So every once in a while I just don't clean the cat pan.

Just to shake things up right?

My parents, what do they know, seem to think that I merely "forget" to clean it, or that I am a "procrastinator". On the contrary, I always plan ahead. A dirty cat pan makes life more fun does it not? Makes one notice and use that sense of smell.

Creativity.

So tonight I decided that the time of creativity was over. The cat pan was (those skiddish of grotesque cat pans please be advised, the following details the cleaning of such a pan) lined with gooey-ickiness and no matter how much I scraped it was not coming off. Seems it decided to play with me. It cried, "You monster! How dare you leave me stuck to this plastic box! I wish to be free! My odors were made to fill the air of junk yards!"

I was pleased to let it have its wish.

So I sprayed it down, and sprayed, and sprayed. Then I scraped...and scraped...and scraped.

Disgusting.

Alright scardy cats (no punn intended) you can come back now. Details are OVER.

Now, as this is a random post, I've got a couple comments to make.

First, have any of you heard of the magazine called G4T Ink? One of my friends got me a subscription to the magazine a little bit back and, after reading a good many stories and articles by teen writers, I decided to ask if I'd be able to write a story for them.

A few days later, I received word that they would look at my story. There was a word cap of 1,000 (probably half, at least, of my average story) and so I suggested a two part story.

And what do you know? The spring issue of the magazine will not only have the link to this blog in it, but the begining of a two part short story currently entitled The Test of Silence. When the magazine comes out I will be sure to post the story to hear what you all think. I am growing rather fond of the tale myself.

One last bit of randomness. How about I post a poem I wrote during one of those moments I talked about earlier? Would any of you disapprove of that? Good. I wrote this one early on in the school year. I was burdened for those that are lost without the One True King.

May this be our battle cry.

Their empty hearts are seeking
They cry for none to hear
They seek a light that's hidden
When earth is dressed in fear

The cruel master destroys them
They cry but do not run
Away from dark and towards You
Toward cross that bore Your Son

Remember hope within thee
Stand up and do not fall
"Recant!" they cry. But refuse!
Your Lord has made the call

They need us to be bold now
They need us to draw swords
They need us to defy Hell
And shout His sparkling words!

I pray do not be silent
For then a silent death
Will ever slowly seize them
And snatch away their breath

There's light! You've found it! Speak loud!
And warm your hearts gone cold
Love them for their Maker
And bring them to the fold

Friday, October 2, 2009

Let's Chat...Chatting


As it seems that blog post number one was a success I will begin posting on a regular basis. You can expect three to four posts a week from me. On what topics? Humph, I can't help you with that question!

Today I decided to write about dialogue. I've been reading a good many stories and such from aspiring writers, as well as reviewing some of my own writing, and have come to the realization that millions before me have long known.

Dialogue is hard.

Yes, it's true. I've nearly given up trying to master writing conversations that are both enjoyable, realistic, and helpful to a story. It's so hard! You've got speaker tags, punctuation, characters that you know just have to interrupt each other, oh...and let us not forget those villains and their monologues. I mean really, am I the only one who's encountered things like this?

Anyway, it's difficult, and I think this is partly because there is so much to it and so much that needs to be learned to write it effectively. So, I had this brilliant idea while at school today.

What if I tried to solve some of these problems?

Now, don't get me wrong, I'll never claim to compare to some of the giants of Fantasy (CS Lewis, Tolkien, etc) and I also wouldn't claim to be any better than most any of you. I do think, however, that I can say something on the matter that might help out someone somewhere.

That's what I'm here for is it not?

So, here's what I've got for you today.

Speaker tags.

They're often short and yet I believe that the correct, or improper, use of speaker tags can make or break a story's dialogue. And a book's dialogue can make or break a book.

I think it'd be best to start out with an example of what not to do. But you say, "Nathan, which writer will you slam? Who could be horrid enough for you to criticize?" Well my friends, have no fear. I have the perfect example of the wrong thing from your very own--Nathan Petrie.

Have you eaten anything Josh?" Nerp interrupeted.

Josh shook his head, “No sir, breakfast would be great.”

Glorf hopped into the room, “Hey Josh!”

The boy waved, “Hey!”

Glorf smiled, “You staying for breakfast?"

Josh nodded.

“Cool, you want some milk?” and he hurried about to get some for him.


And again

“Thank you,” Josh took a bite, swallowed, and then asked, “So how’s your birthday going so far?”

Glorf laughed, “For the full five minutes of it,” he paused, “I have had a very good time.”

Josh smiled, “How ‘bout we go shooting after we eat.”

“You already up to it?”

Josh grinned, “Even in this condition you don’t stand a chance.”

Glorf looked at his sister, “He’s probably right.”

Zark turned her head and smiled, “But you still won’t turn him down.”

Glorf grinned, showing his teeth, “Not a chance.”

After they finished eating Josh thanked Nerp for the meal and asked, “Do you think we should have Tir come over too?”

Glorf shrugged, “Why not, it’ll give me somebody to beat.”

Josh chuckled, “Let’s go.”

“Hang on a sec I have to get my tackle.”

Josh waved his hand, “Nah, you left it at my house last time.”

Glorf paused, “Oh really? Good.”


Pretty bad if I say so myself. Don't believe me? Let me show you why.

It would take a lot of explaining, a lot of lying, and a lot of cookies (as bribery) to make me believe that that doesn't sound choppy. It bounces way to fast for the scene and honestly ruins the whole point of the conversation, assuming there was a point to begin with.

The dialogue tags are messed up.

What a coincidence, that's what we're talking about!

So, if that's a bad example of dialogue what would be a good example?

Speaker tags are the key. Dialogue demands it. Speech just doesn't read right when it's;

"Hey Sally!"
"Hi Billy!"
"Are you going to the game?"
"Not yet."

It's just not right. There is a LOT to be done with an example like this.

First off, what on earth is a speaker tag to begin with? I seem to have failed to mention that. Speaker tags are the lines following or beginning a line of dialogue. The most common tag is "___ said".

But here's what I'd suggest. Why not show the reader what is happening in this scene? Would "Sally said" help this scene? Sure. But I don't think it would improve it much at all.

Writing is all about showing. You show the reader a new world, show him its culture, show the stories, show the characters. So why can't dialogue be the same?

What's Sally doing? What does Billy look like? The reader doesn't know this from the above example, and it robs the story of its meaning.

Here's my idea on how to fix the Sally-Billy scene;

Billy swallowed and bit his lip. "Hey Sally!"
She turned, cheeks flushed. "Hi Billy!"
"Are you," he traced his name in the dirt, staring intently at his creation, "are you going to the game?"
Sally thrust her hands into her pocket and stared at the ground. "Not yet." She peaked one eye up at Billy.


Sounds better to me. But hey...I'm just one person.

So that's the WHY of speaker tags. But what do they actually DO for a story.

Speaker tags, for me at least, work as drawn out commas. They cause readers to pause. I see a lot of "..."'s in stories that I read, and I admit that I fall prey to them as well. Sometimes, yes, they are necessary but most of the time they can be replaced with something better. What's this you say?

Speaker tags.

Let's take a look at another line of text.

"Honey can we talk?" the man asked.
"I'm a little....busy at the moment," she frustratedly replied.


This isn't terrible. But if one writes a story with constant repetitions of "asked" "said" "smirked" "replied" "remarked" and anything else that can be conjured up to replace "said" the book is going to stink.

Why not replace both these and the grammatical pauses (ie "..."s) with action on the part of the character? Develop the character, add to the scene. Show the reader what the characters are feeling. Let them make their own deductions. Readers don't like it when they see us telling them that the character is angry, happy, glad, frustrated. They want to make their minds up themselves.

You know...make them think it was their idea.

Mr. Smith loafed into the room, dropping the groceries on the table with a clatter. He sighed. "Honey, can we talk?"

Missy straightened her back and turned to the sink, lifting up a stack of dirtied plates. "I'm a little," she moved to set the plates down, but she missed the sink. The plates shattered on the floor. Bending down she sighed, "I'm a little busy at the moment."


See what I mean?

So, I've done a lot of talking. And one cannot "chat chatting" unless it is two sided. I want to hear what you have to say about dialogue. How do you write it? What about it do you like/dislike? And for you readers, what makes good dialogue?

Let's chat chatting.
"Stand tall now and proclaim what you have seen, speak in whispered roars..."