Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Making the story come alive

By R.J. Harlick

"What's easiest and hardest to write: action, description, dialogue, or something else?”

I love writing action, description, dialogue and I’ll throw in one other form, internal monologue. It all depends on where I am in the writing of my first draft on whether some forms are easier than others. If I’m bumping my pen against a brick wall, all are hard, even the putting of words down on the page. But if the muse is flowing then the action flows, along with the descriptions, the dialogue and internal monologues.

When I first started out on my writing adventure, I was very leery of dialogue. My first attempt contained almost none, which I quickly realized had to change if I was going to get it published. So I tentatively replaced the odd action scene with a dialogue scene and soon found myself quite enjoying writing the voices of my characters. It helped me get to know them better.

Dialogue is critical to any story telling. It is the easiest way to draw the reader into the story and into the minds of the characters. I find when I am writing dialogue I become the character much like an actor would when they are playing a character. In my imagination, I find myself thinking, feeling, speaking and moving like my character as I write their words. 

But a good book can’t rely on dialogue alone, though there is a tendency for some books, even bestsellers to comprise mostly dialogue. Personally I find them too mono-dimensional and unfulfilling.

A good book also needs action scenes and descriptions to round out the story in the reader’s mind. The action scenes not only serve to bring the story more alive, but they also add greater dimension to the characters, making them more complete and real. 

I’ve learned that description has to be handled carefully. As we all know, long descriptive passages can be downright boring. But when description is interwoven into the action as the characters interact with the world around them, it adds another necessary and effective dimension to the story. 

A character’s actions and dialogue don’t always convey their thoughts and feelings. This is where internal monologue comes into play giving the reader greater insight into a character’s motivations. It makes them seem more like a whole person. 

So while some forms maybe easier than others to write, action, description, dialogue and internal monologue are all required to turn a book into a living, breathing thing.

And if I may be permitted some shout-out time, I’m thrilled to show you the cover for the next Meg Harris mystery, A Cold White Fear, schedule for release in November, but now available for pre-order.


Paul D. Marks said...

Good piece, RJ. But I had the opposite experience you did. Coming from a film background which is heavily dialogue oriented, I had trouble with description. People said my early novel tries read like screenplays. And maybe still do to some extent.

And like you say, all the different elements are required to make a book.

Oh, and I had to select all the burritos to prove I'm not a robot. Now I'm hungry. :)

RJ Harlick said...

Bon appétit, Paul. Took me a few seconds to figure out where the burritos were coming from...:) Glad you're not a robot. Now I have to prove I'm not one either.

Art Taylor said...

Love the new cover!