Adventures in NaNo-land – All Talk no Action?

November 10, 2012 at 11:15 pm (fantasy, writing) (, , , , , , )

I’m not sure how many other writers run into this problem, but the slowest chapters for me are the ones with the most dialogue. If I’m writing a chapter full of action scenes, the chapter seems to just fly by, but if a character, or characters, is recounting a story, explaining a situation, having an argument or a heart-to-heart talk, it is a far more laborious process for me. This might explain why I far prefer action movies to chick-flicks. Character exploration through talk only holds so much magic for me.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy dialogue – it’s a fabulous opportunity to really move your reader and get them invested in your characters – but I always wonder if I’m getting it just right, and I have this niggling critic in the back of my head that loves to remind me that too much dialogue can really bog down your story. I’m writing a novel after all, not a script or play.

To be honest with you, I don’t think that having what I like to refer to as a “talkie” chapter is necessarily a bad thing. For pacing purposes, it can be important. It gives the reader a breather if your story is high action (and there’s plenty of action in chapter 5), it can allow for easier transition from intro to the body of the story, from body to climax or from climax to conclusion, if you are using standard story structure, and it permits more in-depth character exploration. It can provide an explanation of the foundation of the plot and of character motivation. It can also expose the nature of character relationships.

Here’s a sample of my latest chapter, called “Confession” (first draft):

Jaská stopped looking rueful, her demeanor changing as soon as Dáidu mentioned Osku in a less than positive light. Oaván could tell from the curl to her lip and the furrow to her brow that his brother was now treading in unhealthy territory. Nobody could speak poorly of Osku without facing her wrath, not even her own son.

“Don’t you dare ever suggest your father did not act as a proper noaidi. He was always an honourable man and if he did anything differently when he first brought me back to Anár, it was only because he was just respecting Laib Olmai’s wishes – the same as when Oaván here broke my rule and intruded upon my room. He was just doing as he had been instructed when you and he visited the sieidi. I won’t fault him for that.”

Dáidu gave his brother a cold stare.

“You didn’t say anything to me about hearing something at the sieidi,” he said. “That makes a convenient excuse for bad behaviour now, doesn’t it?”

Oaván wasn’t about to let Dáidu cow him. He recognized that his mother’s revelation had altered their relationship, one where he had always been the problem and Dáidu somehow the solution. Now it turned out that was only because they hadn’t understood what made them different, that Oaván offered just as much value as Dáidu but it happened to be a type of worth that Anár chose to reject. Suddenly, they were on much more equal footing.

“The words weren’t intended for you, so I didn’t share them,” Oaván told him. “I don’t care if you believe me. Mother does, and since it was her rule I broke that’s all that matters to me here. She’s the one who asked me to try to reach Laib Olmai the way that I do. I don’t use the prayers. I have my own way.”

“You have your own way…you and Mother are comfortable with all this, aren’t you? If you could don the skin of a bear and go wandering off in the woods like an animal, you would,” Dáidu argued. “But I’m not like that – – – I’m not like you. I’m like Father; I belong in Anár. You two being here has poisoned them against me. It turned the woman I loved against me. Rana looks at me and she sees the beast Father brought back from the wilds…” he pointed to his mother. “…Or the animal in the skin of a man that she birthed.” He gestured towards Oaván. “I’ll never be respected on my own merit here, thanks to you. Whenever they look at me, they’ll see you.” He took a step towards the tent flap. “At least you could have warned me, before I gave my heart over to Rana. I could have been prepared for her to reject me. I would have known better than to invest any emotion in anyone from Anár.”

With that, he stormed out of the tent, leaving a dejected Jaská and a startled Oaván watching after him.

More tomorrow J

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