clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Friday, October 5, 2012

White Room

I read a piece from a friend about five years ago before I relocated. We traded bits once in a while and he had a great story going. He was on his third re-write after taking his second major overhaul to a critique group he'd been invited to join.

After his re-write he asked me to give it the once-over because his group had a "one and done" policy. This fellow was a bit of a serial "can you?" fellow but in a really nice way. He went out of his way to repay the favor. I liked that.

Anyway, I read his third. His first was assembled from various attempts and bits so by the time he got to the  third it was really polished and nice. It was a hard scifi bit. I liked lots about it except the dialogue.

He had an extended bit that was critical to the story. However, it took place when two of the characters were doing nothing. It was all dialogue: just tags.

Now, I've recently read this sort of thing from another writer and that dialogue worked great even though the action was very subtle and nearly non-existent. The difference? My first buddy's scifi bit had early action as a hook and late action as a resolution. This section of dialogue was not only a bad pacing for the story, it was devoid of action and could have taken place in a Denny's just as well as on an assault boat diving towards the moon's surface.

I hate to offer any criticism that is less than neutral. I'm not an editor and I don't want anyone trying to write to my screwy sense of literature. I like Russian novels and Hemingway. Nobody needs more of that.

So, I said blah blah that it had a great action hook and I felt compelled to read all the way through it. I let it go at that. He knew something was up but that's where we left it.

I saw it in print and heard it's got some sort of film deal now. Awesome.

The dialogue section had been completely redone and incorporated into the set-up for the resolution action bit. It was no longer two guys in a white room.

I love dialogue. I love natural speech when it flows - both reading and writing.

I hate dialogue that has no contextual action. It reminds me of spending time in a car with my ex-wife. It was fine when it happened but I wouldn't want to read it in print.

I still am really terrible at feedback. I'm not going to give less than neutral, though. I'll let an editor do that. Or I'll let the writer themselves do it after icing the piece for a while.

Never tell a spouse she looks like she gained weight. Never tell a fellow writer you thought something was in need of real correction. Friends and spouses are too hard to acquire.

Don't trust me to be honest. I write fiction. I lie.



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