Monday, June 11, 2012

Whatcha talking about?


Congratulations to Stephanie, the winner of Carla's giveaway. Thank you to all who participated.

This has been on my mind and I thought today I would write a little about craft, in particular dialogue. For those with no interest in writing per se can skip to the bottom and read a little excerpt of Circle of Danger. And then answer the question for the day.  But for the curious, here we go.

Over the last several years, I’ve written articles for newsletters (100), posts for guest blogs, (30) for personal and writers group blog (1063) and even workshop programs (3). So I know I must’ve talked about everything you can think of when it comes to writing. One subject I find fascinating is dialogue in books. Being a talker—I never meet a stranger—that actually makes a lot of sense.

When I first started writing, I would have pages and pages of narrative and little dialogue. I still catch myself doing that. So often after I complete a book, I’ll go back and change some of the narrative to dialogue. It’s amazing how much flavor it adds.

Of course, the opposite can also happen, and one of the dangers of having too much dialogue is that the reader doesn’t want the characters explaining something that just happened. You’ve seen it done. Let’s say you read a scene where the heroine is out jogging and she sees a flash of metal in the ditch. She picks her way down the slope into the tall grass and pulls out a briefcase. The lock is open, and inside are nice little stacks of hundreds. Easily a hundred thousand dollars. Eureka! But wait! The day before, she’d heard on the news that a bank had been robbed for the same amount.

Okay. All of that happened while she’s alone. If the character is like me, she might talk to herself, but hopefully not a long conversation. Then we would have to worry about her sanity. Anyway, it’s narrative, but no dialogue. So if the same heroine jogs home and tells her brother what and how she found the briefcase, the reader will become bored. The best way to handle that is something like the following.

After hiding the briefcase in her bedroom, she hurried downstairs and blocked her brother’s view of the TV and his video game.
            “You’re not going to believe what I found!”
            “What? A sense of humor?” He leaned to the side and continued playing.
            She grabbed the controller and threw it on the couch. “Behave and I might share the reward with you.” Then she told him about finding the money.
            “We’re rich!” Her brother jumped up, fist punching the air in celebration.

See? The author should always give new information in the dialogue and not rehash the earlier scene.

Dialogue should never be general information like “Hi, how are you?” “Fine. And you?” Unless, the narrative gives information or shows action or both. So you could have the following.

            “Hi, how are you?” Fred shook the man’s hand, passing a note in the palm of his hand. The microphones could be anywhere in the hotel.
            “Fine. And you?” The man’s gaze darted over his shoulder and then the bullet hit. A strange numbness pulled him under.

See that would be okay.  

Another thing about dialogue is how it should always move the story along and show each character’s personality. Look at a little dialogue from my latest release, Circle of Danger. This is a conversation between Ryker, the commander of the mercenary organization, The Circle, and his second in command, Jack.
***
 “I have a lot on my mind. Tell me again what you’ve learned.”
“Not much. Liam’s in there now. We’re hoping the two women will be more forthcoming. At first, Ice wasn’t going to let us talk to the woman he hovered over, but we convinced him it was for his own good.”
“Where is he now?”
“In cell three.”
“Was that really necessary? You did tell him we only wanted info?”
 “Yeah. He wouldn’t listen. It took ten guys to bring him down and three of them are with Doc now. One of them will be out of commission for a few weeks. His wrist and three ribs are broken.”
“From what I’ve heard, Ice was being gentle.”
“I’d hate to see him being rough.”
“What about the other woman?”
“You’re not going to believe this. She’s Mikolas Savalas’s kid.”
“Damn, that’s all we need is trouble from him and his brood.”
“Actually, this should help us. We’ve saved his daughter. He’ll owe us.”
“As soon as we’ve finished questioning her, make arrangements to drop her off with Mikolas. Be sure he understands we’ll expect repayment at a later date.”
“She claims she’s not going back home.”
 “There’s no choice. Make sure you hand her over to her father, not one of his men. I don’t care if you have to tie her up and put a bow on her.”
***
Can you tell who is speaking? Hopefully you can. Ryker is the leader, and he’s comfortable with giving orders. Jack is informing Ryker of what happened, and how they can use it to their advantage.

Here’s the complete section including narrative along with a little extra for playing along with me. 
***
After flipping the blinds closed, Ryker pushed away from the window and turned toward the computer screen. “I have a lot on my mind. Tell me again what you’ve learned.”
“Not much. Liam’s in there now. We’re hoping the two women will be more forthcoming. At first, Ice wasn’t going to let us talk to the woman he hovered over, but we convinced him it was for his own good.”
“Where is he now?”
“In cell three.”
“Was that really necessary? You did tell him we only wanted info?”
Jack leaned his back against the office wall and crossed his arms. “Yeah. He wouldn’t listen. It took ten guys to bring him down and three of them are with Doc now. One of them will be out of commission for a few weeks. His wrist and three ribs are broken.”
Ryker grunted and nodded. “From what I’ve heard, Ice was being gentle.”
“I’d hate to see him being rough.”
“What about the other woman?”
“You’re not going to believe this. She’s Mikolas Savalas’s kid.”
“Damn, that’s all we need is trouble from him and his brood.” Ryker headed toward the door.
“Actually, this should help us. We’ve saved his daughter. He’ll owe us.”
Jack was right. Mikolas had connections all through the criminal community in the Southeast. Though Ryker didn’t have much to do with pickpockets and thieves, they always had information he could use. Information often was more valuable than gold.
“As soon as we’ve finished questioning her, make arrangements to drop her off with Mikolas. Be sure he understands we’ll expect repayment at a later date.”
“She claims she’s not going back home.”
Ryker glanced over to Jack as they walked down the stairway to the interrogation rooms. “There’s no choice. Make sure you hand her over to her father, not one of his men. I don’t care if you have to tie her up and put a bow on her.”
He opened the observation room’s door and stopped. Marie stood inside listening to Liam question Katerina Savalas. Instead of concentrating on what the young woman was saying, Ryker couldn’t take his gaze off Marie. She wore a simple green top and blue jeans. With her hair pulled back at the nape of her neck, she looked wholesome and beautiful and way too young to be involved with The Circle. Nothing on the exterior betrayed what her life had been like or what they had done hours ago.
Even reminding himself she was twenty-one, he still felt like a pervert as he wanted to shove her against the wall and sink into her. Would he ever have enough of her now that he knew what she felt like? That she tasted of sunshine and smelled like spring flowers?
Shouting and banging pulled his attention from Marie. He noticed Liam and Katerina looking at the door. Ice stood in the doorway of the interrogation room, his neon-blue hair in his face, his chest heaving, and a panicked look on his face.
“Where’s Mai?”
“She’s eating lunch.” Liam slowly rose to his feet. “Is she your girlfriend?”
Ice shook his head. “No. Imouto.”
“Ee—What?” Liam asked.
Ryker pressed the speaker button. “Liam, take Ice to his sister and check on his guards. They’ll probably need Doc.” He then turned to Jack, who had rushed in during all the shouting. “Don’t you have an interrogation to do? Don’t forget to take her back to her family. Make sure the old bastard knows he owes us. I’ll have Liam listen to the recordings and give me a report.”
“I haven’t forgotten.” Jack shot him a frown and left the room.
“What about Ice’s sister?” Marie asked. She shifted her weight and crossed her arms.
The circles beneath her eyes confirmed she needed more rest, but Ryker sensed she would resent any suggestions concerning her in a bed.
After Doc had examined her that morning, he told them what they’d already suspected. The drug was weakening but would continue to cause her to act “irrationally” for some time. How much longer was anyone’s guess. She needed the antidote. In the meanwhile, they were still working on something to help her body cope.
Damn, he needed answers on the Wizard’s whereabouts. Someone had to know where he set up shop.
“We’ve finished questioning her. Ice can take her home.” He watched as Jack sat across from the Savalas girl. She scooted back in the chair and wrinkled her nose as if she’d smelled rotten garbage.
“Were they shot up with the drug?” Marie’s question was filled with concern.
“No. From what they said, and after Doc’s examination, they hadn’t been injected or dosed with anything. Ice’s sister gave us a couple good leads though. But the other woman had a little more information, and we’re hoping to confirm what she said.” He nodded toward Katerina.
“Well, I need to see Charlie and now is as a good of a time as any. Let me know what you find out.” Marie stepped around him toward the door. Charlotte Sweet, called Charlie in the garage she managed for The Circle, was her only female friend.
Ryker grabbed her arm and breathed in deeply her light scent. No other woman smelled like her, like summer breezes. “You need some rest.”
“I’m okay. Charlie called, worried about me. It’ll do me some good to talk with her and relax.”
“You know how I feel about—”
“That’s your problem, not mine.” She pulled her arm away from him and strode out the door.

Okay. I have a fun off-the-wall question for you.  Take your favorite book and tell me the title and author and then the actor’s name that would be perfect as the lead male role?     

Of course, this is who I would want to play the lead in Circle of Danger. Tom Hardy of Warrior and This Is War fame.

Oh, I’m giving away an e-copy of Circle of Danger to a lucky commenter! 
***
Carla Swafford knows her personal life isn’t as exciting as her characters. She lives in Alabama and is married to her high school sweetheart. A third generation storyteller, she enjoys all kinds of romances and loves writing about the different paths taken to that beautiful happy ending. Circle of Desire and Circle of Danger are available now.

You can find Carla Swafford at

Also on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest


Giveaway ends 9pm EST June 12th. Please supply your email in the post. You may use spaces or full text for security. (ex. jsmith at gmail dot com) If you do not wish to supply your email, or have trouble posting, please email maureen@justromanticsuspense.com with a subject title of JRS GIVEAWAY to be entered in the current giveaway.

40 comments:

  1. Hello!! Anyone out there? I swear I took a bath...LOL!

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  2. I'm here! So many books, so many favorites ... so many actors to play the lead.

    Thinking (tick, tock)...

    Okay, I'll just go with leading men: Jensen Ackles, Hugh Jackman, Daniel Craig and Alex O'Loughlin. :-)

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  3. Thanks, Virgina! YAY! I would hug your neck if I could. Is this a 4 guys and girl book that you're giving me who will play the heroes? LOL! Go, girl!

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  4. Very nice post. Gerard Butler as Maddox in The Darkest Night by Gena Showalter.

    bn100candg(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  5. Oh, my, bn100. I will have to check out Maddox. Thanks!

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  6. Carla,

    Thanks for the dialogue examples. I always learn best through examples not exposition. ;) Let's see...to choose my favorite book is so difficult. How about the "Kate Daniels" series by Ilona Andrews? Its in my top five. The male lead is Curran and I think the perfect actor to play him would be, Simon Baker, if he bulked up.

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    1. OH! I like him in The Mentalist. I need to check Ilona Andrews's series. Thanks, Amanda.

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  7. Oh I truly loved and enjoyed the first book, Circle Of Desire... have a note by my desk that tells me not to forget the next book... Oh I really am looking forward to reading it...
    I am stumped about picking a fav book and actor for the lead...

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    1. Awww! Thanks, Colleen. You made my day. I have to say CIRCLE OF DANGER is hotter and just as action packed.

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  8. Hi

    Great post and interview. I am excited to read the first book Circle of Desire so I can read this one - it looks great.

    Recently I have noticed (yes yes) Channing Tatum - he could be in any of my MANY favorite books that feature wonderful alpha men. I change favorite books often as I have read so many good ones - most recently I read a book by Elaine Levine called The Edge of Courage and Channing would fit the role.

    Thanks for the chance
    Pam
    tpibrew@msn.com

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    1. Channing! A Cullman, Alabama boy. Oh, yeah. They grow them mighty fine there. :-) Thanks, Pam. I will certainly check out The Edge of Courage.

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  9. Fun post. I do like a balance of narrative and dialogue in the stories I read. I find I enjoy the dialogue driven books a lot, though, because there is more interaction between the hero and heroine which is what I love about a story. I like the books where the hero and heroine find themselves stuck together and have to get out of the crazy, suspense-filled situation by relying on each other.

    As for who I would want to see play a character from a book. I think I would love Hugh Jackman play Roarke from JD Robb's in Death series. That is who I envision when I read those.

    amy at remus dot net

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    1. Yeeeah, I can see Hugh playing him. I'm with you about keeping the hero and heroine together. If they're apart, the scene needs to be short as I get impatient fast.

      Thanks, Amy!

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  11. Ooh, great choice! My fave Tom Hardy role was in Wuthering Heights as the infamous Heathcliff.

    My choice would be Luanne Rice's LAST KISS, in which I would love to see Ian Somerhalder play Charlie.

    (forgot my email before)
    stephanie.a.mcdonnell@gmail.com

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    1. I have to find a copy of that movie. Tom as Heathcliff, yep, a good role for him.

      Ian!! Those eyes. *sigh* Love his eyes. He's so sexy. Good choice. I'll have to check out LAST KISS.

      Thanks, Stephanie.

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  12. It's so hard to decide. I love Hughes Jackman, Gerald Bulter, Daniel Craig, Jensen Ackles, and even Simon Baker. I really need to reread Circle of Desire and try to picture which of these would fit Collin Ryker's character.

    kmccandle(at)yahoo(dot)com

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    1. LOL! Thank you, Kai. You're so kind to pick CIRCLE OF DESIRE. *big smile* I had Hugh Jackman as Collin in my mind. Though I must say, Jensen would be a good Collin too.

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  13. Definitely Hugh Jackman as J.D. Robb's Roarke!

    jtcgc at yahoo dot com

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  14. Hey, Mary C. That would be nice. :-)

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  15. Thanks for a great post and giveaway! It's always fun to get the "behind the scenes" straight from the authors :)

    I've always pictured Roarke from JD Robb's In Death series as a mix of Pierce Brosnan and Dougray Scott.

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    1. Two actors I've always liked a lot. In CIRCLE OF DANGER and DECEPTION I have a character that shows up that is based on Pierce Brosnan (a little taller). :-)

      Thanks, erin.

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  16. In Shirley Jackson's "The House Next Door", Sean Bean as the architect.
    I like your information on dialogue. Thank you.
    Jan

    janet_kerr(at)msn.com

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Geez! Having problems (operator, not blog) - your answer is below! Thanks. :-)

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  17. Loved your post. I have a lot of dialoque in my stor and I needed this information. Thanks for sharing. I just finished reading Cindy Gerards book, Last man Standing and I can so see Hugh Jackman playing the lead. He is so nice to watch. :}
    Lynda

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    1. I agree with you on that. Now putting Last Man Standing on my list. Thank you, Lynda!

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  18. Sean. Love his smile (when he does). :-) Thanks, Janet.

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    1. Sorry, I keep forgetting to connect these replies. :-)

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  19. We have an email entry from Sandra. Good luck in the giveaway.

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  20. Great post! I have to add my pet peeve when it comes to reading dialogue: Name calling. Two people stranded in a cabin. No one else can be speaking but the two.

    "Josh, can you hand me the backpack?"
    "Sure, Heather. Do you think anyone will know we're missing up here?"
    "There's probably a search party on its way, Josh. Stop worrying."
    "I can't help but worry, Heather. There's a foot of snow on the roads."
    "These are mountain people, Josh. They know how to navigate through snow."


    GRRR!

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    1. Oh, me too! Authors need to stop and think, how often do you say another person's name, unless you're trying to get their attention or you're mad at them?

      :-) Thanks, Cheryl.

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  21. Oooh, stoked about finding another book (trilogy) to add to my epic TBR queue! I really should just quit my doctorate and read full-time instead :).

    I have to agree with casting Roarke from J.D. Robb's In Death series, but even through Hugh Jackman is generally the fan favourite, it's gotten to the point where he's too old. (Still love you, Hugh! :D). I'm going to go with an unusual bit of casting and say Matt Bomer (sexual orientation being completely irrelevant). Because, yum. And those eyes...

    stalkers00(at)yahoo(dot)com

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    1. I didn't know who Matt Bomer was until I pulled up Google Images of him. I would definitely agree with that casting of Roarke!

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    2. Matt's gorgeous for sure, Cris. He makes me think of a young Pierce Brosnan. Thank you!

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    3. Google comes in handy, doesn't it, Amy? I forget names, but once I see that face. Oh, I remember then. :-)

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  22. I often try to relate celebrities with my characters in books. It is even better if there is not a clear photo on the cover of both characters. Chris Hemsworth is at the top of my list lately.

    But as for the perfect fit, I love to picture Gerard Butler as Cian and Jeffery Dean Morgan as his brother Hoyt in Nora Roberts Circle Trilogy (Morrigan's Cross, Dance of the Gods, Valley of Silence). They are the PERFECT fit for those awesome characters.

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    1. Oh, I typed to fast...

      Thanks for the great blog. I often end up with too much narrative and not enough dialogue. I'm going to try just writing and then going back to fill in dialog. I often let myself get 'stuck' trying to figure it out all at once.

      Thanks!

      Heather E
      hregtvedt@aol.com

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    2. Jeffery Dean Morgan, ohhhh yeees. He's manly. That's one of many good things I can say about him. Thanks, Heather!

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