Tag Archives: work in progress

“Beats” and Attribution

It has been a while since I wrote about my writing. I put Naked Alliances in a drawer after my last edits following my beta reads. I wanted to give the MS time to breathe and come back and do a reread to get a fresh perspective on what else it might need.

One of my beta readers is a professional editor. He did a most thorough edit and made some invaluable suggestions on how to improve the manuscript. I have always had a handle on doing realistic dialogue well, but I have struggled with attribution tags and how to avoid them except in the most necessary of situations where more than one person is speaking. Unnecessary speaker attributions slow down your flow. Unless the speaker would be uncertain, giving no attributions makes for a faster exchange.

He suggested what he refers to as “beats” showing the speakers action at that moment. Eg. Rather than, “I think it’s time we left,” he concluded. Try, “I think it’s time we left.” His brow furrowed, his worry obvious.

There is a chapter where I felt the use of dialogue tags was necessary because there are four women talking and I did not want anyone to feel lost in the conversation. Here is a brief excerpt between two or three of the characters that demonstrates how the tags seriously slow down the read. I wanted it contemplative, yet needed something to indicate which of the four are engaged in conversation:

“So sad about Maria,” Patty said with a sigh.

“Not so sure what she saw in that politician,” Sabrina stated.

“I know what she saw and you do, too.”

“Well he’s hot for you now,” Sabrina reminded.

“He’s just a good time for me. I don’t plan to fall in love with him.”

“Maria sure did. Do you think he loved her, too?” asked Sabrina

“Hard to say. His relationship with her was politically motivated. But I don’t think Maria loved him either,” answered Patty.

“You don’t?”

“She lied to him,” Gail interjected. “She put on the act of devoted housewife and mother for his constituency. She partied with us on the sly every chance she got. I feel sorry for Tim and his loss. More than that, I feel sorry for him that she misled him so.”

 

Here is the exchange cleaned up. It starts with a couple of “beat” sentences and that’s all that is needed until another person joins the conversation and a “beat” is required.

“So sad about Maria.” Patty sighed.

“Not so sure what she saw in that politician.” Sabrina arched her overdone brows.

“I know what she saw and you do, too.”

“Well he’s hot for you now.”

“He’s just a good time for me. I don’t plan to fall in love with him.”

“Maria sure did. Do you think he loved her, too?”

“Hard to say. His relationship with her was politically motivated. But I don’t think Maria loved him either.”

“You don’t?”

“She lied to him.” Gail slammed the photo album closed and pushed it aside. “She put on the act of devoted housewife and mother for his constituency. She partied with us on the sly every chance she got. I feel sorry for Tim and his loss. More than that, I feel sorry for him that she misled him so.”

 

More examples of “beats” added to the MS:

“Jason Pauly, you don’t run,” Richard said while standing.

“Jason Pauly, you don’t run.” Richard was now on his feet.

 

“How long do you do it? A year, five, ten?” Sabrina asked.

“How long do you do it? A year, five, ten?” Sabrina’s voice was venomous.

 

“A lot of folk think bikers are bonkers,” Brandi said.

“A lot of folk think bikers are bonkers.” Brandi laughed and leaned in closer.

 

While best to have no attribution tags, when required, “beat” sentences show an action identifying the speaker when there are more than two and carry the story forward with momentum.

This is where I am today with my progress on Naked Alliances. I have cleaned up most of the attribution tags. I have a few places where I am tightening up the manuscript and minimizing exposition. Then, it’s done.

I would be out on the boat today if the weather was better, but it’s overcast and windy. Not good for boating.

What are you up to this weekend?

Any time for reading, outlining, writing, editing?

Sunday Synopsis: WIP

I have thrown myself well into this WIP this week and I don’t plan on doing anything else next week beyond tossing a few chemicals in the pool and maybe working a couple of days doing wellness clinics, so I don’t think a bullet list of my progress is necessary to explain where I am.

There is a whole discipline dedicated to the study of relationships. It is called Sociology.

Psychology focuses on the individual and Sociology focuses on how these individuals relate to one another, whether independently or in groups.

My apologies in advance to all of you romance genre writers, I admire you (more and more everyday) but I really don’t like reading romance novels. I know the romance genre is a HOT TOPIC, but most of them bore me. I will read them if there is meat to the story beyond the relationship…a political conflict, a societal issue, a history to be discovered. I want some substance in my reading that speaks to a higher intellect. I don’t mean to sound snooty, but I can’t deny that I prefer literary or historical fiction over genre fiction.

I actually enjoy high minded ideals dissecting the human condition or creating timeless portraits of complex and interesting characters — in other words, I’m talking about going out and committing “literature,” whatever that might be.

The good stuff almost always works, first and foremost, viscerally. We are drawn into it because something there speaks to our deeper selves, gets inside us and takes hold.

Fiction always has to sneak past the barriers our intellects erect, because (by virtue of the label “fiction”) we know that the stories we’re being told are fabrications. We call this feat of mental gymnastics “willing suspension of disbelief,” and good writers tend to help us accomplish it in two ways: by making their fiction as plausible as possible, and even more significantly, by blazing through the brain and going for the gut.

But I am not normal.

My relationships have not been normal.

After a bizarre childhood, I was in therapy with a sociologist from 1979 to 1996 coming to terms with being married to a gay man who had a domineering mother. I have no qualms about that relationship, I came out of it a whole lot better off than I was when I went into it. But it was different.

I am writing a novel about two sisters who are not normal.

They are coming of age, though, in a society that has emphasis on traditional values, and at least giving the sense of an image of normalcy.

I have managed, I think, to show the relationships of the sisters to each other, their parents and authority figures, their community, but now they have reached the point of developing intimacy with the opposite sex.

So far, going between the two points of view in a fused third person perspective has worked quite well, but it seems to be seriously slowing things down at this point. I am now boring myself with the mundane and somewhat tedious task of developing these romantic relationships.

I am recalling the words in a very critical editorial review of my last novel concerning Sybil and Nathan: That I, “Rushed plot development,” through their relationship. (Which was brief, and not the gist of the story line.)

The reader did not feel as if I devoted enough time and effort into developing a meaningful relationship between the two before they were intimately involved, and then terminated their relations too abruptly. God forbid casual sex occur a few times between two consenting adults in their twenties out of curiosity.

There was a reason for that in RC&R, because Sybil was Bohemian, a free spirit, independent minded, and non-traditional. Part of what was to make that clear was how she reacted in relationships. It was 1954, and her behavior in that community was not supposed to be what one would consider acceptable or correct.

Again, we are in the late 1950’s.

Now I have these two sisters. One is involving herself in what would be considered an acceptable relationship, albeit a bit earlier that her elders had hoped.

The other is involving herself in a relationship that is clearly inappropriate. It is part of what will define her as abnormal by those standards that were in place in her community.

My dilemma, you ask?

I am boring myself into tears with the tedious task of painstaking plot development that I don’t find pleasant reading or writing.

I don’t like romance novels.

They are in relationships.

There is—must be—romance.

I want the walls to come crashing down!

I want to get on with the story!

Anyway. That’s where I am.

Ghostwriters?

I hope you had a good week and have a good week in front of you.

Flowers from sky to earth just because it is springtime and they are pretty.
Flowers from sky to earth just because it is springtime and they are pretty.