Sunday, January 22, 2017

Never Break These Rules (Okay, They're Guidelines)

This past week in our writers' group, Kristen (shameless plug for her writing and blog here) talked about some suggestions for dialog.  This list of 10 fantastic suggestions comes from The Dramatic Writer's Companion (Page 191).

1. Only one idea can come out.
2. Save the best for last.
3. Balance everyday language and elevated language.
4. Stay true to the world and the story.
5. Stay true to the emotional landscape of the scene.
6. Use the rule of threes for important details.
7. Unleash verb power.
8. Avoid repetition.
9. Trim the fat.
10. Take out words that only take up space.

Of course, this is a truncated list with fantastic explanations in the book.  Check it out for more details and explanation.

I'm not going to lie.  This brought up some of the foundational rules that have formed my style and ideas as a writer.

One of the simplest and most effect ones to tighten writing is this:

Never start a sentence with "There" or "It" when the words are meaningless placeholders.

Take for example: "There was a plate on the table."  Turning this sentence around to state, "A plate was on the table," is a good start.  Of course, "A broken plate waited on the table, glue or garbage would hide the damage that they had done" is an even better sentence.

One more example: "It was a dark and stormy night" is about as cliche as sentences can come.  "The storm waited for something, but whatever the tense humidity built towards, the wind already blew in a powerful change of barometric pressure."

Simple, right?

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