|This is Amy with me in NYC this spring -- we had just refrained |
from buying ridiculously expensive shoes :)
I am ridiculously happy to have Amy Fellner Dominy on my blog today, not only because she's super smart and talented (and has great hair), but because she's one of my best writer friends, and one of the few writer pals I turn to for help with revisions when I need it. Some of you who showed up for for our Teachers Write! Progress Pool Party had the pleasure to meet her for a bit.
Amy's the author of the debut tween novel, OyMG ("Jewish girl. Christian Camp. Holy Moly")
(trust me: it's omg-wonderful! You must read it!)
and the soon-to-be-released (9/18 - and available for pre- order) Audition & Subtraction
("All's fair in Love, War and Band Auditions").
From Publisher's Weekly: "Dominy presents a believably conflicted protagonist with a narrative voice to match; musicians will appreciate the many details Dominy works into the story."
And, from Kirus: "Dominy's characters and situations -- shown through Tatum's authentic voice -- ring wholly true."
Notice the kudos Amy gets for authenticity and narrative voice?
Here's why: Amy is an expert storyteller, and moreso, an expert dialoguer (I'm coining that word if it's not real).
So, since we have her here, I convinced her to talk about talk.
And, if you share in the comments today --RULES HERE -- feel free to also post an excerpt with dialogue, because today's Friday Feedback is all talk!
When you're done singing, here's Amy!
Dialogue Tips from a Playwright-Turned-Novelist
I love writing dialogue. If I could write an entire novel of only dialogue, I would. Oh wait—that’s kind of what I did as a playwright. J As a result, I got pretty comfortable with writing dialogue and I learned a few tricks that really helped me when I began writing novels. I’m going to share two of them with you today and hope they’ll help you as well.
I know you’ve already covered the idea of simplifying tags**, so I won’t go into that. But also think about deleting as many of them as you can altogether. Conversation is meant to flow—it’s a back and forth exchange. And if you keep interrupting to tell us “he said/she said” then you’re disrupting that flow. When I write a scene of dialogue, my first draft has NO tags. I just hear the voices in my head and write down what they’re saying and how they’re responding as if the conversation were happening on a stage. Give it a try. Once you’ve got the dialogue down, you can go back in and add tags—because yes, they’re needed. But not as many as you may think. In general, less is more.
Use Action Tags to Replace “he said/she said.”
It’s called “stage business” in the theater—something for the actors to do. If you’ve ever acted yourself, maybe you’ve felt how uncomfortable it is when you’re on stage and you have nothing to do with your hands. I HATED that feeling. So now, I try and spare my characters that awkwardness by giving them something to do. And, in turn, that creates “action tags.” Instead of “he said/she said” the reader knows who is speaking by what they’re doing with their hands.
Here’s an example from a scene in my upcoming book AUDITION & SUBTRACTION. In this scene, Tatum (fourteen-year-old protagonist) is talking to her Mom. While they talk, Tatum is helping her mom make packets for the classroom. Count how many times I use a dialogue tag of “he said/she said” (or anything else.) Did you feel confused about who was speaking? J
I invite you to post a bit of dialogue from your own work. I’ll leave it to Gae to do her amazing critical analysis while I’ll comment on your tags. Thanks!! And best wishes on your writing.
Mom handed me another packet. "You and Lori did a duet last year, and you pulled it off. You'll do the same this year."
"Nothing’s the same this year,” I said.
A pair of green-yellow eyes popped into my head. I shoved the packet in the stapler so hard,it double stapled.
Mom’s eyebrows rose an inch. When her eyes weren’t all red, puffy and tired, they were pretty—dark brown and shaped like half moons.
“It’s just the new guy. Michael Malone.”
“The one who sits next to you?”
I leaned on the counter, watching Mom stack the pages, but not really seeing anything but Michael. “He doesn’t say anything during practice but I can tell he’s listening, waiting for me to mess up. So he can say he’s better.”
“No,” I said. Then I shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe. He never squeaks, not even on the high notes.”
“You don’t squeak either.”
“Yeah, I do—when I get nervous. And I can’t help getting nervous with him sitting next to me.”
“Then ignore him.”
“It’s not that easy.” I flicked a nail through the corner of a packet, fanning the pages like a deck of cards. “He’s always there. If he’s not staring at me, he’s staring at Lori.”
“He’s got these beady eyes. You don’t notice it at first, but they’re too close together, like a gorilla or something.”
“A beady-eyed gorilla?” She handed me another packet.
I nodded as I fed it to the stapler. “And his knees are bony and he never ties his shoes. The laces are always trailing in the dirt and I mean, who knows what germs he’s dragging around with him? Plus, he never swabs out his clarinet.”
- Amy (& gae)