Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Revision.2 Narrative

Back with the laundry list of questions one asks self/ms of recently completed work, the goal being to have the most dramatic, articulate work possible, related in the optimal voice.

7. Is the dialogue too conversational and chatty? The intent in rendering dialogue is to have the exchanges sound like plausible exchanges between individuals, remembering as well that dialogue prods, pokes, nudges story forward while simultaneously extending the personality of the speaker, possibly even revealing things the speaker did not intend to reveal.

8. Is the dialogue too literal, falling beyond mere literalness into reader feeder. "As you know, Fred, I have not been feeling myself lately, overcome as I am by the loss of my job, the empty-nest syndrome as my three wonderful children, Manny, Moe, and Jack, have left home to pursue their own lives, and my ongoing struggle with my addiction to gambling."

9. Does the dialogue drive the story forward? "You're either with us or you're against us?" "Yo, Macbeth; you gonna whack King Malcolm or what?"

10. Does the dialogue adequately and accurately reflect:
a--the attitude of the characters
b--the gap between what they say and what they feel
c--their biases or preferences
d--their goals
e--their familiarity, degree of intimacy
f--the social, racial, sexual, and professional coding inherent in their character
g--their inner conflicts?

11. How about attribution? Does the reader know who's talking, how the talking is being done (she said in a sing-songy chirp)?

12. Does the reader have any clue how what one character says is being received by other characters?

13. Does the dialogue unnecessarily employ adverbial support, he asked nervously?

14. Will the dialogue actually profit from adverbial support? (NB: In spite of heavy lobbying from the National Adverb Association for unrestricted use of adverbs, some adverb control is worthwhile, particularly occasionally when they are tacked on to one another.)

15. Does the dialogue feature talking heads, individuals the reader does not know, having long conversations?

A natural focus after dialogue is narrative, which is all non-dialogue dramatic momentum, thus the framework of the story, evoking the personality of the point of view carrying the narrative. (Post-it Note: Unless the narrative structure comes from the author, is should reflect being related by a designated character.)

16. Is the narrative stylistically and psychologically consistent with the point of view?

17. Does it become heavy-handed and obtrusive?

18. Does it lapse into being overly descriptive?

19. Are there places where it becomes redundant?

20. Does it make appropriate summary of complex events (best exemplified in mystery fiction when a detective sums up the alibi/suspect scorecard)?

21. Does is artfully embed information?

22. Does the narrative produce the mainstays of drama, suspense or tension?

Having thoroughly debriefed the manuscript in terms of what in the story is said and what is told, we may proceed to usher into the revision interrogation the individuals who do the talking and telling--the characters.


Matt said...

I find a lot of #8 in (bad) TV, where - even if I've never seen a single episode - all the dialogue at the beginning of a scene is prefaced with a verbal summary so that only the deaf-and-unable-to-read-lips would be unable to understand what happened earlier.

Marta said...

I'm trying to listen to the characters. Trying.