Today is Day 21 of the National Novel Writing Month for 2013. I should have written 35,007 words of my latest novel. Oooops, the counter says I only have 30,555 written. At this rate, it will take me until December 5, 2013.
So, what’s gone wrong? First, I have had far too many “other” projects to complete, start, or otherwise spend time on. My novel got shoved to a back burner. However, one of the other projects has involved reading what some other novelists are writing. And, I have been studying Characters, Emotions, and Viewpoint, by Nancy Kress.
First, the other author’s books. In one recent read, the author continuously embedded the conversation/dialog into the action. This compaction of action and dialog created one really long paragraph after another. Eventually, it became difficult to see what was happening. I was compelled to re-read several paragraphs to re-establish my thought process.
Conclusion: my format of dialog followed by a new paragraph for the action seems to allow the reader to take a breath between activities.
In the next read, the author did not even stoop to using quote marks for the dialog. Instead of: “I don’t think so,” said John, the author used: I don’t think so, said John. I got to page five, and deleted the book from my Kindle. It was just too much work to continue.
I have tried a few times to embed the dialog in the action. The following scene was written yesterday. I hope it works. It’s my first attempt to embed dialog.
He looked at the wide eyes of Gracie, whispered “Hit the floor,” and then watched her roll off the bed with her Glock in her right hand.
Note: If you want to see why Gracie had to roll off the bed, you can do a review after the book is finished.
Reading Nancy Kress’s book has been good and bad. Bad because I want to go back into five books and re-write every one of them, but good because I now see some of the mistakes I have been making in my novels.
First rule: the reader can’t become a fan of your writing until he or she becomes a friend of your characters. The reader must learn to love your hero as much as you do, and hate your villain even more than you do. If the reader is unable to develop a relationship with the character, he or she will never develop a relationship with the author, and will never stay up all hours of the night, reading your latest novel.
For example, what is your hero or heroine really like? And is she or he good at what he or she does? In my latest novel, I have tried to bring the characters to life. Here’s something I wrote yesterday:
Grant walked to a chair near the table, sat down, and looked at Dan. “Do you think they have a chance at getting my fake family back?”
“I think they do. I did some research on the Pendergast Brothers. The oldest brother, AP, or Andrew Parker, runs a multi-billion dollar enterprise called Pendergast Holdings. It has billions in land holdings and more millions in electronics manufacturing. AP is the Chief Operations Officer. He has billions at his fingertips.
“The second brother is John. He developed some computer programs used by banks, governments, or anyone needing computer security. There was a banking crisis several years ago that he solved. John is now the district commander of the Pendergast District of the Idaho State Police. He is also the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer.
“O2 is the third brother. He joined the SEALs straight out of high school. He ran the SEAL team stationed at Naha Naval Station on Okinawa until he retired. When he retired, he joined the Washington State Patrol.
“There is a younger half-brother, Fabian, same father, different mother. He’s the precinct commander of Sanctuary Precinct of the ISP. Finally, there’s a younger sister, Mattie. She’s the Chief Financial Officer of Pendergast Holdings and is in control of the real estate department.”
Dan paused to retrieve several cans of Dr. Pepper from the refrigerator. After he placed them on the table, he returned to his chair next to Grant.
“Ryce Dalton is the director of the Joint Border Task Force. He’s responsible for keeping government secrets belonging to the U.S. on this side of the border. He was involved in the recovery of three laptops stolen from the Pentagon a couple years ago. He and O2 tracked the laptops through seventeen miles of mountains in Glacier National Park and got into several firefights with the bad guys.
“Everything I have found suggests these guys are good. Ryce spent several years in the Army Rangers. He got hurt in a bad jump. O2 is a qualified sniper, as is Ryce, but the better sniper is Ramona. She once tagged an insurgent in Afghanistan at almost a mile and an half.
“Ryce and O2 are two of the best.”
After he finished the can in his hand, Dan looked at Grant. “If anyone can get your family back, I would put my money on Frick and Frack.”
I have introduced several characters in the previous 30,000 words, but this is the first time I gave them any identities. Yes, there is still a long way to go in the novel, and I am sure I will discover additional things to change, but I think I have created something that my readers will like. I like the story, so far.