31 December 2013

fictional dialogue better than real dialogue

Wow! The submission deadline for the Fabulous February 2014 issue of Electric Spec is approaching: January 15, 2014. Yes, that is just over two weeks away. If you're submitting: good luck!

I had some folks disagree with me about my comment from last week that fictional dialogue should be better than real dialogue, so let's talk about it some more. (Pun intended. Doh!) Fiction is supposed to be realistic, right? Realistic, yes. Real, no.
Have you ever taken the time to listen to folks talking around you, say, in a crowded place? Take a moment and do so. You'll hear a plethora of "um", "like", "so", "well", "yeah", and the like. :) Try transcribing it. Very little actual information is imparted. Probably several people talk with similar jargon, dialect, and vocabulary.

Dialogue should impart information and create character. Re. info: This is done by having one character tell another character something he/she does not already know. Do not use any "As you know, Bob's". Re. building character: This is also done by having each character utilize unique voice/jargon/dialect/vocab. Ideally, each character's dialogue is so unique you wouldn't need a dialogue tag.

Speaking of dialogue tags… You don't need more than one dialogue tag per paragraph. (Of course, you would never have more than one speaker per paragraph.) You should only use forms of "said" and "asked" in tags--because they're invisible to the reader. You don't need to tag all dialogue if there are only two people in the scene. You do need to somehow tag all dialogue if there are more than two people in the scene--this can be accomplished by the uniqueness mentioned above. You can also use what some people call "beats," small physical actions. Facial expressions also work here. But be careful with punctuation! I'm not talking about using beats as dialogue tags.
For example: "Hubba, hubba," he grinned. <--is not correct.
"Hubba, hubba." He grinned. <--is fine.

Good luck with your dialogue and everything else in 2014!

18 December 2013

the last Notes from the Slush Pile of 2013

I hope everyone's enjoying the holiday season. Here at Electric Spec we are going through the slush pile as part of our holiday celebrations. ;) Here are some things to keep in mind if you want to sell your story:
  • Do have correct spelling and grammar.
  • Do grab the editor with an intriguing or dramatic opening and/or title.
    Consider including:
    • An odd juxtaposition of people and/or events, e.g. The Emergency Sock.
    • Some telling narrative. Sometimes the first line of an excellent story is the author telling the reader something, e.g. Dying is so inconvenient.
    • A unique voice. (For an example here, read something by Connie Willis.)
    • A unique world (this is spec fic, after all).
    • A problem or conflict on the first page.
  • Do write a story that makes sense. Have a friend to read your story and then ask them what happened. If they can't tell you: rewrite.
  • Do create well-rounded characters. All characters should have both good and bad qualities.
  • Do write good dialogue. Reading dialogue out loud can help identify where it's awkward. Keep in mind fictional dialogue should not be the same as real-life dialogue. -->it should be better.
  • Do have a resolution to your story. Something has to be different at the end of your story.
  • If you include violence, earn it. By this I mean the reader needs to care about a character to care about their death or him/her committing violence. Think about the opening of a movie: if the first scene is someone being killed do we care about the victim or the murderer? Probably not. Violence for violence's sake isn't interesting.
  • Your suggestion here.
I welcome further suggestions in the comments.
Happy holidays!

11 December 2013

Narnia's Secret Code

Like most folks I assumed C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia were an allegory of the Christian gospels. Scholar Michael Ward makes a very compelling case that Lewis' Narnia books instead evoke the influence of each of the seven medieval planets in his book Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis.

The seven medieval or classical planets were the Sun and Moon and the five non-earth planets of our solar system closest to the Earth: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Notice these form the seven days of the week: Sun-day, Moon-day, Saturn-day, and in Latin: 'Martis' (Mars, Tuesday), 'Mercurii' (Wednesday), 'Iovis' (Jupiter, Thursday) and 'Veneris' (Venus, Friday).

Each of these heavenly bodies was believed to have certain attributes, and Ward says that these attributes were de liberately used by Lewis to furnish elements of the stories of each book:

  • in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe the child protagonists become monarchs under sovereign Jove
  • in Prince Caspian:The Return to Narnia they harden under strong Mars
  • in The Vouage of the Dawn Treader they drink light under searching Sol
  • in The Silver Chair they learn obedience under subordinate Luna
  • in The Horse and His Boy they come to love poetry under eloquent Mercury
  • in The Magician's Nephew they gain life-giving fruit under fertile Venus
  • in The Last Battle they suffer and die under chilling Saturn
What do you think? Agree? Disagree?
I think I've got some rereading to do!

03 December 2013

what's your favorite?

By now I hope you've realized the new November issue of Electric Spec is out.

Eric Del Carlo brings us a story about a boy who flies in "At Wave's Ebb." In "A Page of Skulls," Tony Peak tells a dark tale of a dark and magnificently strange world. On the lighter side, Fredrick Obermeyer's "The IUD that Landed in Grandpa's Backyard" show us the humorous side of first contact. "Discarded" by Miranda Suri is an artistic urban fantasy with a dash of crime. And, finally, our debut author Steve Rodgers shows his stuff with an exciting backwoods cyber-thriller, "Cortex." For our special features, our spec-tacular movie critic Marty Mapes takes a look at "hard" science fiction movies making a comeback at the box office. Huzzah!

We also have a very interesting Editor's Corner entry from Editor/Author Betsy Dornbusch on "Gender Equality in Science Fiction and Fantasy Fandom and Industry." Huzzah, again!

What's your favorite? They're all so good, I can't decide. :)