A Tip that Actually Works

2016-01-29 09.12.24“It’s sure to change your life.”

“You’ll get amazing results.”

“Your friends will be impressed (or jealous. Or whatever).”

We’ve all heard the amazing claims of marketers, trying to convince us that if we just part with a little of our money, they can help us to solve a nagging problem.

Too often, their claims don’t really stand up. We get some results. Maybe not as quickly as they promised, or as easily. And sometimes we end up with nothing.

Last week I wrote about the free NaNo webinar on how to edit a novel. I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting a lot.

Wow, was I pleasantly surprised.

And then this week, I actually tried one of the tips.

I was slogging along, trying to write dialogue that wouldn’t put my readers to sleep. So I followed the advice from the webinar.

I went to by bookshelf and grabbed a random novel. It happened to be Anna Karenina. I opened it to a random page (sorry, I don’t remember which one) and looked for the first line of dialogue I could spot.

“He’s begun picking at himself.”

This was in reference to a character who was dying. So how to work that into my scene of two characters wondering if they had been betrayed, and the point of view character wondering if the person he was talking to could be trusted?

It didn’t take long. At a point when he wanted to deflect the conversation, I had his attention wander to a soldier standing several yards away.

“He’s begun picking at himself.”

But in my character’s mouth, he meant that he was afraid the soldier had picked up some kind of lice. The perfect way to distract his companion’s attention while he decided just how much to tell her about what he knew.

A little later, feeling the need to liven things up, I returned to my bookshelf. Lord Peter Wimsey (or rather, Dorothy Sayers) provided the line:

“I’ll be a good little boy and go away.”

With a little tweaking, just the thing for my female character to say. This added a little playfulness to an otherwise tense scene.

I’m loving this technique. Instead of predictable conversations, I’ve found a way to get my characters talking more like real people. We don’t always answer each other directly or tell the entire truth. We have a way of not sticking with the subject.

So I’m ready. When I get down to writing for the day, I’ve got John Grisham’s The Associate at hand. Who knows what inspiration I’ll find there?

And to think a free webinar gave me one of the best editing tips I’ve run across. And it came to me with no hype, no promises.

Thanks, NaNoWriMo!

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