“You must write (each story and novel) as if you are trying to convince someone not to commit suicide).” – Gary A. Braunbeck
This semester, I’m taking a class for the Writing Popular Fiction program that is based on monsters, and one of the books that is under my required reading is Writers Workshop of Horror. Now, I’ll be honest…I didn’t think I was going to find a better guide than On Writing Horror (edited by Mort Castle), but this book is really starting to win me over. So far, we have only been assigned to read one chapter, and I think I might have read eleven so far (?). Frankly, I’m really excited about how much I’m learning, and two chapters have really hit home for me so far: Gary A. Braunbeck’s article “Connecting the Dots,” and Tomas F. Monteleone’s piece “Using Dialogue to Tell Your Story.”
In Braunbeck’s article, I think what inspired me most was how he said he goes about writing, and how a lot of it was inspired from his acting career. In reference to starting the process, he writes “ I start with two simple questions, questions that are going to strike you as a bit silly on the surface, but questions that, for me, reveal so much more than what is simply seen: How much milk does he or she use when having a bowl of cereal? And: How does this character put on his- or her coat? (32)”
Now when I read that, I’ll admit, I thought it was a little strange, but when I kept reading to hear him out on it…I was really surprised but how much you can learn about your character from those simple questions. So, needless to say, I decided to experiment with one of the characters that I’m using in my novel’s draft, and I’m happy to say that I feel more confident about where my story is going now. You see, my character is caffeine addict, and drinks coffee like it is her job (since she has two of them to begin with). But rather than get a big coffee pot, she has the tiny one that only makes two cups at a time. Why, you ask? Because she can’t afford to waste anything…and living off of the salary of a waitress, and a part escort (to say it nicely) all while putter herself through school full-time, she just doesn’t have it in her to splurge if she doesn’t have to; ergo the fact that her bed is simply a tattered mattress on the floor, she has an old, emptied coffee can filled with spare change from cheap customers (see how the coffee came back), and her comforter is an afghan that she knitted herself a couple years back. I could go on, but you get the point. Amazing huh? I feel like I’m learning more and more about my character as I do this, and yeah, I probably won’t mention how of the stuff that I’m discovering, but at least I will be able to use that information later on when it comes to introduces dialogue…which frankly, is my not-so-favorite-part of writing.
So dialogue is my Achilles heel, and hey, I’m sure every writer has one…but mine is, let’s just say…really fragile, but thanks to Monteleone’s article, at least I have a pretty good idea of why I’m screwing up. For instance, since I’m bad at it, I tend to use it really sparingly… ok, ok….so it’s barely there! But I know, especially from personal experience, that when I see those long, drawn out paragraphs page, after page, after page…I’m really not to pumped to read the book, so how I can expect my readers to be? Monteleone talks about how dialogue is a cleverly disguised trick that allows the book to gain speed…which is so true when you think about it (I guess I just never did, until now).
So what else did I learn from this you ask… HA that I’m pretty much doing everything wrong, hence why I’m falling in love with this book so much! It’s helping me hone my skills and teaching me aspects of writing that I probably wouldn’t have learned until I start graduate school in a year or so. As an overview, here is what I grasped:
- 1. Sometimes I tend to write way more than I need to, and don’t give my readers the benefit of the doubt that they probably know what is going on. So in this case, having my character say nothing is really all that they would need.
- 2. I hate constantly using he said, or she said…so I normally throw in something like he screamed, or she yelled (get the drift?). Frankly, now that I look back on it, it’s just stupid, unless my characters are in a seriously heated argument.
- 3. Then, to continue on that, I love adding those silly little adverbs to cover up my dislike for the he said she said drama. So I’ll put he said mysteriously, or something like that. Point blank….I’m not supposed to do that. No wonder I always feel like I’m being lame when I’m writing dialogue, because I am, hahaha.
I would def. recommend this book to anyone that is focused on writing horror, because it has helped me out so much, and is continuing to do so with every chapter I read.