Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Day 206 of the 365 Days of Blogging

The author, Dane F. Baylis


So let's spend a bit of time with Ann Buxie, another of the ASKEW POETRY JOURNAL contributors. As I said yesterday, Ann's words are a real pleasure to hear or read and this selection is proof of that assertion.
Ann Buxie
Photo by D.F. Baylis
I'm Just Going to Have Fun.Is this some kind of streak? I've never had this much fun. Takes some getting used to. a little guilt perhaps it can't last you don't deserve it this too shall pass. But listen. What if bliss is innate, doubled into our soul, our DNA? By now, life has chewed me and juiced me, enough to prove my goodness. I'm tossing the locks, keeping the doors open, letting the holy blow through, not for my sake, but ours. Happy dissolves ugly, like alka seltzer in water, fizz fizz, 'cuz ugly isn't real, isn't true, can't endure. I rest my case.
                                                                                     the emperor is happy
                                                                                            the elephant is loose
                                                        tell everyone.



Dialogue is such a powerful tool. It is the interplay between characters that informs you who they are, what they are up to, and what is driving them - in a way that just describing it never could. Take a moment and consider two examples:
First Example.
     John and Vinny were working their way through the building. There had been a noise a moment before and the two of them were worried. Who knew they were in here? Nobody they knew. So who had made the noise? It had sounded like the creak of floorboards above them and somewhere behind in the dark. Maybe breaking in here wasn't such a great idea.

Second Example.

"What was that?"
"That noise?"
"I didn't hear nothing, Vinny."
"You didn't hear that?"
"It's an old building. Old buildings make noises."
"I'm telling you, John, that sounded like footsteps."
"Will you hold that damned flashlight steady? I can't get this lock to tumble."
"I knew I shouldn't have drank those beers. Man, I gotta whiz!"
"That's just your nerves. Will you relax! You're worse than my old lady."
"Dammit! There it is again. I thought you said nobody was in here at night?"
"There's not supposed to be." John drew a pistol out of his belt. "If there is...Well, it's too late to back out now."
Of these two approaches, which one conveys more of the emotion and power of the story? Which one moves the story along, driving the anticipation of the next moment? Which would be more likely to make you want to read further? Exposition is fine to describe surroundings. It might even be used to give us the physical qualities of characters and settings. If back story is needed, exposition can be useful.
The first example is pure exposition. It gives us the who, what, where, when in a very reporter-like way, which is important. But it's dry and tells us nothing of the characters in the environment of the story.
The second example lets the characters be themselves. It gives us insight into their relationship. It tells us things about the individuals and their differences. You can see John's in charge. Vinny sounds like a reluctant accomplice. The two are involved in what appears to be a criminal enterprise and John is a dangerous man to corner.
The whole thing took less than five minutes to contrive. But the second example is something that has real potential for an opening scene, while the first is the type of opening that would get a book opened, scanned, and set back on the shelf. It's the hook that gets you into a reader's hands and mind. It's the characters that gives your audience someone to relate to. Whether they like them or not, they become part of the scene by being allowed that fly on the wall perspective and personal interaction.
If you do the work of really developing your characters, they will begin to speak to you. If you can see them in your mind then you can imagine their nature, what makes them who they are. Who's smart, who's not. Who's the leader? Who has the most to lose, who the least? What are the faults and strengths of each? What is the fatal flaw of any one of them?
Two approaches in five minutes and I already know which I'll save for possible future use. The voices of these characters are composites that live in my mind. Pieces of overheard conversations, barroom banter, styles of dress, carriage, and appearance. Look and listen to the Magnum Opus being played around you all day everyday and you'll hear the voices in your head.
Helpful hints from your Uncle Dane.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------, love, write.
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Dane F. Baylis

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