Monday, July 31, 2006

The Blank Page - How Inner POV can contradict Dialogue

Remember we talked a little about how a woman tends to think about things and read between the lines more than a man? Yes, c’mon, you know we *all* do it!

Well, add some of that inner POV to your dialogue and you can create conflict with very little effort… What you need to know before you use this method, is whether or not your heroine is the kind of gal that would do that… Which brings us back to knowing your characters before you even start…

I can’t stress how important this is. Because the whole story hinges around these two people and who they are; their emotional issues, what has happened in their lives to shape them, and a hundred other small things will all add together to make up their personalities. And just like making a new friend or learning to care about someone in real life, it’s the personality that can make all the difference – looking great is one thing but in a book we can’t *look* at them, not beyond what’s on the cover – it’s the personality that will make us give a damn what happens to these people!!!

And if we give a damn then we’re gonna wanna know what happens to them, aren’t we? Which adds to that elusive page-turning quality…

So, let’s say our heroine is a guarded type, holding back a part of herself and cautious… she doesn’t want to give to much away, and she isn’t getting too much information from the hero… what’s she gonna do? She’s gonna think things through and quite often make assumptions or try reading between the lines, cos she really has no other choice… Being honest and saying aloud what she thinks or feels may take half the book – and is a massive part of her EMOTIONAL JOURNEY… so let’s see how that inner POV may contradict what the dialogue is saying to us…

Again, we’re going to use Project: Parenthood and we’re starting with the dialogue alone and using our checklist from before to ask – does it make sense (even when spoke aloud) – Does it flow like a normal conversation – Has it let us know something about the characters therefore moving the story forwards???

“So. No kids of your own then?”
“No. No kids of my own. I’m too busy with my career.”
“Not for as long as you have these three, you’re not.”
“No, the busy part is still there. This wasn’t a booked visit.”
“How are you going to manage then? Will your husband help?”
“I’m too busy with my career for a husband.”
“You must be doing great in work, then.”
“As a matter of fact I am. Thanks.”
“Well, good for you.”
“I suppose you’re moving a nice wee wife and twelve kids in across the road, then?”
“Nope, just me.”

So, have you done the checklist? Did the dialogue on its own do what it had to do?

With this passage of dialogue we could then go several directions when we add in our next layers. Remember a ‘layer’ is things like POV, outside action, movement, physical reaction, scents, sounds… layers…. So when we add some layers to this scene we could make it a normal, polite, pass the time kind of conversation, couldn’t we? But is that going to add to the conflict in some way? Is it going to give us insight into our characters thoughts and feelings so that we understand their personalities better and can therefore understand why they do the things they do?? Nope. Nice and polite, unless layered with deep POV that tells us it’s a farce, really isn’t going to encourage us to keep turning a page…

On the flipside of that we could add POV that will suggest at severe paranoia on both sides, with them both reading something into every single line… Well, we could if we wanted them to come across as psychos…. But these are supposed to be ordinary human beings with their own set of understandable problems and a reasonable amount of emotional baggage. (For these lines anyway) Like everyone else the same age in real life… And really, do we want the reader to think they need therapy and throw the book down in disgust???

Dunno about you, but I’d prefer it if that didn’t happen…

So, what we need to do, is keep enough POV and doubt and conflict and emotion on each and every page for us to understand our characters and want to know what happens to them next… We want to will them to a HAPPY EVER AFTER

Dialogue is the backbone for this scene. With added layers of movement and POV from the heroine you get this….

“So.” His voice sounded from her knee height, “No kids of your own then?”
“No. No kids of my own.” For some completely unknown reason she felt she had to justify that. “I’m too busy with my career.”
“Not for as long as you have these three, you’re not.”
Well, thank you, Brendan, for stating the obvious. She scowled at his back as he finished jacking up the car and reached for the wrench. “No, the busy part is still there. This wasn’t a booked visit.”
His voice came out with a slight grunt as he worked on the first wheelnut. “How are you going to manage then? Will your husband help?”
Subtle one.
“I’m too busy with my career for a husband.”
“You must be doing great in work, then.”

“As a matter of fact I am. Thanks.” Her scowl promoted itself to a frown.
He nodded as he freed the last nut and wrenched the tyre off. “Well, good for you.”
If she’d been a dog she’d have growled at him. In the space of a few sentences he’d made her feel as if the years since she’d parted company with him had been achievement-free. Just because his goals were different from hers, it didn’t mean hers were any less fulfilling!
After all, she owned her own house - along with the bank. She almost completely owned her car. Her bank balance was healthy enough to allow a shopping spree at least once a month, and she paid every one of her bills before the ink turned red. She thought she was doing pretty well for someone her age.
Who was he to waltz in and criticize?
“I suppose you’re moving a nice wee wife and twelve kids in across the road, then?”
He rose and turned round, lifting the spare tyre with one hand as he grinned at her, “Nope, just me.”
Damn it, he’d caught her hadn’t he? He hadn’t been trying to criticize her life: he’d been fishing for information. And he’d got it. And now he was grinning at her with a sparkle in his eyes that’s said,

On its own the dialogue could have been a simple, pass the time while a tyre was changed kind of a conversation. But when you add in the layer of POV then it takes on a whole new dimension. Now we have gotten to know more about our heroine – she has the same issues that women all over the world have – that little part inside of herself that is still warring with that age old feminine battle of career Vs family. And she may even be projecting some of her own guilt with that choice onto our hero. When all the poor bloke was trying to do was suss out whether or not she was still single… and then subtly or not so subtly letting her know he was too…which is in direct contradiction to the nice and easy tone he was using as he went along…

Make sense?

And we can use this method to do all sorts of things. The heroine could have gone further with her assumptions and turned her thoughts into snide little answers that could have led to an argument. Which the hero wouldn’t have got. After all, he wasn’t looking for an argument, was he? And so we are adding to the conflict…

Incidentally, that’s exactly what the heroine does later on...

But gradually, as the relationship progresses, just as in real life, things happen and information is gradually given, until there is a level of trust where sharing can begin more freely. And this is pretty true to life I think. And it shows an emotional development between them, perhaps a changing of opinions and something learnt about themselves through the growing relationship. And that’s an emotional journey….

Now, I might just have to have a wee think about what to cover next… Maybe do another poll and you guys can tell me what you want to chat about???

I’ll do one tomorrow then shall I?? You say… I Blog….


Anonymous said...

Trish I had a couple of thoughts on what I'd like you to chat about on your blog so sent a quick message to your hotmail address from your website


JENNA said...

I loved this bit today. Wanna do how to jumpstart after a stall? Or is that just me?

Trish said...

Got it Janet!!! Blogging about it next!!! Thank you!

And Jenna - no - it's not just you! You've only to look at the lack of progress on my wip worms to see that... A blog to come on that topic.... Watch this space...