Sunday, June 24, 2012

Avoid Bad 
Like The Plague

Inspired Writing

Sabine Mellde, hero of 
Tip of the Spear

The Monologue

The conversation between your 
main character and the villain 
should be short and to the point

Comediennes recently began making fun of the extended monologue, and for good reason. The long monologue is where the bad guy spends a lot of time explaining his nefarious intentions to the good guy…usually as the good guy is tied to a table with a laser about to fry his balls.

As hard as it is too admit, I have done this.

Below is a conversation between my hero, Sabine Mellde, and the villain - Scipio Elysian, pulled from my book Tip of the Spear:

“Let me ask you something. Do you have any idea what it’s like to be thrown into the Oubliette…and then utterly forgotten about for centuries?”
“Nope, sure don’t.” I replied, somewhat disturbed. “Got some news for you, though…I’m afraid absolution is out of the question. Your actions speak for you, Elysian, whether on this plane or the next. I don’t know what it’s like left to rot in that prison, and because of that I’m going to cut you some slack. Back off your troops and return to Hell voluntarily - how about it?”
“No…I have a better idea.” Elysian pulled two exotic Kris swords from scabbards strapped to his back. “Sabine, I’d like to show you something. These swords were made for me in the Oubliette - by a couple of very talented Javanese brothers who’d learned their art here on Earth from their father….just before they ate him.”
I grimaced. “Nice.”
“Indeed.” Elysian said. “Now, remember, this was in the first century, so you must understand that certain superstitions were a bit more…real back then. The steel in the Kris blades were braided with iron and carefully ground, polished - then rapidly cooled with the tears of 10,000 widows. The wood grips are fluted dudgeon and are considered to be a link between the living and the dead. The ricasso – as you can see – is punch engraved and carries a talisman called shadow plays.”
The Kris swords were mesmerizingly crafted and obviously enchanted somehow. Each had a strong, deep fuller along the center-length and the blades themselves were designed with a parry-resistant wavy edge.
That wasn’t my biggest worry, however, and I was growing weary of his voice. “And you’re telling me this why?”
“Because, my dear girl.” Elysian smiled. “These swords are capable of something you previously thought impossible. I usually save my best cards for last, but in your case I’ll make an exception.”
My biggest worry was that I’d pushed him too far. Offensive maneuvers were often about undermining your enemy’s will to fight. Push a little too hard, though, and anyone could feel they were stuck in a corner with no way out.
I tilted my head. “If you ever bother to get to the point, send up a flare so I can tell.”
Elysian chuckled harshly. “Amusing child. Haven’t you ever wondered if there was a weapon out there – somewhere – that could defeat your armor? Haven’t you ever wondered what it would take to draw your blood?”

That, I think, is a good example of too much conversation between the good guy and bad guy. This is a problem that you don’t want.
Perhaps you are wondering why I kept this monologue, in light of what I told you. I kept this dialogue because I like it, but there are others things going on here, as well.
There are actually two conversations here, one between Sabine and Elysian…and another dialogue between Sabine and the reader. Another factor is at play here also…one you should be aware of.

This conversation happens during the final battle in the novel, and it’s the first time the reader has gotten an up-close-and-personal look at Scipio Elysian, the long-dead Centurion responsible for torturing Jesus before He went to the cross. Yeah, this is a dude that has managed to really piss off God.
I used a trick straight from the first Alien movie…don’t show your scary bad guy until it is absolutely necessary. The fright factor shoots up 100% if you keep your villain ‘off-screen’ as long as possible.

So when Elysian does finally show up to fight Sabine in my novel, I gave him some leeway concerning dialogue.

Naturally, the extended monologue is an easy problem to avoid. There is a time and place to explain things, and I can’t tell you when the best time for you to do this is. Use common sense. Use your head. Tone down your bad guy, if need be…or crank up the fear factor. Maybe you need to rethink him or her if possible.

Cut What You Can

The best advice I can give is to step away from your story for a while and try to see it from a different viewpoint. Try to see your villain from a different perspective. This may help your writing quite a bit. No one wants a boring, long-winded bad guy. Remember that. At the very least you may come away with new, fresh dialogue.
There is something I always do when creating dialogue. I write what is necessary to convey the emotion and the information that needs to be said, then I see how much I can cut out while still conveying the same message.

A good example would be what the reader never saw in my novel, She is My anger.

I cut the opening down a grand total of seventeen pages….then rewrote a brand new two page opening. That’s right, seventeen pages of dialogue. Gone. And you know what? Good riddance.
I couldn’t believe - at first - that the story could begin without it, but it not only worked better…it thrived without all of that unneeded crap. I learned a valuable lesson from that, and went on to trim dialogue wherever I could.

The conversation between characters is extremely important, but it should move quickly. During a crisis situation in the real world, people don’t stand around discussing things. They say what needs to be said, then they get on with it.
Better yet, your characters should say what needs to be said during the action of a situation, whether it’s a crisis or not. You can find this going on in most TV shows and movies, if you stop and think about it for a moment.

Whether it is chasing a bad guy or traveling in a car, characters in film will convey information to one another while doing something. 

Take a note of that.

What unnecessary dialogue 
have you noticed recently?

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