Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Talking Heads #11

GENRE: Fantasy

Because of her climbing skills, Crea was one of four thieves chosen for a mission. Things aren't going well at this point, as they've been captured and locked in a tower with one small, very high window. Lamad has just suggested that maybe they can make a rope.

“How?” Jafsa scoffed incredulously. “With strips off our clothing?”

“Yeah,” Lamad said smugly. “Exactly.”

Jafsa snorted and shook his head. “It wouldn’t be long enough. Or strong enough.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Lamad said, undaunted. “I think it might be worth a try.”

“Lamad!” Jafsa exclaimed, glowering at him. “Even if we did have a rope—the best rope in the world—how would it help us? How would we get it up to that window? Even if we could throw it up there, we don’t have a hook or anything; we couldn’t secure it up there anyway!”

“Oh, I think we have a way to get it up there,” Lamad answered.

“How?” Jafsa stormed, glowering even more.

Minos muttered and sat up, clearly annoyed at having been woken.

“Crea,” Lamad said simply.

“Crea?” Jafsa echoed. “How is Crea going to get up there?” He reached out and stroked the surface of the wall. “Even she can’t climb this—it’s like polished tile!”

Lamad gestured upward with his chin, his eyes leading the way up the wall. “Yeah, but she can climb up there—above that line where it sticks out.”

“And just how do we get her up there?” Jafsa growled. “She may not weigh much, but I don’t think we can throw her up there!”

Crea stayed out of the fray, waiting to see what Lamad had dreamed up.

“What are you people going on about?” Minos protested in a sleep-fogged voice. “I thought we were going to try to get some sleep.”

“We did,” Lamad said off-handedly. “And now we’re trying to get out of here.”

Minos groaned and lay down again. “We can’t get out of here—it’s impossible.”

“Maybe not,” Lamad said. He turned back to Jafsa and ordered, “Stand up. I want to see something.”

Jafsa groaned loudly as he stood, then began muttering under his breath about how sore he was.

Lamad ignored his complaints and said jauntily, “Have you ever see acrobats build a human tower?”

“Yeah, I have, but . . . Oh, no, Lamad! What crazy scheme have you got now? We’re not acrobats! We’d kill ourselves if we tried anything like that.”

“Aw, come on! Think positive. Are we just going to sit here until we rot, or are we going to try to save ourselves?”


  1. This is very cinematic.
    I see a lot of dynamics being planned and acted upon and no excess of words or stilted dialogue. I find the fragment well done. My favourite line:
    “We did,” Lamad said off-handedly. “And now we’re trying to get out of here.”
    My remark: I would replace the coloquial "Yeah" with "Yes" as the spoken form doesn't add a great deal to the dialogue, and replacing it with the literary form smoothens the harmony of the short line:
    “Yeah,” Lamad said smugly. “Exactly.”
    “Yes,” Lamad said smugly. “Exactly.”

  2. The dialogue was solid, although I think it could be compressed a little by waking Minos up right away so the others don't need to "re-explain" their plan to him.

    Tangential to the dialogue, what stood out most was your use of -ly adjectives on many of your dialogue tags. I'd go back and replace as many of those as I could with dialogue cues (sentences or phrases that show or indicate tone of voice, pitch, rate of speech, etc.) or action tags, showing some motion or gesture that illustrates the characters' state of mind or feeling.

    Finally, consider changing most of your other dialogue tags to just plain "he said" or "she said". That way, the dialogue tag blends into the background, which illuminates the actual dialogue.

  3. Fun scene here!

    I echo what's been said: consider replacing your dialogue tags with said, and/or give action to show the meaning.

    For example: "Yeah," Lamad said smugly (what does smugly look like?) Give us a gesture that shows this, and you'll have more impact.

  4. I enjoyed the banter. A few of these characters seem fun. The situation is interesting, and I'd like to see how they get out of it.

    I think this sample suffers, though, from an overuse of telling dialog tags--"...said smugly...," "said simply...," "said jauntily..."--and Jafsa's glowering.

    There are some unnecessary repetitions that can be eliminated: a scoff is normally implied to be incredulous; ! implies an exclamation.

    I think the characters might be too vocal here. Lots of words are used to convey small Perhaps work some of what is explained in the dialog into the narrative instead--i.e., "He stroked the polished tile. 'Even she can't climb this,'" and so forth.

  5. ...oops. C&P error... What I meant to say was "Lots of words are used to convey small concepts. They seem to be over-explaining what the rest can clearly see and know."

  6. I enjoyed this scene.

    Even though this had four people, I got a good sense of each of their personalities between their dialogue and snippets of action. I didn't have any trouble following who was speaking.

    As others pointed out, there is some telling, and some repetition.

    For example:

    “And just how do we get her up there?” Jafsa growled. “She may not weigh much, but I don’t think we can throw her up there!"

    The dialogue felt very natural though, and I'd enjoy reading more about this group's escapades.

  7. I think you have some great natural talent as a writer, you just need to learn some of the writing "rules" so you can then break them properly!

    I know that it's tempting to use adjectives to describe the *way* your characters are saying things--that you want to paint the perfect picture. But you need to trust yourself as a writer--trust the depth of your characters, and trust your readers a little more. The reader will get it without so much explanation and their reading experience will be more in the moment and satisfying without all of the descriptive adjectives.

    For example: "How?" Jafsa scoffed. 'With strips off our clothing?" Scoffing is enough here. We get it. We get his incredulous attitude without you telling us he did it incredulously.

    I would suggest using action tags a lot more. Whatever it is you are trying to tell with fancier dialogue tags or -ly adjectives, try to show instead.

    For example, instead of:
    "Yeah," Lamad said smugly. "Exactly."

    why not something like:
    "Yeah." Lamad shrugged, looking him up and down. "Exactly."

    or instead of:
    "Lamad!" Jafsa exclaimed, glowering at him.

    why not:
    "Lamad!" Jafsa glowered at him. "Even if we did have a rope..." The exclamation point is enough exclaiming--to use the word exclaim is redundant.

    or instead of:

    "We did," Lamar said off-handedly. "And now we're trying to get out of here."

    How about something like:

    "We did." Lamad ran his hand along the smooth tile wall, eyeing the window again. "And now we're trying to get out of here."

    When you do use dialogue tags, stick with using "said" more often than not, as it blends in more naturally. I'm not saying never use words other than said, but it would be nice if you relied more on the narrative and action of your characters to get he story across. When do you use "said", don't qualify it with -ly adjectives! (maybe once in a blue moon is okay, but as a rule, it's not recommended) Trust the characters--trust the reader--trust yourself!

    Looks like a fun story, I would definitely read more.

  8. Adverbs. ^^ Not adjectives. Sigh. But I'm sure you got that. :)