Wednesday, February 24, 2010

2 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: Again
GENRE: Young Adult Paranormal
EMOTION: First Emotion - Interest; Second Emotion - Sorrow

INTRODUCTION: Emma and Owen have spoken before, but only briefly. This is their first conversation that goes beyond surface level as they get to know each other better. Emma opens up to him about what's been bothering her.

“How long have you played the guitar?” I asked Owen.

“I took lessons when I was a kid, but it didn’t last very long. The painful calluses made it unappealing. My parents were disappointed because they had given me a nice Gibson for Christmas, but I just pushed it to the back of my closet. It wasn’t until junior high that I decided to give it another try.”

“What changed?” I asked.

“My parents were going through a divorce. I was extremely unhappy and wasn’t dealing with it well. Some people fight stress with drugs or alcohol. I learned to fight it with music. I’ve been playing ever since.”

“Oh.” I paused, wondering if I could open up to Owen. He seemed like a genuinely nice guy, the type who could understand my situation and be sympathetic. “I think my parents might get a divorce,” I said softly.

“Emma, I’m so sorry,” he said. “I understand what it is like.”

“Does it get any easier?” I asked, trying to suck in my sadness, keeping it from spilling over into my voice.

“Sadly, no,” he answered, looking me straight in the eye. “Even though it is been years since my parents divorced, it’s still hard sometimes, the going back and forth, the double holidays.” He put his hand gently on my arm. “Hey, if you ever need to talk, I’m here.”

“Thanks,” I answered, unable to take my eyes off of his hand still resting on my arm. “I appreciate that.”


  1. Owen seems like much more of a talker than Emma, which struck me as odd, but that isn't a huge thing, just weird to me.

    For me, the emotions got a little clogged up in the wording. When I read it aloud, the words just didn't feel natural. It was a bit stiff, IMO, which makes it harder for emotions to come through.

  2. Even though dialogue in novels is more formal than normal dialogue, this seemed a little too formal. I wish it was this easy to just say what's on the mind, some of the lines came out unrealistic.
    I think if you just changed the sentence "My parents were disappointed because they had give me a nice Gibson for Christmas, but I just pushed it to the back of my closet" into something easier to say. That would make a stronger dialogue.
    All-in-all, I think you've made appealing characters! Emma seems like a sweet girl.

  3. I agree that the dialogue is too formal here, particularly given that this is YA. Listen to the characters in your head, or imagine having this conversation with someone. You wouldn't always speak in complete sentences. You'd use contractions. You'd be unlikely to say "extremely unhappy" or "sadly." (Or at least young adults would be unlikely to.)

    For example,

    "I took a few lessons as a kid. Gave it up because of the callouses though. My parents were pretty pissed--they'd given me a Gibson for Christmas. But I just shoved it to the back of my closet. Then junior year, I gave it another try."


    "My parents' divorce. I had a hard time dealing with it. Some people turn to drugs; I turned to music. I've been playing ever since."

    Also look out for too many dialogue tags. Is it just Emma and Owen in the room? Then you don't need "I asked Owen." Actually, you don't need most of these tags since we'll know it's a back and forth between the two of them.

    For example,

    "Sorry. I understand what it's like."

    "Does it get any easier?" I tried to suck in my sadness, keep it from spilling over into my voice.

    "Not really." He looked me straight in the eye. "It's been years since my parents divorced, but it's still hard sometimes--going back and forth, the double holidays."...

    *What* they're saying works emotionally, I think. You're getting across the right feel in the dialogue, but it could do with some polishing so it sounds authentic.

    Good luck!

  4. I'd suggest removing all the 'answered and asked' tags and using their actions and thoughts to identify the speakers instead as they detract from the dialogue.

    Emma's dialogue sounded fine and her thoughts helped convey the emotions. Owen sounded older because of the more formal phrasing.

  5. I think Bobby is right (and I'm saying this looking back at my entry and cringing). The writing doesn't need as many "dialogue tags". And I wonder if you evesdropped on teenagers (which I know you have plenty of opportunities to do)and took notes, if you'd get a better feel for how teenagers speak.

    I think realistic dialogue is one of the more difficult parts of writing fiction. It's very brave of you to put your "darling," as Elizabeth Berg calls our writings, out there for the world to read and critique.

  6. Owen's dialogue does seem a bit forced. He is too talkative about something that’s painful. Usually guys – even when they are trying to be sympathetic – are hesitant.

    And I have to agree the Owen's feeling of sympathy gets clogged by the overly wordy dialogue.

  7. Owen's lines are more like monologues than dialogue right now-- I'd break it up, and cut some things. Making Owen's responses shorter, and adding more questions by Emma should make it more natural. Let her bring it out of him.

    For a first real conversation, this is pretty deep, and if they're in high school (that's my impression) it seems really odd to me that the guy would rehash his parents' divorce first thing.

    I also think you might be telling instead of showing when you write "wondering if I could open up to Owen." I'd cut that, and just go into her impressions about him.

    I see you're planning to cut the tags already, and I agree there! Emma's lines seem pretty natural, so I think it's just Owen you need to worry about :)

  8. You've got some good emotions to work with here, but I do think the dialogue is too "telly."

    I know this is an exercise in dialogue, but sometimes less is more. Innuendo, action and setting can say a lot. Owen's hand on her arm 'shows' he's there for her. No need to spell it out.

  9. I think you did fine with the emotions. I would have preferred the 'sorrow' to be a little stronger, a little more obvious but it was still there.

    Owen's dialogue didn't seem as natural to me. A bit forced and wordy, which seemed not realistic. But, maybe he's just a wordy guy--I don't know. It's so hard to say with such a little section.

  10. I don't think you need the "I understand" line from Owen. They are both aware he's been through that, as he just mentioned it in the conversation.

    Typo in second to last paragraph. "It is been years" instead of "has".

    The sorrow didn't come out well in the second half. You state it, but don't show it. It felt more like resigned acceptance than sorrow.

    The information came through well, and I did get the growing connection between the characters. Her just starting to open up to him.

  11. I am not very familiar with YA fiction, so I don't have an opinion as to how this fits that genre, but generally, I liked the dialogue. From their words, I imagined Emma and Owen being in their twenties.

    I definitely think the target emotions of sorrow and interest were conveyed.

  12. Owen's dialogue didn't come off as natural. he didn't sound like a teen to me. As others have said, try using some contractions and sentence fragments, and maybe eliminate some of the bigger words.

    Emma's dialogue seemed to fit the situation, but I didn't feel any sorrow coming through. It was more disappointment. Again, as others have said, try using more showing than telling. This may be a scene where actions ( a touch, a glance) could speak louder than words.

  13. The characters, Owen especially, seem a bit older than normal YA. It makes me wonder if Owen may be in his twenties? I also felt that he was quite talkative, and some of the phrasing was a bit stiff. Making the dialogue a bit choppier may "loosen" up the characters a bit.

  14. Dialogue isn't really believable to me. Sorry. I think you have a story here, but the sentences in the dialogue could be shortened.

    A teen boy answering, "sadly, no" is what really didn't sound believable.

    On the other hand, your emotions did show. -- Still, tighten up the dialogue.