My A to Z Challenge theme is teaching you how not to write a book, or a short story, or any piece of creative writing whatsoever. For more information, including links to previous chapters and lessons, please refer to this post. Now buckle in and proceed with…
THE WORST ROMANCE NOVEL EVER WRITTEN IN 26 DAYS.
Billionaire Highlander cowboy Hawk MacHardcastle is tired of living the jetset life of champagne, bucking broncos, kilts, fast cars, and burning bundles of cash for warmth. Desperate to find meaning in his life, he retires to his family’s isolated cabin in the wilds of New Jersey, on the shores of majestic Lake Latrine.
There, Hawk plans on self-reflection and pursuing the great love of his life—fishing. However, Hawk’s self-imposed loneliness comes to an end when he makes a most unusual companion and fishing buddy.
Dropsy Velvet was once a young woman living on the shores of Lake Latrine with her settler family. However, a curse turned her into a mermaid and now she lives, sad and alone, in the depths of the lake. She hasn’t had human contact for close to fifty years, thanks to everyone either being terrified of her or thinking they’re drunk when they see her—but Hawk may be the connection to the world she’s been craving. Charmed by her innocent face, sparkling wit, and huge bare breasts, Hawk decides to help her find a way to lift the curse, as she will lift his: the curse of ennui and affluenza. But time is running out, for something sinister wants to flush Latrine away forever.
“You’re a mermaid?” Hawk asked.
“Yes,” she said. She lifted her great shimmering tail out of the water and slapped it back down, splashing him.
“I’m not just drunk?” he asked. He looked at the two bottles in his chair’s cupholders. Usually, it took a full keg just to give him a buzz, because his body was so ripped and full of testosterone.
“No,” she said.
“I didn’t know there were mermaids in the Latrine,” he said.
“Just one mermaid.” She sighed.
“How did you get in there?” he asked.
“I was cursed…cursed by an evil witch to spend my days in this form,” she said.
“A witch?” He gasped. “There’s witches around here too?” Everything he knew about Latrine was a lie, apparently.
“There used to be one around here,” she said. “They now say she hides in the forest.”
“Is she a hippy?” he asked. “How does she survive in the forest?”
“Her magic is ancient and powerful,” she said. “I fear one day she will emerge and take me as her captive, forever.”
He narrowed his eyes and puffed out his chest. “Not on my watch,” he said.
WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED HERE?
Good dialog is a beautiful thing. It can break up chunks of text that would otherwise make a reader’s eyes glaze over. It can move the story forward. It can tell you a lot about the characters, their emotions, and their motivations. When each character has a distinct and effortless voice, dialog is juicy and interesting, like overhearing gossip.
What can ruin dialog? As seen above, too many speech tags. ‘He said’ and ‘she said’ or ‘he/she asked, sighed, yelped, screamed, or ejaculated’ makes dialog choppy and awkward. If characters are distinct enough, there’s spots where you don’t even need speech tags, because the reader will know who is speaking. Also, combining actions with speech is a much more effective way of indicating who is speaking and the prose flows better. For example, instead of writing: “I never met a real-life mermaid,” Hawk said. “I must be dreaming.” A better example is: “I never met a real-life mermaid.” Hawk gazed at her in wonder, unable to tear his eyes away from her succulent dorsal fin. “I must be dreaming.” This not only makes the dialog smoother, but tells you something about the characters, as well. Like how a mermaid with a dorsal fin sounds much cooler than a regular old mermaid.
Make your dialog sound like people having a conversation, not like robots beeping back and forth.