Or more precisely, a conversation in six sentences.
A pupil recently asked me about writing speech in stories.
“Do I need to put he said, she said after every sentence?” he asked.
“No.” I replied. “If you look at a story in a book, you’ll notice that they very rarely indicate who has spoken.”
“Really?” He picked up a book, read a few sentences. “Oh yes, I see what you mean!”
“There you go. You have to learn to trust the reader; they’re cleverer than beginner writers give them credit for. The reader can recognise who’s speaking when people are taking turns in a conversation.”
“So you only have to indicate the names at the start?”
“Well,” I said, “You might want to occasionally remind them who’s speaking.”
Armistead Maupin has been described as the master of coincidence. He’s also a master of economy. Look how captures the essence of his characters in a just a few words in the following chapter openers…
- ‘Well,’ boomed Arnold Littlefield, dousing his scrambled eggs with ketchup, ‘the hubby stood you up, huh?’
MANUEL THE GARDENER was grumpy, so DeDe didn’t have the nerve to ask him to clean the yucky things out of the swimming pool at Halcyon Hill.
MONA WAS WASHING dishes with a vengeance when Mrs Madrigal walked into the kitchen.
- BURKE, OF COURSE, was the hardest one to convince.
- MARY ANN SPENT her lunch hour at Hastings, picking out just the right tie for Norman.
- THE DISCOTHEQUE WAS called Dance Your Ass Off. Mary Ann thought that was gross, but didn’t tell Connie so
1) Etomyonline – Etymological Dictionary
See the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history. Keep your language of its time with this site and the next:
2) Google ngrams – frequencies of short sentences found in sources printed between 1800 and 2012
3) Behind the name – etymology of first names
Very useful when used in conjunction with the next site:
4) Fake Name Generator – not just names but biographies
Ideal when you’re stuck for background characters. Characters like
Amanda Castro Carvalho. Born and raised in Switzerland of Brazillian parents. She was born on October 19, 1987, making her 27 years old and a Libra
5) Inflation Calculator
Was £20 a week a good wage back in 1960? How much would Mr Darcy’s 10000 a year be in today’s money? The Bank’s Inflation Calculator shows how the cost of goods and services changes over time as prices change. You can check the effect of price changes over any period from 1750 to 2013.
6) Wolfram Alpha
Unlike search engines, which merely return documents, Wolfram Alpha tries to work out answers from questions. To get an idea of how Wolfram Alpha differs from Google, say, try asking them both how far away the moon is, then compare the answers.
- It won’t make you rich.*
- Your non-writing friends won’t think any differently of you.
- Nor will your writing friends
- The urge to write will not diminish
- Nor the urge to be published (again).
- It won’t provide any answers to the other problems in your life
However, it will validate you as a writer. To yourself, at least.
* Really, it won’t. Well, it’s so unlikely that it will you shouldn’t make it part of your life plans. Treat it as a happy bonus if it does.