Made it back to Colorado last night, and yes, it’s great to be home. Traveling is a wonderful adventure and I loved seeing and chatting with my family, but I’m also looking forward to renewing efforts in writing now that I’m back.
One of the big advantages of a good plane trip is the chance to catch up on a little reading. During one of my flights, I was able to do just that, with my latest issue of Writer’s Digest. I’ve had a subscription to this magazine more on than off, since 1980. It’s filled with good advice, profiles of authors and best of all, sets of articles around themes. In the September 2012 issue, that theme was all about productivity. Love this topic.
The section was called “Make Your Writing Time Matter” and included five articles on everything from time management to blogging your way into a book deal. I was particularly taken by the article called “Ten Fast Hacks For Fiction Writers,” by Elizabeth Sims. Her practical advice for keeping things simple went beyond the rules you may be familiar with in that she showed HOW to apply them.
My favorite example was her challenge to make characters sound different from each other. This is such a common issue for me and others in my writing group, I dove right in to see what she had to say. Elizabeth said to use two markers to help distinguish voices:
- Pitch – the high or low tones people talk in, or the physical sound that comes out when people talk. This is achieved most often in the attribution–he said, wheezing between each strangled word.
- Idiosyncratic constructions that a character owns. You know them from watching television — Dy-no-miiiiight!–I can’t push the engine any harder, Cap’in, or she’ll blow–Thank you, thank you very much. If you listen to your friends, they probably use one set of words over and over, so that they just wouldn’t be familiar without the phrase.
Now it’s your turn. Spend a writing session on making your characters stand out from each other using dialogue. Write a scene with three or more people in conversation and share it with your writing group or writing buddy. See if whomever reads your work can tell how many people are in the conversation and what the characters are in terms of sex, race, age and other mug sheet information.
Good luck and have fun. Today’s the day to get productive.