Sunday, January 24, 2010

For God's Sake, Junior, Stop Mumbling

Mumbling. The second sin of speech (the first is whining). We all know why. I'm fairly certain the five year old next door who stares at me over the fence is garbling the solution to world peace; though, he could be warning me I'm stepping in pee. Really, it's hard to tell. It makes my eye twitch every time. You know what else does? Novice writers who make their characters mumble.
Tip: Do Not Bury Dialogue.
Peaches paced her nemesis, intent on an opening. One Labrador against a bear was unwise. One puppy with a preference for Cottonelle challenging a prickly blue cartoon obsessed with Charmin was suicide. "We have five minutes until the Park Ranger returns. Put the rippled TP on the roll and we all get treats." Growls reverberated along her heaving chest. Puffy squares flossed her fangs as she sank her teeth into the fuzzy butt.

Huh? What? Was something important said by someone? Did your eyes skim over the character stating her goal? Did the consequence of failure send a shiver down your spine?

No? Not so much?

Blame it on Literary Mumbling. Dialogue is more than page filler. It creates tension. It provides depth. It reveals clues. It propels plot. Characters speak to convey something of importance, so why hide it in a nest of other stuff? Paragraph breaks draw attention. Let the character's speech use that bit of natural promotion. Think of it like the pesky five year old who dons the tablecloth over his PJs and vaults off the top of the fence.

True, dialogue doesn't have to lead the paragraph. There are legitimate instances of short, and I do mean, short, emotionally "showing" set-ups that would compel the dialogue to be at the end of the sentence.
The Ranger's jaw locked as his fingers splayed over her throat. "Never leave the toilet paper roll empty."
Get the feeling the dude is wee bit miffed? Get the feeling you know what he was doing in the potty? Yes? Good. Dialogue at the end of the paragraph is justified.

I may not be in a position to encourage Junior to enroll in speech therapy; however, to all those aspiring published writers who enter contests: Don't Mumble. You will be docked points.

No comments:

Post a Comment