Trying so hard to not write poorly and not always succeeding

As I mentioned several days ago, I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo). I’m finding I have to stop myself from typing some text-style abbreviations instead of being creative. Here are some simple rules to novel writing that everyone participating in Nanowrimo should keep in mind.

Characters in novels do not laugh out loud. They laugh, they chuckle, they giggle. A laugh is assumed to be out loud unless specified otherwise. Similarly characters do not roll on the floor laughing or laugh their asses off. Joe may laugh so hard he loses his balance, grabs for the nearest table and then falls to the floor. This may cause him to laugh even harder and gasp for air, but unless he’s some poorly constructed cyborg, he will not laugh his ass off.

However, if the novel is set in the current time, the character may just be the kind of person to say “Lol” or “L-o-L” when something is funny. Saying “Lol” is inherently sarcastic, perhaps even a little ironic, since, if you’re able to speak a word, you’re clearly not actually laughing out loud. I’d bet a fair share of the coins in my desk drawer that most people who type “lol” are not actually chuckling audibly when they do. Ditto with “rofl”. “lmao” is clearly an exaggeration, so I won’t bother to comment on it.

I’ve actually almost done peer reviews on writers who have had sentences like “John lolled at Amy’s joke.” and “Brenda rofled.” I say almost because at that point in my reading I stopped both acknowledging the other person as a peer and reading/reviewing their work. I can now say that when I referred to them as a writer I was using the term generously.

The one thing I am noticing, but not bothering to correct right now are my pseudo-tags on my dialogue. Normally a dialogue tag is the word ‘said’ as in: Joe said, “Let’s get out of here.” What I call a pseudo tag is the lame use of smiles around when people talk instead of just saying they ‘said’. For example: Joe smiled. “That was so funny, I lmaoed.”

See what I did there? That there’s an example of the exception to the aforementioned heinous usage of messaging abbreviations. Why? Because characters can be imperfect. They just might be the kind of person who talks in abbreviations and tries to pronounce them as words. What Joe said in my example isn’t the problem. The problem is the smile.  Why? Its too simple, it’s lazy, and I used it far too often. Once, maybe twice in a novel, I could probably get away with it. In the 33,000 words I have so far this month, probably twenty to thirty of them are the word ‘smiled’ and that’s too many.

My writing style is very dialogue heavy. Think Kevin Smith movies, but I’ve grown past the purely hypothetical philosophical conversations. Every word of the dialogue I use furthers the story, develops the character or aids in immersion by making the characters behave like real people would. And I should specify that my goal is to make my characters believable by making them behave as readers expect “real” characters to behave in fiction, not actually like real people believe. Real people rarely experience the consistent level of drama that makes novel characters worth reading about.

Since I write primarily fantasy, I don’t get to even have characters use pop-culture abbreviations. My pop-culture and political in-jokes must be heavily masked. There are a few of them, but in all but one notable case, they are so subtle they are almost subliminal. My book “Of Maia’s Mist” has some pretty overt statements supporting the cause of gay-marriage, I’ll admit, it gets preachy for a page or two.

One last thing, and this is something I’ve never even contemplated including in any of my stories: Vampires do not sparkle.


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