Beta Version Of Page-Turning Scenes Is Done

The first draft of How To Write Page-Turning Scenes is finished.

It came in at 92 pages (which means it’s a full course, not one of the Critical Skills short courses I’d planned to make it), and after I finish putting in the beta test worksheet, I’ll upload it into the February Sucks bundle so that my February Sucks buyers can do the unofficial beta.

This post will be the place where unofficial beta testers can comment, ask questions, and add to the “I wish the course had this” wishlist.

I’ve chosen six official beta testers from the 27 applicants—I got an incredible response, considering that the beta has to be done over the weekend, the course is long, and I need the results back to be before I start work Tuesday morning, at 6 AM my time. (Yes, I am a morning person.) And that I warned people of this BEFORE they volunteered. (I’m not a CRUEL morning person. To real people, anyway.)

I’ll revise it all next week, while also revising THE SILVER DOOR (Book II of Moon & Sun), and will have it up for sale on Tuesday, March 6th, if all goes well.

And here’s a little snippet–the complete answer to the question, “How do you avoid Talking Heads dialogue?”

NOTICE: This material is copyrighted, unedited raw first draft, probably buggy, and may vary wildly from what appears in the final course. Do not quote or repost anywhere or in any format. Thanks.

The Walk and Talk

From How to Write Page-Turning Scenes, by Holly Lisle

The problem: two people talking to each other on a page and nothing else happening at all.

The cure for the common Talking-Heads Dialogue problem (where your characters might as well be talking to each other in a white room during pea-soup indoor fog) is the Walk and Talk.

It goes like this:

  1. 1. You choose a location where your two characters can be doing something.
     
    Mending a saddle, baking cookies, watching girls on a beach, whatever. They are ENGAGED in the world.
  2.  

  3. 2. You get them to talking about the thing they have on their minds, which is unrelated to what they’re doing.
     
    For example, they’re watching girls, but they’re talking about the physics exam they both have to take the next day, which they probably should be studying for.
     

     

  4. 3. And then you work what you actually want them to talk about in between the action that they’re doing.

We’ll go back to Bob and Kate, (and the universe in which Bob plans to kill Kate) for this example:

Bob and Kate hacked away at the vines blocking the entrance to the Temple of Ick.

“You know your cousin Elsie called the other day about the will,” Bob said.

“I didn’t know. Why didn’t you tell me?” Kate yanked away a long, thin vine and wiped sweat from her forehead with the back of her leather glove.

“I told her to mind her own business. She was asking a lot of questions about why you inherited a map, and wondering if maybe you would show it to her and the rest of the cousins. I said while she was wondering about that, you were wondering why she got an actual money bequest, and maybe she’d like to trade.” Bob backed up and began flailing at the ground with his machete. “Coral snake,” he said after a minute.

“You kill it?”

Bob squinted at the ground. “Yeah, but watch out for the head. It’ll still be able to bite for hours.”

“Appropriate,” Kate said. “Sounds kind of like Elsie.” She grinned a little, even though every muscle in her body felt like one big bruise. “Nice job dealing with her, by the way.”

Bob smiled. It was the first good smile she’d seen on his face in…she couldn’t even remember how long.

He shrugged and said, “You and I always did agree about your cousin Elsie. She’s a worse snake than anything we’ll run into out here.” And then he went back to cutting away underbrush, and the moment passed.

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

4 comments… add one
  • KalevTait May 5, 2008 @ 8:28

    In your example, I don’t understand which is the topic unrelated to what they are doing which they start talking about, and which is the topic that you actually want to adress in the scene. Unless I’ve missunderstood the excercise.

  • hollylisle Apr 30, 2008 @ 19:01

    I completely forgot Transitions, and am adding that part. And I’m adding the Pacing exercises. So, yes, definitely more.

  • stazie Apr 30, 2008 @ 14:50

    Not sure this is where I’m supposed to put this. I liked the Beta Version. The exercises were great. But, despite the evergrowing page count, this version didn’t seem complete. I don’t remember seeing the talking-head discussion you give here. Early on in the Beta you mentioned you would be discussing scene transitions and providing exercises. I didn’t see those. So great stuff, is there more?

  • vanity Apr 26, 2008 @ 8:17

    Despite being throw away dialogue to illustrate a point, this is pretty good. This course may yet be the first e-book I buy.

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