Friday, June 19, 2015

35 Tips for Writing Flash: Dialogue & The Verb "To Be"

In the current posts, Bacopa Literary Review Flash Story Editor Kaye Linden generously shares chapters from her book, 35 Tips for Writing a Brilliant Flash Story: a Manual of Flash Fiction and Nonfiction Writing.

CHAPTER 1 ("Small Frame")  
CHAPTERS 2 & 3 ("The House Theory" & "Slice-of-Life Stories")
CHAPTERS 4 & 5 ("Compression, Minimalism" & "A Striking Title")
CHAPTERS 6 & 7 ("First Few Lines" & "I Want It But I Can't Have It...")
CHAPTERS 8 & 9 ("Kaye's Rule of Six C's" & "Compressed Scene/Story Line")
CHAPTERS 10 & 11 ("Stimulus/Response, Chronological Order" & "Whose Story Is it?")
CHAPTERS 12 & 13 ("Moving the Story Forward" & "The Shape of Flash")
CHAPTERS 14 & 15 ("Consequences of Desire Thwarted" & "Characters")
CHAPTERS 16 & 17 ("Setting, Weather, and Crowds as Characters" & "A Sense of Meaning")
CHAPTERS 18 & 19 ("Point of View" & "Tense Choice")
CHAPTERS 20 & 21 ("The Ticking Clock" & "Chekhov's Gun")
CHAPTERS 22 & 23 ("Don't Underestimate Your Reader" & "Word Weight")
CHAPTERS 24 & 25 ("Concrete Details/Imagery" & "CUT Adverbs/Adjectives")


Even the inclusion of one line of dialogue in a flash can offer support for story line and character strength.

Keep dialogue tags simple: "he said" "she said."

Simple dialogue tags are not "heard" by the reader's conscious mind. Dialogue tags such as "he screamed," "she called out aggressively" or "he yelled annoyingly" slow down the read, irritate the reader, and overwhelm the story.

Most people use word contractions when they talk, so use them:
"I'm not feeling well," she said.
Keep dialogue realistic. Listen to how people converse with each other in the real world.

Prompt: Rewrite a story you have written by examining the handling of dialogue. Apply the above tips in the rewrite.

The Verb "To Be"

Among excellent free tools available to writers is the "To-Be" Verbs Analyzer.

Copy and paste a story of any length into the analyzer and get ready for a surprise. You will not believe how much of the narrative contains "to be" verbs such as "is," "was," "had," and so on. A successful flash contains no more than 20 percent of such verbs. Many of these add nothing to a story and a writer can replace most of them with a meaningful verb.

The Analyzer tool checked "Agoraclaustrophobia." Following are the "to be" verbs it found, and the statistical analysis of the story:
Matched 'are': how many places there are out here to bury a body.
Matched 'be': be damned . . . better brace yourself, Girlie.
Matched 'was': Then he was gone.
Matched 'be': we missed the signs of sacred land never-never to be crossed at night?
Matched 'was': took hours to find a gum tree with sap, and when I did, I was so tired, I fell asleep on the ground.
        7.8% of your sentences have 'to be' verbs.
That's pretty tight writing. I could have revised "be damned" to "damn it," but the sentence would lose its drama. Use "to be" verbs only when another verb won't work.

Prompt: Copy and paste a story you are working on into the above website. Surprised at what you discover? Find substitutes for the "to be" verbs and rewrite.

Stay tuned for CHAPTER 28 ("Subtext/Implication/Backstory")
and CHAPTER 29 ("Myths and Tales")

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