Sunday, August 31, 2008

And the Beat Goes On....Writing With Rhythm

Well, now that school (and work) have started, I can see that posting will probably be cut down to once a week! Oh, those lazy days of I miss you :( Okay, now that my little bit of whining is over, I will go on to the intended subject of this post: writing with beats (and no, this isn't music class) Beats are the bits of action you want to break up your dialog with to vary the pace of your writing. Think of it like driving a car. There are times you may travel at a faster speed, such as on the expressway, but then you slow down or stop at the intersections, when traffic is heavy, etc. If you have a fast action scene in your story where the tension is elevated, you don't want to break it up or slow it down with a lot of beats. However, when the pace slows down or needs to take a breath so to speak, or to just vary the pace, you want to insert a beat or two. Take a look at any page of dialog in a story. For example, if it goes on with "he said", "she said", line after line with no breaks to describe action for a whole page or more, it will become too mechanical and boring. Consider this:

"I hope you'll find the time to come to the party," she said.
"I might, if it's not too late," he said.
"I just know it's going to be boring if you don't. Did you invite Ted?" she asked.
"I thought you wouldn't want him to come," he said.
"Of course he can come. I want to know your friends better."

Now just imagine this going on for a whole page or two. Then see how it changes by inserting just a couple beats of action:

"I hope you'll find the time to come to the party," she said.
"I might, if it's not too late," Sean answered.
"I just know it's going to be boring if you don't." Kristin stacked the napkins next to the plates, before asking, "Did you invite Ted?"
Sean stared out the window for a second or two. "I thought you wouldn't want him to come."
"Of course he can come. I want to know your friends better."

Minor changes such as adding beats can create a better rhythm in your dialog, give balance and reality to the scene. And one final tip - read your dialog aloud, maybe have another person to read one character's lines and you the other's. This will help you find out how well placed your beats are and any changes you may need to make.

Now, why don't you try it? Take a half a dozen lines or so of dialog from a story you've written and insert a couple beats. Or maybe you already have a sample of dialog with beats added that you would like to share? Post them here so we can see your creativity! Or leave a comment about using beats. What do you think?


_-*Kristen*-_ said...

These are a few lines from my latest story called Life After, heres the link to the first chapter:

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. A man seeing Raski? It’s not possible, how could it be? It was only a myth, a legend, nothing real. “Prove it.”

He squinted his eyes at me, “And how do I know you won’t tell the council that I’ve gone lopsided and have them off me?”

“Because, I want out. I’m just not sure if it’s out there or not.” I said honestly.

“Ah, I see.” he stood up from his pallet and walked to the lookout hole, then outside. I started to get up to go after him, but before I could he said, “If you really want to know, then I can show you, but you must be willing to believe me. My dear, have you ever seen a photo?”

I said that I did, remembering one of the stories that my momma once told me. He turned around, his face a reddish purple, “Where? Who had that knowledge? Get out!” He pulled me out of my sitting position and dragged me to the front door. I tried to squirm out of his grasp, but he had an iron grip on me. “Get out, get out! You nasty little spy! How dare you come into my home and-”

“No, my momma, she told me. She knows a lot about the rummy days.” I was able to say.

yea I figured out a long time ago that things tend to get boring when its all He Said, She Said. So i try to put a little movement in there, and the way they answer

Laree D said...

This is very true. Putting action in dialog makes it more beleivable and keeps the beat going. It helps when you know a little about human behavior, too. Every one is different and misconceptions and misunderstandings are very common in any relationship. That is somethng that every reader can relate too. As a writer, that is the most important key.