Dialogue—Lines That Stay With You

My father used to spout reams of poetry. I was constantly amazed at the amount of literature he had memorized that he could pull out whenever he wanted to. I don’t have a good memory for words. I have a hard time remembering people’s names. I hated reading nonfiction as a child because there were no pictures. I remember images. I remember faces. I learn better when I can see it demonstrated. So when some dialogue or a descriptive phrase sticks in my head then it has to be pretty amazing for me to be able to remember it years later. One of my all time favorite lines is in Con Air. In case you’ve never seen it, a bunch of convicts take control of the plane transferring them to a new supermax prison. Nicholas Cage plays a convict who has been paroled and is only on board until he reaches the prison where he will be officially released. (We won’t go into why he couldn’t be released directly from the prison where he had been serving his sentence.) The movie sounds a bit cheesy but it’s actually pretty good. There’s the standard amount of blood and guts—it is an action movie, after all—but it also has some great dialogue. My favorite line happens after the convicts take over the plane and they are dancing to Sweet Home Alabama. Steve Buscemi plays a serial killer (think Hannibal Lecter) and he says to Cage, “Define irony. A bunch of idiots on a plane dancing to a song made famous by a band that died in a plane crash.” It’s the...

Mojo’s Back!!!!!

I finally have a novel idea that I love. It feels so good to have a story idea that I can think about and write notes for and get excited about. It’s been two years since I last wrote a first draft and I’ve been feeling the drought. Hilari is almost finished with a first draft for her second novel since my last one. Way back when I was writing the first draft of Quantum Striker I remember her telling me that she was jealous that I was working on something new. Well Hilari got her payback and then some. But she’s been hogging the creative fairy, and now it’s my turn. I’m not turning him loose until I’ve got this first draft finished. Seriously, though, I was beginning to wonder if I had writer’s block. I’ve spent all my creative energy on developing apps and I was having a hard time coming up with an idea that was big enough for a novel. In the past I would see something or read an article and I would get that first spark for a novel idea. Ooo, that’s interesting. What if… and I’d be off into my creative bubble figuring out a plot. But that didn’t happen this time. I got tired of waiting for the spark to strike so I started trying to force myself to come up with an idea. I thought about themes I like to write about. I looked at my file of book ideas. I picked up and discarded several ideas I’d had in the past for potential story situations. Nothing was turning up the...

Great Writing

I don’t understood why some people never re-read a book they enjoyed. I’ve found that if I liked it the first time, odds are I’ll like it even more the next time around. I discover new things and I appreciate the author’s skill as I recognize plot points they’ve set up that pay off later. A lot of people say (myself included) that you learn more by reading a badly written book by seeing what not to do than by reading a good book—the argument being that if the writer is good it will be harder to take apart what they’ve done well. I’d like to amend that as I’ve come to realize that while it’s true you don’t necessarily notice the skill a good writer wields because you are caught up in the story, you can see it if you read the book again. And again. There are some books I have re-read a dozen or more times. Some favorites I read every year. Sometimes I just dip in and read a scene I love. Re-reading good books can teach you what to do because it’s easier to focus on the details when you already know the story. I’ve been re-reading the third book in Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Sharing Knife series, Passage, and came across this brilliant piece of dialogue that I thought I’d share. “It’s a good system,” agreed Fawn “for malices. Not so sure about it as a system for people.” “Hm.” He rolled over and stared at the tiny pricks of light coming through the holes in their blanket-tent, held up by the ragged...