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A Promotion Reminder and a Dissertation entitled "To Say or Not to Say"

Posted by Nuile the Paracosmic Tulpa , in Wordsmithery Jan 24 2013 · 375 views

To get the former out of the way first, The Second Death will be yours free forever if you download it between January 26th (two days to go!) and January 30th.
Now then, I would like to discuss the issue of whether 'tis nobler to say something, or to utter it, or perhaps to state it. Is it better to ask or to inquire? Bring adverbs into the equation, and the field becomes open to even greater argument. The simple fact is that every writer and every reader, too, has their own opinion about it. This is mine.
Examining a novel as if it were a cadaver, we'll say the plot is the core skeletal structure; the prose can be the flesh that covers it all; but dialogue becomes the muscles that hold it all together. Everything else is vital, but it's the dialogue that does the real work. It's the life and vigor of the story, the human element that most enraptures readers. It's one of my rules in writing that dialogue should always be able to stand on its own; it doesn't always need to, and there are times when it just plain can't, but if at all possible dialogue should literally speak for itself.
It is my opinion, however, that sometimes say is the right choice and sometimes it is not. Sometimes another verb should be used--or sometimes, none at all!
One example of a use for a verb other than say is merely to emphasize the tone of the dialogue. Even if the words sounds like a shout, s/he shouted serves as an underline. But the verb should be carefully selected. In this case, shout implies a different tone than cry, exclaim, or bellow might.
I usually prefer a powerful verb to an adverb in such cases, but again, it's a matter of discretion. Sometimes the one is more prudent, sometimes the other. And here's another instance in whic they can both be very useful. Every now and then a quotation arises where the words are too few or too simple or otherwise inexpressive; where a human voice would add a meaning the words do not contain. A human inflects their speech in a way that is difficult, though not impossible, to suggest in written dialogue; sometimes a telling verb or an adverb is the best way to add that inflection.
And then there's another method that is often used to avoid the s/he said entirely. But I have often seen this abused. If the movement is not significant in some way, if it serves no other purpose than to tell us who is speaking, it is rendered entirely meaningless and makes the writer look lazy. If the character strokes his mustache or twirls a finger in her hair, it indicates the speaker with the extra purpose of physical expression. But when a character removes their shoe to get at an itch during the conversation--sure, it's a natural action, but it's nothing more than a trivial, bothersome distraction. Some actions tell enough alone, some could use an adjective or some other form of additional description, and some should just be avoided. Again, it's all dictated by discretion.
On the whole, when I only have two characters speaking, I prefer to drop anything outside the dialogue, unless where emphasis or definition is prudent, or when a character makes an expressive movement. When you get three or more characters talking together, of course, it takes a degree of dexterity to juggle them all clearly and effectively.
The last point I would like to make becomes a part of that aforementioned rule, that dialogue should always be able to stand on its own. Not only does this mean that dialogue should speak with its own tone, but with the tone of the character. His or her "voice" should be audible when they speak. It can never be solely relied upon to identify a character, but the character should nonetheless be identifiable by the words they say.
And sometimes, I think, the very purpose of verbs or adverbs is artistic embellishment. Far too often modern authors concentrate too much on the functions of words, and not enough on their beauty. We forget that writing is an art. There is a science behind every art, but we must remember that the science is the supplement, not the focus. The gears in the mechanism of writing do not turn for their own sake, but for the sake of the art
I can think of no better way to phrase it than in the very words of Dolores Douglas, of The Second Death.

"It’s balance," Mrs. Douglas observed, "that people need to find. Balance in all things, I think, is what we lack the most."

Perhaps you observed my verb choice. I used it for embellishment but also to lend a subtle inflection to the tone of her words.

"It’s balance," Mrs. Douglas said, "that people need to find. Balance in all things, I think, is what we lack the most."

Didn't that sound a little different?

One thing that, when it comes to dialogue, I shall never forgive is this:

"This is ridiculous," he smiled.

The mental image evoked compels me to smile myself. With the primary exceptions being door-to-door salespeople, used car dealers, and politicians, few people talk through a smile. Even if your character is a ventriloquist, just don't go there.

Sincerely, Nuile: Lunatic Wordsmith :smilemirunu:

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Dramatis Personae


A young man with his feet on the ground and his head in the sky, and an inclination to implement the occasional headstand.

Nuile, Wordsmith

Penman of a number of BIONICLE and Neopets short stories, as well as three epics, based respectively on the aforementiond and Avatar: The Last Airbender. This writer has also penned a full-length mystery novel, a work in progress pending final revisions and publication.

More than that, the BZPower League of Authors was his brainchild, which he has developed into the Ambage with the help of Velox, Cederak and 55555. This refuge and practice arena for writers is open to all with a penchant for the literary arts.

Nuile, Bibliophile

For him to select a favorite book, or a favorite writer, would be impossible. But of the latter, he most admires Dame Agatha Christie, Wilkie Collins, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Harper Lee, C.S. Lewis, Edgar Rice Burroughs and Sinclair Lewis. Favorite books he includes in this chart:

To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)

The Moonstone (Collins)

Murder on the Orient Express, Death in the Clouds, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, The Clocks (Christie)

The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Lost World (Doyle)

Out of the Silent Planet (C.S. Lewis)

Free Air (Sinclair Lewis)

The Bat (Hopwood and Rinehart)

The Nine Tailors (Sayers)

Nuile, Cinéaste

This fellow thinks the world begins and ends with Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Before its birth, however, he confesses that Sam Raimi and David Koepp's Spider-Man, Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer's Batman Begins, the Indiana Jones series, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Mary Poppins were films more than worthy of watching.

Nuile, Television Viewer

The Dick Van Dyke Show by far surpasses any television show produced prior or hence. Father Knows Best, Leave it to Beaver and The Andy Griffith Show are excellent series from a similar time frame. MacGyver is hard to beat. Diagnosis Murder, Monk and Murder, She Wrote are his favorite mystery series. In animation he most enjoys Avatar: The Last Airbender and its sequel; Batman: The Animated Series alongside Batman Beyond and The Batman; Phineas and Ferb, one of the most creatively funny cartoons he has ever seen.

Nuile, Cuisinier

Asian and Italian foods may be his enthusiasms, but he's not above a juicy burger or a spicy taco. As far as his own cooking, he oft gets more adventurous than his family appreciates, though when he behaves he can conjure a reason for your taste buds to celebrate. By far his favorite meal: Thanksgiving 2011, consisting of Paula Dean's Indian Succotash, Grean Bean Casserole, Orange Corn Bread, Bacon Roasted Brussel Sprouts, Coconut Biscuits, and Mashed Cauliflower and Potatoes.

Nuile, Musicologist

He pleads guilty to sheer ignorance, unworthy even of being called an amateur in this department. But dramatic scores and profound lyrics top his charts. The Impossible Dream from The Man of La Mancha and I Can Go the Distance as performed by Michael Bolton are cited as his two favorite songs, amidst much of Celtic Thunder's work.

Nuile, Gamer

Disney's Epic Mickey, the Kingdom Hearts series, and the Pokémon series are the only video games he considers worthy of notation.

Nuile, Sportsman

As fast on his feet as he is between the ears, he enjoys games of muscle and of strategy. Physically, he likes most to play football; but nothing beats a game of chess in his book.

The Art of Writing

It is my belief that a writer should be above human emotions, desires, vices, flaws; a writer should be almost superhuman, something like a monk. However, like monks, this is not an attribute that comes naturally, rather an ability that must be worked at.

More tangibly, one of the most important characteristics a writer can possess is tenacity. An artist's life is never an easy one. An artist presents themself to the world, and ineluctably there will be critics alongside the fans. But anyone who knows real love won't let it be quelled by what others think. Never give up, never despond. So maybe nobody's perfect; I'm not, and I never will be. But an artist, like a monk, is one who always strives to improve her- or himself, who never ceases to reach for the unreachable. Every amelioration is an achievement. And every day a writer achieves something merely by writing, for every word written is a word toward amelioration. If you are good, you can always be better; if you are great, you can always be greater.

What matters most for writers is that they take pride in their own own work. Ultimately your biggest fan and your biggest critic is yourself, and that's who you have to please the most. No artist truly passionate about their art does what they do for someone's approval or just to get paid. At the heart of every artist is a person who does what they do because they love to do it. I'm an artist; I'm a writer. I don't stop trying to get better, I don't stop striving for perfection--but I enjoy every step of the amelioration process, I appreciate every improvement, and I am always happy with where I am, yet always be eager about where I'm going. Writing is a journey with no destination. Writing is a quest without end. Writing is spiritual nomadism.

And it's not easy. It's frought with difficulty, trouble, disappointment, and grief--but a journey without end gives its reward not in the destination but in every step of the path.

Yet I have not even touched upon just what a writer is; which is because a writer, simply put, is everything. A writer is an artist, but also a psychologist, and a logician, a philosopher, a scientist, an adventurer, an inventor, a politician, a magician, and multitudinous others. A writer is everything because they write about everything. "Write what you know"; that's not the rule I live by. "Know what you write," that's my creed. Writers know a little about everything, and everything about a little. And when they don't know . . . they read!

That's a writer's life. It's the kind of life I love. It's a wonderful gift. A writer's life is the kind of life I live and always will live. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

February 2018

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[9:26:46 PM] Aimee: it is so adorable how authors have favorite authors
[9:27:25 PM] Andrew P: You're an author. You have favorite authors. =P
[9:27:39 PM] Aimee: yes and i get to talk to them on skype all day

- A Geste of the Ambage Chat


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Some random air-head decided to be pompous and condescending and "honor" me with his approbation. I guess there's a pride of some sort in being recognized by the mentally unsound. It makes me feel special--or weird, one of those two. Thanks, Tekulo!