3,405 words · 2,767 views · 312 · 2
5,173 words · 9,246 views · 1,065 · 19
2,450 words · 4,037 views · 369 · 4
2,345 words · 4,770 views · 409 · 5
4,641 words · 1,721 views · 182 · 1
32,833 words · 4,790 views · 442 · 7
12,375 words · 6,591 views · 906 · 27
2,173 words · 1,550 views · 165 · 2
2 comments · 205 views
In the post I made offering incomplete stories and outlines for adoption, I noted that most of them contained unattributed bits of dialogue, because that’s how I write my rough drafts. That happens for a few reasons: it makes a good notation device because I can probably remember the scene and story based off of that; it lets me check out the emotional flow of the story without having to get the whole thing written (since I’m a big believer that character interactions should carry an emotional storyline;) and when I come up with something funny or heartfelt it’s usually a line of dialogue, so this way I don’t forget it.
There’s both some cause and effect in this. I truly believe that dialogue is the most important part of 90% of the fics out there. There are exceptions, of course, but usually they’re intended to be exceptions-- people don’t just happen to write a fic about two characters where there’s no dialogue or it’s unimportant, and often those fics are impressive because that’s a huge limit to place on yourself. But dialogue is the most natural way of “showing” character interactions and relationships; what characters say to each other and how they say it shows how they feel and how that changes as they talk.
For the most part, dialogue comes to me naturally. A scene plays in my head, and I write down what the characters say. But I’m also picky about dialogue in the fics I read, so I do think about what makes it work, and what’s wrong when it’s not working. I thought those thoughts might be useful to some people, so I decided
Dialogue is kind of a funny thing in writing, the “rules” are relaxed; grammar can be mangled, words can be used incorrectly or inefficiently, sentence fragments or run on sentences are all a-okay… as long as it reflects the character talking. To that end, knowing the characters you’re writing and writing dialogue go hand in hand.
One thing I’ve always found useful is to slightly exaggerate the voice of the character you’re writing. If they would have a limited vocabulary, make sure they don’t use words that are really specific. If they have an accent that changes the sound of words or their usage, that’s important to make clear. This might seem like just “how writing is,” but I can illustrate because in fanfiction we have a point of comparison.
On the show, the writers can get away with making character voices less clear or obvious, because we can hear the literal character voices. A line of dialogue doesn’t need to “sound like Rainbow Dash” because Ashleigh Ball is going to say it and it will literally sound like Rainbow Dash. So, if you read the transcripts, the characters don’t really talk like themselves that much, because so much comes from the cadence, tone, and inflection in the actual show.
In books and stories, we have to convey the same voice with words, so we have to use word choice and sentence structure to make people hear the difference between Rainbow Dash and Rarity. Bad Horse put it best a while ago, in response to a comment I gave him: “Point being that writing dialogue that a character might say might be realistic, but it isn't as good as writing dialogue that a character might say, and no other character would.”
Now, the other side of this coin is that you don’t want to go to the other extreme. Too much of a written accent, over-using catch phrases, or over-emphasizing vocabulary differences can make a character feel like a parody of themselves (and, in the case of accents or intellectual vocabulary, make your story harder to read.)
I find the happy medium in combining these things for each character and trying to use different ones in each line. For example, Rarity has a kind of catch phrase in using “darling” as a pet name, she uses upper-class language and some sprinkled British-isms (shall instead will, for example,) and she has an extensive vocabulary (she uses words that often surprise me for a kids show.) Using any one of these things in every line she has, or worse, all three, will make her sound like a joke. But alternating them between lines, with some more neutral lines thrown in for good measure, will result in a Rarity that sounds more “Rarity-like” than the show (so that we can hear her in Tabitha St. Germian’s voice) but not like some rip-off of Rarity that’s trying extra hard to be “real.”
Accents are a little different, in that they should be consistent, but the key there is to use as little of one as you can while still mimicking what the accent sounds like. Personally, I’m against using “Ah” for “I” in the Apple’s accent, because I feel like drastically changing the spelling of the word makes it something that people need to translate, which makes reading harder. And that goes for anything else where the word doesn’t retain most of its original letters (with the exception of “ya” for “you,” which is common enough in English that it’s regularly used in things like the title to Trade Ya, making it more recognizable.) There’s no right way to write it, but this is a place where less is more.
This brings me to another important subject in dialogue, one that’s separated from characterization. Timing. The time it takes for the character to say something, where they pause is especially important in comedy, but it can be equally important in other kinds of conversations between characters. There are a lot of jokes out there that aren’t as funny if a character doesn’t pause for a second before delivering the punchline. At the same time, pausing for a second before saying “I love you” back to another character can totally change the meaning of the response.
As writers, we have some limited control over how fast people read things and where they pause. This comes in two major ways: the number/length of the words you use, and punctuation.
When it comes to number and length of words, fewer or shorter words are going to make people read it faster, which will feel like the character is speaking more quickly. This is where accent comes in, when we combine words it can change how quickly they’re read: “Gotta” reads more quickly than “Got to,” “y’all” reads more quickly than “you all.” But this isn’t limited to accent, having a character like Twilight or Rarity say “agreed” is faster than “I agree.”
This extends to dialogue tags, as well. If a character is responding to something quickly, don’t put the tag in front of it, and if it’s part of a quick exchange consider not tagging it at all. If you must tag, just use said. On the other hand, if you want to draw out what the character is saying, long and descriptive tags give the words more heft, and make them feel like the character is thinking about them more.
The other way of controlling timing is with punctuation. That’s among the things punctuation is for, actually, it tells readers where and how long to pause. But dialogue is a place where people will let you play with it to get the right timing for a line. People understand that if Pinkie is talking in one long run-on sentence, it’s her excitedly barreling through the thoughts, or that if Twilight responds with a phrase with a period between each word, she’s saying something very slowly and clearly.
So that’s how to control your timing. In order to know when you need to control it, imagine the character saying the line, or read the scene out loud as you have it written down, paying attention to punctuation. Are characters pausing in the spots your punctuation is showing? Are the jokes getting lost under a bunch of words? Cut the words from the dialogue and tags. Is the emotion feeling terse and rushed? Add words to those places, even Big Mac can have a detailed and descriptive tag added to give his “nope” more emotion behind it. If a character is pausing in a weird place, or hesitating before they say something, there’s punctuation to show that. Don’t be afraid to use it, even if it’s incorrect in a technical sense.
Since I touched on dialogue tags, let me talk about them for a second. Common wisdom is to limit yourself to said, asked, and a few others. This is to avoid something known as “said bookism,” where authors get… fanciful with their dialogue tags: “she expressed,” “he insinuated,” “she acknowledged.” This often happens because authors get nervous using the same words over and over again (this problem is also the cause of Lavender Unicorn Syndrome, where people use description in the place of names) This is annoying to some readers, because dialogue tags are supposed to blend in. All they’re doing is letting you know who’s speaking. But an unexpected word calls attention to itself, often unnecessarily.
At the same time, words mean things, and sometimes you don’t mean that she said something, you mean that she acknowledged it, or admitted it. There are connotations there that imply tone of voice or even body language, and if your goal is to let people hear the conversation the way you hear it in your head then using the right word can help you.
The solution here is two parts: First, don’t be afraid of said. If the connotations of the dialogue are clear enough, use said. The only reason to use anything else is if the line itself could be interpreted in different ways, and the situation and actions around it can’t differentiate between them. Second, when you don’t use said, use a short, simple replacement. “Agreed” is less conspicuous than “acknowledged,” “shouted” is better than “exclaimed.” If you do use a longer tag, it had better be because it exactly expresses how the line was said, and this should not need to happen with most lines.
So far, this has all been technical stuff about how to write what you want the characters to say. The next part is about what you want the characters to say.
Showing and telling works differently in dialogue. In narration, showing and telling is an stylistic choice. In dialogue, it’s another part of characterization. Different characters will come right out and tell you different things about how they’re feeling. It’s perfectly valid and in character for Rarity to announce and detail the depths of her despair to anypony within ear shot, and if nopony is around she’ll tell Opal; Twilight might be more hesitant and only tell one of her friends privately; and getting Pinkie to verbally admit that she’s sad and explain why is like pulling Gummy’s teeth. Exposition works the same way: Rarity will happily tell everypony about her latest crush, Twilight has no problem explaining the history of the ruins they’re exploring. The opposite wouldn’t always hold true.
There are some things that almost any character will tell. If they’ve been thinking about their love for another character for the whole story, they can go ahead and let loose with a nice speech about it at the end. The point of showing, rather than telling, is to let the readers experience the feeling of something rather than telling them to feel it-- the other character would probably rather just be told, since they don’t have access to narration.
When people accuse a story of having “tell-y dialogue,” they usually mean that characters are talking about things they wouldn’t normally talk about that are supposed to tell the reader how they feel. It would be unusual for Applejack to randomly tell her brother how much she loves farming. If the author wanted to make it clear that Applejack does, in fact, love farming, they should probably show it.
But you can use dialogue for that, too! Applejack might not tell Mac that she loves farming, but it certainly would be in character for her to be cheerfully talking about plans for planting a new field, or developing a new apple hybrid. In romance fics, I’ve talked before about “conversations about stuff” that show the pairing interacting in the way a couple would over something ordinary, rather than just talking about their relationship.
The key with these showing conversations is not to let them overstay their welcome. Give people a good scene to understand the emotions involved, but end it before it turns into fluff or filler. Of course, tolerances for fluff vary depending on the person and the emotions involved, so this really depends on the kind of fic you’re writing, but it’s something to keep in mind if you find yourself writing a scene that’s supposed to show that Applejack and Twilight are in love that’s a whole chapter long.
That’s about it, but I’ll finish off with one final trick I use: if there’s a conversation you need in a fic, and you can’t figure out how the subject would come up, start off with the characters talking about something else. Actually, any dialogue can benefit from this, conversations shift and turn around all the time, and as long as it’s not meandering (unless that’s what you’re going for) a subject shift will feel realistic and get you to where you want to go.
If you need for the mane six to talk about their dating history, rather than the tired “truth or dare” cliche, try having them talking about gifts they’ve gotten, and have one of them bring up a gift from an ex. If you need Rainbow Dash to let slip to Applejack about the crush she has on Rarity, start the conversation about exercise routines and have Dash know more than one commonly would about how Rarity keeps in shape.
Obviously you don’t have to do this, characters sometimes go to other characters to talk about something, and talk about that thing. But in that case, you probably know how to bring it up (however the character would bring it up.) If you don’t know how it would come up, it’s probably something that they wouldn’t normally talk about, so talking about something else first just makes sense.
And that’s everything I can think to say about writing right now.
Don't forget about GhostOfHeraclitus' offer: a $50 donation to me entitles you to a blog post on a subject of your choice from him, in addition to one from me!
Thanks to my October subscribers: Ultiville, Jake R, Kiro Talon, Singularity Dream, bats, Merc the Jerk, nemopemba, diremane, First_Down, sopchoppy, Not Worthy, jlm123hi and stormgnome. If you want to see your name in links, or get other fabulous prizes, check out this post for information on how to subscribe: Subscription Info.
24 comments · 237 views
First of all, RaylanKrios claimed one of my unfinished fics from the post I made a few days ago, and he finished it up and posted it already! So, if you're interested in a fic I co-wrote (AppleDash and Flarity) check out Operation Hearts and Hooves Day. I know I'm amused by it.
Second, the incomparable GhostOfHeraclitus has made an awesomely generous offer: anyone who donates to my blog who would receive a custom blog post from me ($50) can also request one from him. More info on his offer is here, and if you want to rush to donate you can find the links in this post.
Finally, I've been meaning to do this for a while. Go ahead and ask me anything in the comments.
29 comments · 369 views
Here’s the deal: I write a lot. I just don’t write a lot on any one project. In my 2+ years in the fandom, I’ve accumulated probably over a hundred half-finished projects.
Most of them aren’t much more than a concept and a couple of paragraphs. Some of them are things that I might get back to one day, if I’m in the mood. (This actually does happen. The current fics I’m working on are ideas that I started over a year ago.) But sometimes I wrote something and really have to admit that I’m probably never going to use it. And sometimes it’s outlined or written in such a way that you could probably follow it as it is.
So I’m offering some of those to you lovely people. If you’re looking for a fic idea, here are some that are fully developed, even partially written, and waiting for you to finish them up and post them to your account to reap the internet fame that comes with them. This is not to say that they don't have problems-- several are controversial subjects or takes on a subject, some have pacing or focus issues and might need to be reworked.
I do have some ground rules:
· If you claim a fic, you are invited to use anything I’ve written for it, or to totally disregard everything I’ve written, or anything in between. Feel free to make the fic your own in any way you like.
· If you use one of these and you don’t alter it drastically, I’d like it if you toss me some credit for it. Whether it’s as an “idea by” or co-author depends on your view and how much you used of my actual writing, but since I did do some of the work I feel like it’s fair to ask for a mention.
· I’m happy to answer questions about what I was thinking and read over a draft, but I’ve done all the writing on these I plan to do. Don’t expect me to be adding more scenes or anything.
· Claim them in the comments of this post. Claims will be honored in order they hit the site, so look first to make sure the one you want is still free, and don’t forget to refresh if you’ve been hemming and hawing.
One-shots in various stages of completion (warning: Most of these contain scenes of unattributed dialogue, which is how I usually write drafts. If you aren’t sure who’s talking, feel free to make it up, or ask me.):
Claimed. Help -- TwiJack/Comedy -- Applejack and Twilight are having a nice, quiet lunch date. Or rather, they’d like to be having a nice quiet lunch date, if their friends could take care of their own problems for one afternoon.
Claimed. Operation: Hearts and Hooves -- Flarity & AppleDash/Comedy -- Rarity decides that Applejack’s Hearts and Hooves day present for Rainbow Dash isn’t romantic enough. Fluttershy decides the same thing about Rainbow Dash’s present for Applejack. They each set out to help their friends, but find that romance doesn’t work the same way for everypony.
Claimed. Untitled RariJack -- Romance -- When Rarity is at the end of her rope in need to an emerald to finish an order, Applejack comes through with the only one to be had in the town or surrounding countryside. But Rarity recognizes it, a gift she gave Applejack long ago, when they were fillies and Rarity was unable to decide what her feelings for Applejack were. Knowing that Applejack kept it all these years makes her reconsider.
Untitled RariJack Vacation -- Romance/Comedy -- For Rarity and Applejack’s first vacation together, Applejack has agreed to look after a relative's farm, but she won’t tell Rarity exactly where.
Town and Country -- AppleDash/Comedy -- The mane six are invited to a week at Fancy Pants’ country estate. Applejack and Rainbow Dash are faced with a whole mess of fancy pony rules, and need to do their best to follow them to help Rarity. (subplots include a romance between an OC noble and OC housemaid, and Pinkie running a spy ring with all the children at the estate.)
Opposite Expectations -- Romance -- Applejack and Rainbow Dash make a bet over who would be the best marefriend. So they grab Rarity and Fluttershy respectively, and try to out-do each other, but they find love isn’t that easy when it’s with the wrong pony.
Fillyfooler -- Slice of Life -- Applejack thought her friends knew she was gay, but it turns out she was wrong. When they find out, Applejack has to reel in several different kinds of crazy.
Applejack Harem Thing -- Romance -- Set years in the future, Twilight has been living in Canterlot, but she returns to Ponyville to find out why all of her friends have moved to Sweet Apple Acres to be part of what the Canterlot ponies are calling “Applejack’s Herd.”
Finally, this is nowhere near all of the stuff I have that I'm not going to use, this batch was just the most organized and thought out. Maybe in the future I'll make a post with bits and pieces if people are interested, but in the mean time if you're looking for an idea for a certain genre and characters, and it sounds like something I might write, feel free to ask me. I might have something I can offer.
19 comments · 275 views
2w, 1dAsk a Pony: Round Two11 comments · 269 views
Within the Acres of Sweed Apples there lived a mighty stallion, and a large and muscled stallion was he. For this story of a stallion or largeness and muscles refers to a pony of great might. A pony maned Big Macintosh.
Upon a sunnish morning on the acres of Sweet Apples, this stallion, Big Macintosh of the largeness and muscles, was pulling a plo, thought fields of soil the deep brown colors of dark chocolate. The plow pluued easily, because Big macintosh was a strong stallion, and the strength with which he pulled easily moved it.
When there cane a scream:
The scream came with a sound as if a pony was tarpped by a large objects, but not as large a Big macintoshs muscles. Big Macinsish knew that if there was a pony to be saved, his muscles must same them, and he would have to be there.
So he wnet there fast, galloping with a swiftness of speed like a fast movine river down a steep mountian of rocks where it picked up speed until it was moving with altricity. And thus is Macintosh go, with that speed, to where the pony has screamed.
Upon arriving at a place where a pony was trapped, he could see this pony, beneath a piel of rocks was Cheerilee. He loved cherriell with the love of a big heart, because a heart is a muscle and all of Big macintosh muscles was large. So when he saw the po ny her came to save, he knew he had to work quickly to rescue her and aid in her escape.
“I came to rescue you.” Macintoshe said with a deep voice like a rubble of thunder on a summer day when there’s a storm. “I was plowing a feld with I heard a scream and I thought you might need my muscles to save you, so I came. I’ll save you now.”
“Good.” Chreerilee answers happyly because even if she was under a gargantuan pile of rocks she was happy to have a stallion with many muscles come to save her from being trapped beneth it forever.
He, Big Macintsoh, put his large hooves against one of the rocks, a big one that was somehere near the middle of the pile, and pushed as his muscles pushed agaist his skin.
The orcks left when they exploded violently away because that was how strong big Macintosh was with his muscles psuhing them.
“I’m saved. Thak you, Big Macintosh.” Cheeriles aid.
“You’re welcome.” Big Macintosh said. “I love you.”
“Oh, well I love you, that way, also I think we should be Special somepoies.” Cheerilee said. Cherilee smiled with happiness and was in love with Big Macintosh and because he saved her and she liked his muscles that got rocks off of her.
“I don’t know.” Big Macintosh said. He really did want to be her special somepony, but for some reason he said he didn’t. It was like something inside him couldn’t decide even though he would decide he wanted to love Cheerilee. So he said that he didn’t know.
Then more rocks tumbled down pon Chrreilee, with a loud crash like a bunch of drums falling down a big flight of stairs, if drums were wrocks. She screamed and felt a ache in her heart because she didn’t know if Macintosh was her special somepony, and also how she’d get out from under these rocks.
“I wish I’d said I’d be her special somepony.” Big Macintosh said in his head so Cheerilee couldn’t hear. But his muscles heard his deep voice that didn’t say anything, and they got to pushing the rocks again, because if Big Macintosh wanted to be cheerilee’s special somepony he was going to rescue for her from all the rocks that fell on her.
When Cherrilee was free again, she smiled and Macintosh said “I rescues you becUSE i want you to be my special somplony.”
“Good.” Cheerilee said.
Cherrilee kissed Macintosh, and Macintosh kissed Cheerilee and they pressed together like tow boards that were nailed togehter with no space between them because they nailed them really good.
They stopped kissing.
“LI like your muscles, and your deep voice.” Cheerilee said.
“Good.” Macintosh said. And he was glad because Cheerilee loved him and loved his muscles which he had a lot of. That meant she loved him a lot. “I like your pretty face and the eye of color you have.”
“Good.” Cheerilee said. She had eyes of a color all the time, so she knew he would love her forever.
They loved each other because big macintosh moved rocks and saved her, and there was love in that that was deeper than a hole in the ground that lead to the core of the earth which is the deepest thing and they loved deeper then that.
They got married, and it was beauitufl becase it was a lovely day on the spring with the apples on the trees of the acres of Sewwt Apples where the sun shone with a glow like a giant candle that was bring enough to make it daytime. Other ponies where there, such as: Applejack, Applebloom, Grannysmith, and Applejacks friends and Apple Blooms friends and other ponies from town. There were many ponies on that brightly day, and Cheriinglee and Macintosh got married then. All the ponies were so happy because they could see the love that Big Macintsh and Cheeriell had and showed in their eye.
The goodness of the day was increased when no rocks fell on Cheerilee and Big Macintosh could not use his massive muscles for saving her, but for marrining her. This made the day better then any day before when they weren’t married yet and sometimes rocks fell, because they liked getting marries and they got to get married to each other, which was good.
At the end of the day they were married and liked together forever.