Readercon 29

It’s almost time for Readercon, my first and favorite con! I’m especially excited because this is my first year on programming.

Readercon is July 12-15 in Quincy, and programming on Thursday night is free. For more info, visit their websiteTwitter, and Facebook, and if you want to join me… here’s my little schedule! In between I will be wandering, socializing, and trying not to buy All The Books.

Friday

7:00 PM – From What Mad Universe to Radiance: The Livable Solar System
Andrea Corbin, Jeff Hecht, Kathy Kitts, Sioban Krzywicki, Catherynne M. Valente
The notion of the other planets in the solar system being habitable by humans and/or inhabited by aliens held appeal long after it was known that this wasn’t the case. How do we tell these stories and why? Is reimagining the physics and reality of our own solar system easier than FTL? Or is there a romance about it that is lost in the reality of our universe?

Saturday

8:00 PM – Come find me at the Speculative Boston party! There will be snacks.

Sunday

12:00 PM – It Takes a Village to Raise a Protagonist
Andrea Corbin, Scott Lynch, Nisi Shawl, Graham Sleight, John Wiswell
Conflicts in speculative fiction often tend toward hyperindividualist solutions, but there are other ways to build those stories. Gene Roddenberry and Ray Bradbury both often wrote stories of cooperation in which the community is the protagonist. In Cory Doctorow’s books, long sequences are devoted to the process of achieving consensus. What other stories center collaboration and cooperation, and what are some best practices for writers who want to explore these types of stories?

 

Boskone 2018

Winter is busy!

In a few weeks, I’ll be at Boskone, New England’s longest running science fiction and fantasy convention. Boskone is Feb. 16-18, and I’ll be there for most of it. For more info, visit The Boskone BlogTwitter, and Facebook, and if you want to join me, register here!

Friday – 2/16
8:00pm – Fresh Fantasy Worlds
Gerald L. Coleman, Andrea Corbin, John R. Douglas (M), Marshall Ryan Maresca, Patrick Nielsen Hayden
“High” fantasies in much of western speculative literature lean heavily on the European Middle Ages for inspiration. Pastoral landscapes, Camelottian castles, noble knights, distressed damsels. All much loved — all done to death. (Or killed off by George R. R. Martin.) Why do we still cling to them so? What’s it take to create a fresh fantasy world? Besides European models, what other options are there? And how do you enliven tropes, settings, and situations that have become old hat?

Saturday – 2/17
10:00am – Feminist Fairy Tales

Jane Yolen, Victoria Sandbrook, Andrea Corbin, Julia Rios, E.J. Stevens
Women frequently serve as the main characters of fairy tales. (Why, by the way?) It’s hard not to notice they’re often presented as victims, or the subjects of a lesson learned. Do any tales instead offer strong female role models? What can modern feminist perspectives contribute when considering stories from so long ago and/or far away?

4:30pm – Reading by Andrea Corbin
Andrea Corbin
Me! Reading to you! I don’t know what to read yet!

Arisia 2018 schedule

Oh my goodness, it’s almost time! Once again, I’m going to be at Arisia in Boston, and that’s this weekend! How the time flies. I’ll be around Sunday and Monday, and can’t wait! Here’s where you can find me:

Sunday, January 14
11:30am – You Got Your Science in My Magic

Ken Gale (moderator), Victoria Sandbrook, Andrea Corbin, Roy Kilgard, Gwendolyn Clare
We often talk about science fiction, realism, and fantasy as separate things, but the genre borders are awfully fuzzy. In stories, what does magic look like in a modern setting? We’ll explore what happens when science collides with magic, especially when that magic isn’t rule-based, and books or movies where magic and non-handwavy science work together.

5:30pm – Mystery and Supernatural Reading
Andrea Corbin, Debra Doyle, Hildy Silverman
Authors will be reading their own original tales of mystery and the supernatural.

Monday, January 15
2:30pm – Houses of the Dead: Haunted Houses in Fiction
Andrea Corbin (moderator), Gordon Linzner, Leigh Perry, Lauren M. Roy, Morgan Crooks
Many popular genre staples, such as Shirley Jackson’s Haunting of Hill House, Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, and many of Stephen King’s works, feature haunted houses. What is it about a confined haunted space draws us in and keeps us hooked? And what can this tell us about ourselves?

Writing Snappy Dialogue

Last weekend I attended Arisia, a scifi/fantasy con in Boston, and was on a panel about writing dialogue. In addition to the wonderful discussion we had, and some great questions from the audience, the other panelists and I prepared a handout for attendees that we wanted to share at large.

Here it is! And if it’s helpful, here is a downloadable PDF: WritingSnappyDialogue-Handout.


“He Said, She Said: Writing Snappy Dialogue”

Arisia 2017 – with N.S. Dolkart (moderator), Andrea Corbin, Sarah Smith, Alexander Feinman, Kate Kaynak

Dialogue is drama.

Characters’ dialogue characteristics can/should conflict with each other, just the way their ideas and emotions and opinions do. Characters should be as different in speech as they are in action. And sometimes those differing ways of communicating will cause conflict.

Let characters not listen to each other.

In real life, people often don’t reply to each other’s bits of dialogue; instead they go off on their own tangents. They might have their own agenda or inner conflict they keep worrying at instead of listening — or they may be distracted by action. The techy term for this is “talk past each other.”

  “It’s all about people talking about their own thing, talking past each other. The concept has a long literary history; see, for instance, the dialogue between Thrysymachus and Socrates in The Republic. The Chinese expression is a chicken talking to a duck.
  “Dude, have you seen my glasses?”
  “Listen to me.  I’m talking about dialogue. Which is art. You can listen without your glasses.”
   “Because seriously, man, I think the dog ate my glasses. He’s making these funny crunching sounds and coughing and stuff.”
  “My mother never paid any attention to me. No one pays  attention to me. I might as well not have a doctorate. What are you doing with your fingers down that beast’s throat?”
  “Can you get me like a couple chopsticks? Fast?”

Steal from life.

Write down things you hear around you. One good sentence can create a whole character. Listen to people! Listening to the way real people use language can shed light on different characters you may want to write.

Do your research.

Making up slang or phrasing for people who exist, now or in our past, will fall flat, and can be downright offensive. (This has different considerations in settings removed from our reality, such as secondary world fantasy characters, or distant-future scifi.)

Read your dialogue out loud, tags and all.

It’ll help you figure out where tags are needed to indicate the speaker, where they might be redundant, and of course, where your words might just sound clunky.

Note: the way you read your dialogue isn’t necessarily the way other people will read it. If you find you have to stress particular words to get the point across, and saying it “wrong” would break the meaning, the sentence probably needs a rewrite.

Leapfrog the obvious.

Not every greeting and comment needs to be on the page. You might need to write every line in a first draft, but don’t be afraid to cut the chaff and leave only dialog that moves the plot or illuminates character.

Tips and tricks to differentiate characters

  • Pay attention to sentence length and structure. This can and should be varied from character to character. Think of long run-on sentences versus pithy one-liners or fragments.
  • Different people’s voices have different rhythms. Using distinctive rhythms — think of meter and foot in poetry — helps differentiate voices.
  • What slang would a character use? What localism or colloquialism might they employ that another character never would? Listen to real people who use slang to get it right.
  • Most people don’t speak in full, grammatically correct sentences. How does your character break the rules? Do they break with modern conventions to sound historical, or the opposite?
  • Imitate style: Similar to accents is finding a piece of writing that implies a character and imitating it; this works particularly well with historical characters.  One of us based a fussy bachelor character who liked children on Lewis Carroll’s preface to Sylvie and Bruno. Mark Gatiss is a notable Victorian imitator (he’s written Victorian porn, the dear man) and did something  similar for Mycroft Holmes.

Narrative can be speech.

Certain points of view stay in the mind of a single character. If you use first person or third person limited POV, remember that everything seen directly from a character’s POV is “dialogue” and should follow this advice, too.

Things not to do

  • Overuse adverbs, AKA the infamous “Tom Swift.”  “‘I’m falling!’ shouted Tom swiftly.” Carefully-deployed adverbs can work, but improving dialogue or the narrative around it is more effective and subtle. You can write attitude better than you can describe it.
  • Accents. It can be really fun now and then to experiment with writing everybody in different accents (even Ze ‘Orrible Cliched Fransh Accent), just to see how far you can differentiate characters. It might even be useful in a first draft, to help you get into the rhythm of different characters’ voices. But be aware that this will also put a lot of readers off, obscure the content of the dialogue, and is extremely difficult to do sensitively. If you think you’ve done it inoffensively, you’re probably wrong. Strip it out before you try submitting it anywhere. Even in historical fiction, never, never, never use outdated cliches of accents or dialect that denigrate people.

Resource links

The POC Guide to Writing Dialect In Fiction (Tor.com)
The 7 Tools of Dialogue (Writer’s Digest)
9 Easily Preventable Mistakes Writers Make with Dialogue (The Creative Penn)
How to write dialogue and The challenge of writing good dialogue (John August, screenwriter)

 

Friendly Neighborhood Con

Though I’ve lived nearby for years, this year was the first time I went to Vericon. The sun was out! I didn’t want to sit down and edit! Friend was there! So what if I hadn’t read anything by most of the authors there? I was nearly done with Seth Dickinson’s novel! Good enough.

That ends up not mattering much, because authors are delightful, funny, excited people, and everyone is very nice.

I tried to come up with accolades for everyone on the panels I saw, but I’m not that prolific. Instead, the two notables:

Author who made me laugh the hardest: Seth Dickinson (lord, I’ll never think of vegetable oil the same way again. Or writer’s block.)

Author whose history class I most want to take: Ada Palmer (she made me deeply interested in medieval scholars debating the degree of divine inspiration involved in texts! That’s a trick.)

Next year I’ll have to go for a full day, gosh.