Monday, 10 December 2012

Finishing a Trilogy

This week I am delighted to invite Sheila Quigley to my blog. At my request she has talked about some of the issues in writing the last book in a trilogy.
I was on to chapter 4 of Stand By Me, the 6th Seahills novel, when suddenly a group of characters I had never met before invaded my head and just would not go away. Smiler would have fitted in well with the Seahills lot, but there are enough of his age group hanging around the Seahills so I shrugged and got on with Stand By Me. But the very next day Mike Yorke and his Aunt May were standing side by side with Smiler demanding their story be told, no way was I ever going to shake them off.

So I opened a new page and Thorn In My Side was born. In a short time round about 3 months it was done, the rewrite took another month or so and it was finished. Ok I'd left it on a cliff hanger so best start right where I left off, again it took just under half a year to produce Nowhere Man. Then came the hardest part of the trilogy. The Final Countdown out this week in hardback. This took twice the time that the other two books had, a lot of that was because of illness, but I think that some of it was down to the fact that I didn't want to let Smiler, Aunt May, Mike Yorke, Shelly, Danny and the rest of them go.
But it had to be wrapped up there were a lot of strands to tie up, a lot of the people fighting the familes had not met each other and to bring closure they had to meet.
And so It's finished, the last book in a trilogy is certainly the hardest to write, but i'm told by those who have read it that the ending is v good and holds a final surprise.
I have had a lot of e mails from around the world, begging me, threatening me not to let any more bad things happen to Smiler, Im sure the threats weren't real, well I hope they weren't!
So is that the end of it for Smiler and the others?
Never say never.
I've read all three books in the trilogy and I loved them all. Like all trilogy's they must be read in order to make sense. I would liken them to Pringles as one you start you just can't stop.
Grab yourself copies and enjoy three cracking books featuring unforgettable characters. The Final Countdown hits the shelves this Thursday the 13th
Feel free to comment below.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Tag or No Tag? Showing Not Telling

When writing every author will have their own opinions as to the presence and effectiveness of dialogue tags. Nobody is right and nobody is wrong. However with every word counting on the page there are different schools of thought. 

Stephen King says in ‘On Writing’ to only use said. 

Others will use dialogue tags very very sparingly or not at all. Stuart MacBride is an advocate of never using dialogue tags and his books rank very highly among my favourites
Yet again other authors will use all kind of different descriptive tags such as answered, snapped, asked, howled and so on and so on. 

Personally I now try to use as few dialogue tags as humanly possible with said being the only one I will use. My train of thought is that the character’s voices should be strong enough to denote the speaker. This for me is an extension of showing as opposing to telling. Different emphasis on certain words can change everything. 

Take for example the three passages below which all have exactly the same dialogue. 

Passage A
‘Go away,’ yelled Susan
‘I’m not going anywhere,’ snarled Brian angrily, ‘you cheated on me. Why should I leave?’
‘Please calm down,’ cried Susan.
‘Why should I be the one to leave?’ Brian repeated.
‘I haven’t got anywhere else to go,’ sobbed Susan.
‘And I have?’ asked Brian.

Passage B
‘Go away.’
‘I’m not going anywhere,’ said Brian, ‘you cheated on me. Why should I be the one to leave?
‘Please calm down.’
‘Why should I be the one to leave?’
‘I haven’t got anywhere else to go,’ said Susan.
‘And I have?’

Passage C
I’m not going anywhere. You cheated on me Susan. Why should I be the one to leave?
‘Please. Calm down.’
‘Why should I be the one to leave?’
‘I haven’t got anywhere else to go.’

For me Passage A is tagged to death and I would not enjoy reading anything which was written in this way. Also I hate seeing the word “asked” right after a question mark. The question mark itself shows that something is asked. This kind of overload has been known to make my teeth itch. I'm an adult for goodness sake. I'm not perfect at grammar but I know the squiggly line above a dot means someone has asked a question. (rant over)
Passage B is the middle ground and is indicative enough to identify the speakers without intrusion. This does tend to be the norm in most of the books I read and said become background chatter which is easily ignored.
Passage C is in my humble opinion the strongest of the three and says so much more than A or B because it treats the reader as an adult.

If the author were to have Susan move behind a table or shrink back from Jason in the narrative then it will show her fearing him. Or Brian could throw something across the room. It would be showing not telling, which every decent author always promotes. 

We all have an opinion on this. Please share yours.