#3 – DIALOGUE – ACTION BEATS

RESTORE BY NUMBERS

I provide a passage from a master that has been vandalized (by me) at the numbered locations.  You restore the original. 

THE CRIME:

“She’s here voluntarily?”

“My God, yes,” he said unconvincingly (1).  “How else would she be here?  This is a Christian church.”

“Her friend says she was taken forcibly.  That’s why he hired me.”

“That is absurd,” he said gravely (2).  “Who is this friend?”

“No need for you to know,” I said emphatically (3).

“The charge may well be actionable,” Owens said severely, almost childishly (4). 

Clue:

Delete the adverb and add a stand-alone descriptive sentence, before or after the speech.  You’re not trying to second-guess the master – just improve the passage.  And remember – show, don’t tell.

Copy and paste the passage elsewhere in order to edit it.  Then check E.J.’s comments below.

A Tip:

An action beat helps the reader interpret the speech.  And, it is showing, not telling.

THE ORIGINAL (Robert B. Parker in “Valediction”)

“She’s here voluntarily?”

Owens put his head back and smiled and rolled his eyes at the ceiling.  “My God, yes. (1) How else would she be here?  This is a Christian church.”

“Her friend says she was taken forcibly.  That’s why he hired me.”

Owens didn’t smile.  “That is absurd,” he said (2).  “Who is this friend?”

I shook my head.  “No need for you to know,” I said (3).

“The charge may well be actionable,” Owens said (4).  His face was severe, and with his freckles he looked like an angry child.

E.J.’s Comments:

The underlined action beats (my underlining) reveal character, suggest mood or emotion, and advance the story.

Bonus Tip:  Note – Six speeches, but only three “saids”.  When you can, eliminate the dialogue tag.

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About EJ Lavoie

Writer and independent publisher with website www.WhiskyJackPublishing.ca
This entry was posted in RESTORE BY NUMBERS, WRITING and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to #3 – DIALOGUE – ACTION BEATS

  1. Odette Lavoie says:

    Professeur un jour,professeur toujours.Salut Edgar .C’est toujours un plaisir de te lire.

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