The Nighttime Novelist...accomplishes more in about 240 pages than a dozen other "how to write" or "craft your novel" books have ever done.

--Helen Gallagher/Blogcritics
[Review]

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Monday, November 22, 2010

NaNoWriMo Tip #19: Exercise: Dialogue & Possibility

As a quick follow-up to my post on taking a sharp left turn: There might be some writers who'd benefit from trying the unexpected at a crucial moment in their novels but who doubt the transition would be believable or make sense...or people who've planned out their novels so meticulously that they doubt there'd even be a logical moment in which to try such a move.

To that concern, I'd like to offer one of the exercises from The Nighttime Novelist to illustrate just how quickly a story can actually turn...on a single word, in fact. Below is an exercise (Worksheet 18) from the book designed to be a prompt for writing a dialogue...but which illustrates, I think, how a single line or word can alter the course of a story:

My boss calls me into his office to tell me he’s quitting. On his face is a look of _________.


despair..................................rage
hopefulness...........................confusion
unchecked lust......................panic
recklessness..........................relief
accusation.............................guilt


Imagine this as a line that comes mid-book--presumably the boss character has been present, if minor, throughout, and presented to us in a certain, consistent way. So offering a big change in a single line suddenly propels the story in a different direction...and to see just how many directions might be suggested in the moment, from the obvious to the unexpected, try filling in the blank with a few different options and consider what each might allow for the story.

By the way, to see this exercise as it was originally constructed, visit the Downloads page, where you'll find all the worksheets from the book available to you for the amazing low price of free.

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