A Glimpse Inside a Dirty Mind

I love to write a scene. And when I say "scene," I mean it in that shocked prude whispering under their breath kind of way, "Don't cause a scene!" But I also mean the dialogue and action kind of scene. Which I contend should be the first thing a writer puts to paper (everything else is layering). But more on that later.

Why, just this Monday, I was at my writing group...

*the mist rolls in, cuing a flashback*

M--name changed to protect the innocent--is reading from her WIP. It takes two pages of exposition to get to the first hint of scene. Dialogue is brief and transitory and seems to link passages of exposition rather than the other way around.

T follows her with a similarly exposition heavy reading.

I drift off into daydreams involving razor blades and bathtubs.

*the mist separates*

So...we had to have the discussion about scenes being the cornerstone of the novel, the driving force behind everything.

Now, don't get me wrong--I love a touch of exposition here and there to shake things up a bit. Take this little transitional ditty from HAPPY HOUR OF THE DAMNED...

Speaking of fashion, on my way out of the office I was greeted by the grating voice of burgeoning fashionista Rowena Brown. Pendleton calls her 'Lollipop' because the color of her hair extensions always matches her tank tops. At least, I think that's the reason. I hope it's not because he wants to lick her.

Since having a gastric bypass, she melted down at least ten sizes, but her skin hadn't. It collected around her ankles, like sagging brown skin boots. In day-glo miniskirts, tight halter-tops and 6-inch heels, Lollipop appears less an aging streetwalker, than shriveled ghoul. She shuffles down the halls; head balancing Harijuku girl pigtails, and teetering precariously.

Once, she even fell in front of me. The landing scored a 9.5. She settled with her head perched in an odd angle against the copier. A single blinking eye glared up from Lollipop's twisted face; ultimately she was uninjured. Not that I would have eaten her to put her out of her misery. Absolutely not, she looked to me like one big piece of gristle.


I like to use exposition for laughs, but when I'm reading I don't want to see more than a couple of paragraphs of the author telling me something. I'm from Missouri, people, and they don't call it "the show-me state" for nothing.

The conversation at group located the source of this need to "tell". It comes from english class essays. We're taught to follow a basic structure in our writing. Opening statement followed by evidentiary sentences, lather, rinse, repeat. It's hammered into us. And you remember how boring those essays were, dontcha?

My best advice to break the exposition habit is to try and write only scene (action/dialogue), no internal dialogue, no back story and description only as it pertains to the action. Once the scene is written and it sparks and makes you happy, you can go back and layer in some character thoughts, emotional cues, characterization, etc.

Here's a scene (this one from my WIP, THE DARK RITES OF JOE BARKLEY)...

"Do you know how to tell if these are ripe?" Joe held a greenish cantaloupe to his ear, and attempted to look helpless.

"Let me see." The brunette thumped the melon like you would your little brother's head. "Nope." She picked another melon, gave it a few thumps and then turning to Joe, held it to his ear.

Thump, thump, thump.

"Do you hear that?"

"What?" Joe stepped in closer to the woman.

"That hollow sound. That's how you can tell it's ripe."

"Mmm." Joe hummed the sound. "What about smelling the end? I'd always heard--"

The woman brought the cantaloupe to her pert nose. It quivered a bit with each sniff. Joe moved in to smell, too, but not the fruit. He brushed his hand against the back of hers. She was staring at him now; a slow smile crept onto her mouth. She wet her lips. "I think I heard that."

Ingrid was breathing in an aroma; that was certain. Joe released his toxins in that moment, a small dose, just enough to make the woman more agreeable to the seduction. It tangled with the scent of the cantaloupe and made it's way into her lungs.

"I'm Joe."

"Ingrid." She chewed at her lip, her eyes heavy-lidded with yearning.

Within twenty minutes the two were in a nearby motel, tearing at each other's clothes, bare feet on threadbare carpet. Joe tossed Ingrid back onto the mattress. He kissed her feet, nibbled at her calves, kneaded her thighs. He pressed his face into her moist folds, lapping at each layer, curling his tongue around the knot of flesh so sensitive it seemed attached to her spine. Her legs wrapped around him, her heels dug into his ass.

Joe reached down, shoved the band of his underwear under his sack, and found an unfamiliar softness. He separated from Ingrid. Sitting upright on his haunches, he jerked at himself, spat in his hand and tried some more.

The lubrication had no effect.

"It's a nice enough looking dick, though," Ingrid pulled on her panties, snatched her clothes from the floor, and retreated to the bathroom. "Maybe, I should have thumped your crotch."

Should I have warned you there'd be dirtiness? Oops...guess the title was the tip-off.

It's pretty simple stuff, just what happened, but it gets you there. It's paranormal but you only get that from one line. You'll also note I have an aversion to dialogue attribution, favoring action beats.

Give it a try. Go back to your WIP and pick a scene. Rewrite it as dialogue and action. Come back and tell us how it worked. Did you run into any problems? Did you love it?

Comments

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