Sunday, March 3, 2013

"Shut Up!" He Explained by William Noble

Debra posted last month on an old book. Tis the season because the book I wish to tell you about this month was first published in 1987. For we boomers, that's not long, but for young writers, it's a lifetime ago.

Good books never lose their power. As a writer, that thought excites me. One lesson I've learned the last few years is that white space on a page beckons readers.

My eyes jump to a page filled with white space or, as writers call it, dialogue.

This has been my week to dwell on writing dynamic dialogue. The 4RV Publishing newsletter welcomed an article from me on Friday, March 1. I wrote about 8 Tips to Dynamic Dialogue. The URL for that article is in case you'd like copy and paste it into your browser and read.

No doubt, writing those words brought an old book to my attention. It's called "Shut Up!" He Explained.

I awoke last night wondering if I had reviewed that book on our books to write by blog. I checked. I hadn't. I am. I purchased this book from Writers Digest years ago before I ever heard of a writing group or a writing conference. It was just me, writing books, and a blank piece of paper.

I rush to this book whenever I struggle to ramp up the emotion in character conversations. When I taught a workshop on dialogue, I searched out this book for help. When I wrote my 8 Tips article Friday, again, I consulted this book. It's my go-to reference on this topic.

I perused the book, opening it on pages where I had sticky notes. I didn't get far. On page 5, I read, "Conversation, then, is not dialogue." Here's the example given: (Yes, I thrive on examples.)
"Where do you live?"
250 State Street
That's conversation.
"You live around here?"
"If you want to call it living."
That's dialogue.

Enough said.

Then, comes page 98 and 99. Yes, there's another sticky-note and tons of underlining and circling. I put my mark on this book. Here Noble compares fiction writing with screen plays. "On the stage, characters rarely speak their lines without doing something--sitting or walking, or drinking or making a face...." This is a good reminder. How long has it been since you went to a live play? Actors study their position on the stage along with their movements and coordination with others on the stage at least as much as their memorized wording. Should our characters not do the same?

Chapter 13 of this book explores beginning a short story or a novel with dialogue. How could that idea pump up the emotion and pull the reader into the main character's plight?

If you haven't added "SHUT UP!" He Ezplained, now might be a good time. The book has been released in paperback and is available on Kindle.


  1. I have this book, but I have never read it. I'm going to pull it off the shelf and put it in my reading stack. You do dialogue very well, I might add.

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  3. Ah, thank you, Sue. I do love dialogue. Yes, read that book. I still find helpful hints thers.


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