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Thursday, March 18, 2010


The fast continues. Naturally my thoughts dwell on food.

I use food a lot in my writing. In Elementals, Glorya's first confrontation with The Queen is over a dinner of raw oysters, a "delicacy" unknown and unappreciated by the princess. In Star of Justice, Caissa meets Merritt during a meal. As I think about it, food should be its own character in Star of Justice. Caissa doesn't care about what she eats, Merritt prefers three squares a day, and no one ever catches Raven with food in her mouth.

Jeff the Publisher encourages "beats" in writing. A "beat" is a moment of description or down time that slows the pace a bit and gives the reader the illusion of real time passing. Beats are useful during dialogue to keep the conversation from feeling like a Dragnet episode.

Strassus looked around the table at each guest in turn. "And the rest of you?"
Pip pulled her head out of her ale mug to look around as well. She sucked at a piece of tentacle stuck in her teeth.
Rioto and Scar nodded. Strassus looked at Pip who was busy slurping the last of the juice from her chilled fruit cup. "And you, mistress gnome?"
"I don't know." Pip licked the rim of the cup. "Ten thousand gold, who wouldn't want that? But then, search for an old book? What if we don't find it?"
"I'll wager you'll be the first to lay hands on it."
Pip's pointed ears perked. "How much?"
Strassus considered. "An extra five thousand gold."
"If I lay hands on the book first?"
He nodded.
Pip rubbed her tummy. "Strassus the Bold, you got yourself a bet."

That's a very brief excerpt from one of our role-playing sessions, but it does provide an illustration.
Strassus was the wizard hiring our party to go to a haunted castle and find a magic book. Hmm. That sounds kind of familiar.

Eating provides a wonderful opportunity for beats. The character must pause to chew, to spear asparagus, to sip from a tankard or stick his head in a wide, wooden bowl to lick oatmeal from the bottom. All these actions provide beats as well as character description through showing.

Of course, your story may not leave room for meals. The same theory applies to any type of physical action that can occur during a scene of dialogue.

Well, there's some food for thought. That's the only kind of food I'm getting today, so I'll make the most of it.

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