Update: I’m back on my first manuscript, Blue Across the Sea, rewriting it for self-publishing on Draft2Digital here soon. This story portrays a designed environment, a bucolic dis-utopian future set in the Great Basin (which is now the Bonneville Inland Sea). I had a great time writing it, but my skills were pitiful — and it shows now that I’m going back through it.
Incidentally, Shadow Shoals takes place in the same future time frame – but on the East Coast of the US. These stories are 200+ years post CME.
I sat and thought last weekend about stories and what we remember from them. What makes a story memorable? I’m struggling with trying to get the parts of a story balanced: plot, setting, conflict, events, characterization, and dialog. And I wondered if the things we remember about a story might help focus my emphasis. And here is one theory I came up with: What we remember are the people, settings and events.
In M.R. Carey’s The Girl with all the Gifts I remember the classroom, the chemical scrub, the gnashing of teeth at the sergeant’s arm, the girl strapped to the table about to get her brain removed, the escape from the facility, the bouncing trip in the HumVee, the use of a tiny girl as a lure, the grey wall of fungus.
Do I remember any dialog? No. I remember what happened, the events and the reactions, the suffocating thought of spores entering my lungs. The realization that this was the best representation of zombies ever.
I don’t remember anything anybody said. I recall the girl was super bright, and the teacher naive (no doubt communicated through dialog). But nothing specific.
There’s this YouTube ad, a grizzled writer (for a Masters Class I think) sits and talks, “I’ll a piece of paper, and a pen would be nice, and I’ll sit down and write some dialog.”
I imagine two friends stepping out from the theater after they saw that paper and pen dialog movie, they meet a third friend:
“So, what’d you think?”
“It was good.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Well, it was two people talking.”
“And what happened?”
“Nothing really. The man smoked a pipe. The woman drank coffee. They were both in their sixties.”
“Okay. About what then?”
“Oh, life, love, this and that, I don’t really remember.”
“But it was good.”
“Yeah, but, no, nothing happened. Oh, wait, the guy made a mess with the ashes as he cleaned his pipe.”
We remember events and setting and situations and rarely what anybody said.
Dialog seems to represent the feel and packaging of a character. Dialog is the critical glue that holds story parts together. The parts might be good and memorable on their own, but how we get from scene to scene is people talking us through it.
Yet, we remember the parts and not the glue.
I’m sure there are exceptions, but, again, I’m seeking broad spectrum heuristics here that I can remember as general application rules.