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Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Editing tips - Phony

The telephone conversation is another potential pitfall for the unaware writer. It can come across as phony – pun intended, but you probably guessed that.

Here’s an example. Several contemporary mss I receive might replicate this.

Brent listened, unimpressed as Joe tried to bullshit him again with computer jargon. ‘I don’t give a shit about any of that! I want it taken off the net…’ he demanded.

‘What do you mean it’s not that easy?’ Brent incredulously asked. He sighed and Joe started again.

And so on…

This scene is from Brent’s POV. So why doesn’t Brent – and the reader – hear Joe speaking on the other end of the phone?

Writers watch TV and movies and see only one side of a phone conversation (unless the director uses a split screen technique) so they jump in and do the same. The difference is, the story on the screen isn’t from the character’s POV. The viewer isn’t in the character’s head. On the page, the reader’s in the character’s head until such time as the POV changes.

If Joe had a few lines of speech, it would be a little more credible. Brent could have encapsulated the rest in his narrative head. Such as, ‘Hey, Brent, it isn’t that easy,’ Joe whined. Then Brent makes his outburst. Getting Brent to repeat the words the reader doesn’t hear is for the stage, not the book. Instead, Joe should have said those words.

Just a hang up of mine, I guess.


Charliann Roberts said...

Another good point. Thanks Nik!

Nik said...

And thank you for reading and commenting, Charliann.