Monday, May 22, 2006

Harry Potter and the Crackling Dialogue of Storgé

I haven't a clue why so much flat, emotionless dialogue is actually published. Perhaps it's because so many editors are artless cretins, who won't bat an eyelash at publishing pure dreck for dosh. You, dear grasshopper, must be a craftly cork in a sea of illiterate Philistines! Rise above, and let the waves of ignorance wash you to the shores of women and fame and glory and millions in advertising revenue!

Anyway, for practice, we're going to fix up a passage from a very popular book. It's from chapter 23, The Yule Ball, of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (a pretentious name if I ever heard one). Ron has just learned that Hermione is at the Yule Ball with Viktor Krum, the contest champion from another school.

"I'd never help him work out that egg!" said Hermione, looking outraged. "Never. How could you say something like that--I want Harry to win the Tournament. Harry knows that, don't you, Harry?"

"You've got a funny way of showing it," sneered Ron.

"This whole Tournament's supposed to be about getting to know foreign wizards and making friends with them!" said Hermione shrilly.

"No, it isn't!" shouted Ron. "It's about winning!"

People were starting to stare at them.

"Ron," said Harry quietly, "I haven't got a problem with Hermione coming with Krum--"

But Ron ignored Harry too.

"Why don't you go and find Vicky, he'll be wondering where you are," said Ron.


Rowling has done alright with the exclamation points, and they do lead us to believe that this is an emotionally intense scene. That crackling electric charge is missing, however. Some aspects of the story in her head were lost when she plopped them (messily) on the page, but we know how to put them back.

This is the same passage after replacing said-verbs with more descriptive verbs, removing adverbs, randomly picking names for tags, controlling pace through actions and gestures, and giving characters voice:

"Verily, I should die a thousand deaths if I should aid Viktor in his eggy quest!" verilied Bushy McBuckFace. "Never! How couldst thou utter such atrocity--verily, verily, I desire that Harry winneth the Tournament. Harry knoweth such, by his leave."

"****!" verbalized the gangly red-headed youth as he gestured.

"Forsooth!" forsoothed Smartypants as she actioneth and gestureth. "Thou knowest the tournament's purpose, thou beslubbering wastrel! Behold, only in befriending strangers is that which fulfilleth it!"

"It ain't!" expressed Scaredy-Pants. "Dat ****'s about winnin'!"

People were starting to stare at them.

"Ron, my good man," articulated Scarhead, "I say, I haven't got the slightest problem with Hermione's gallavanting," he gestured wildly, "with Mr. Krum--"

But Arachnophobe ignored Green-Eyes too.

"Why ain't you go an' find Vicky, dat ***-****ing *****'ll be wonderin' where you is," utterized Harry's best friend. "Peace yo, *****. I'm gone."


Outrageous.

What's missing still? Why, meteorological accentuation, that's what! The dialogue still seems a little flat without it, but fortunately, it's not too hard to add:

"Verily, I should die a thousand deaths if I should aid Viktor in his eggy quest!" verilied Bushy McBuckFace as the great storm washed over the castle. "Never! How couldst thou utter such atrocity--verily, verily, I desire that Harry winneth the Tournament. Harry knoweth such, by his leave."

"****!" verbalized the gangly red-headed youth as he gestured. Lightning struck!

"Forsooth!" forsoothed Smartypants as she actioneth and gestureth, and the sea moaneth and the earth shaketh. "Thou knowest the tournament's purpose, thou beslubbering wastrel! Behold, only in befriending strangers is that which fulfilleth it!"

"It ain't!" expressed Scaredy-Pants, while rocks an' bricks an' all dat **** was fallin' on da groun' aroun'em. "Dat ****'s about winnin'!"

People were starting to stare at them. The mighty earth moved! Streams of dirt as old as Slytherin's bones made small piles on the floor, and pieces of debris thumped around them.

"Ron, my good man," articulated Scarhead as the earthquake let up for a little while. "I say, I haven't got the slightest problem with Hermione's gallavanting," he gestured wildly, "with Mr. Krum--"

But Arachnophobe ignored Green-Eyes too. Just then, a wall broke inward, spraying bricks and dust all over the dance floor! The specular nose of an alien spacecraft poked in at them, but they paid it no heed.

"Why ain't you go an' find Vicky, dat ***-****ing *****'ll be wonderin' where you is," utterized Harry's best friend. "Peace yo, *****. I'm gone."

A small, green figure emerged from the cracks in the stone and fell to the floor. It held up a pleading appendage... and then was still.


That's wicked literate.

We have two branches we could take from here. We might leave the alien as is, simply for emphasis, and never mention it again. (Perhaps Filch's cat eats it.) Or we could use it to drive the story, and undreckify the rest of the book's plot. (Aliens land on the Earth all the time. We don't want to lie to our readers by not including them, right?)

Joanne Rowling needs me as her editor. Book 7 is still in production. There's still time.

6 Comments:

At 7:14 AM, Blogger Lisa said...

Up-frackin'-roarious.

I'm just saying'.

 
At 12:58 PM, Blogger Clarissa said...

Mr. Writing Person, you illiterate Philistine, it's "all right." Not alright.

Don't make me claw my eyes out.

 
At 2:43 PM, Blogger Mr. Writing Person said...

"Alright" is the posterior injective of "all right," which is appropriate in complimentary sentences that are followed by, or contain, a caveat. An example might be more illustrative:

James did done alright delivering his wife's baby, but forgot to sever the giant flagellum.

Just because it's unfamiliar to you doesn't mean it's wrong. Check your Strunk & White, grasshopper.

 
At 8:06 PM, Blogger Clarissa said...

Thanks for the laughs, Mr. Writing Guy, but I don't read past "alright." See you around.

 
At 11:59 PM, Blogger Mr. Writing Person said...

I do hope you find it within yourself to return, dear Philistine.

 
At 9:07 AM, Anonymous izzy said...

Hello Mr.writing person,
I found your creative use of the english word intriging. It's always fun to shake things up abit. Makes life worth living.
Thank you.

 

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