Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Talking Heads In Your Novel Writing

Photo by geralt @ pixabay
In the beginning of my writing journey, I was overcome by an invasion - an invasion of the Talking Heads. I was blindsided by these creatures, because I didn't know any better. These Talking Heads took over my manuscript until I learned how to creatively combat them.

Talking Heads occurs when two characters converse together without any action, description, setting, or mood. It's just two people talking back and forth, confusing the reader as to who is who, and therefore losing the flow of the story.

So how do we get rid of these pesky buggers? 

Action Tags: Break up the dialogue with action from the character. Have a character cook, open the refrigerator, get a drink, pick up toys off the floor, etc. Simple things that a character can do will help identify them and give the reader a sense of placement in the scene.

Descriptive Setting: Add a touch of descriptive setting into an action tag. Have the character pick at the folds of the red checkered tablecloth; or plop into a worn, threadbare recliner; or step over a huge mound of dirty laundry. These give the reader hints into the life of the character and anchors them into the scene.

Inner thoughts: Get into deep POV and express the thoughts of your character. Have your character say one thing, yet think the total opposite. Or let the character think through a problem he/she is arguing about with the other character.

Body Language: This may be one of my favorite things to combat Talking Heads. Using the character's body to give a sense of their feelings helps to identify them in the scene. Have your character roll their eyes, heave a sigh, slam a door, or run their hands through their hair. These convey (show) feelings instead of "telling" them to the reader.

What else can you add to the list of defense against the Talking Heads?

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This post is brought to you by
 Sherrinda Ketchersid

Sherrinda is wife to "Pastor John" and mother to three giant sons and one gorgeous daughter. A born and bred Texan, she writes historical romance filled with fun, faith, and forever love.

12 comments:

Beth K. Vogt said...

That photo cracks me up! If that alone isn't a defense against the talking heads, I don't know what is -- just hang a copy of it over your desk.
Great post, Sherrinda.

Lindsay Harrel said...

Nice post. I use all of these on a regular basis. Hopefully no talking heads here. :P But if there are, I know how to vanquish them!

Angie said...

I have the opposite problem! I go into so much detail between characters speaking, that I am afraid the reader forgets what question was asked, or what was said to spur the next comment.;)

QuirkyAndLaughing said...

Ha ha! I'm guilty of the talking heads. Most of my dialogue scenes start this way - it just comes to me that way. I have to very consciously add the other stuff in. This is nice little checklist for doing just that!

Sherrinda said...

Beth, isn't that the best photo? I really should print it out and put it on my computer!

Lindsay, I always like having a plan for "just in case", and check lists are my friend. As I age, I tend to forget things!

Sherrinda said...

Angie!!! The opposite problem? You must have the problem of the Invisible Heads. *snort* Now...to find a good picture. :)

QuickandLaughing, (love your name btw) I'm like you - I love to have checklists just to make sure I've covered all my bases. It's like a security blanket.

Jeanne T said...

Came late to the party today. :) Tuesdays are always a little crazy with Bible study in the mornings. :)

That picture cracked me up, Sherrinda. I appreciate your list. I tend to focus on characters' body motions to tag dialog, but then I run out of things for them to do. :) I'm glad to have more ideas. Thanks!

Sherrinda said...

Jeanne, I'm kinda late too! Work and a basketball game has kept me away from the keyboard. Wasn't that picture funny? It's one of my favorites.

And Jeanne, what Bible study are you going to?

Julia M. Reffner said...

I love the heads picture, Sherrinda. I'm told I need to cut down on the dialogue tags. Think I need to get a better handle on body language versus using too much action and movement.

Pepper said...

Great post, Sherrinda.
Ugh.... I STILL do this! Blah!
But I'm learning and, like Beth said, the picture DOES give a CLEAR understanding of the problem

:-)

Susan Anne Mason said...

Great tips! I've printed this off as a keeper.

Cheers,
Sue

Jessica Nelson said...

I'm pretty sure I might have some talking heads in my books. lol

Great tips to combat them!