Monday, September 25, 2017

Maximizing Use of Beats in Dialogue


By Julie Lessman


Action speaks louder than words. Do you believe it? Well, if you’re an author, you better, because we must use words to convey “action” in a reader’s mind or “movie mind” as I describe in my Seekerville blog, Keeping it “Reel” … or a “Novel” Approach to Putting a Movie in Your Reader’s Mind.

Maximizing use of “beats” (or action) in dialogue ramps up tension, so instead of overuse of speaker attributions (i.e., he said, she said), try a healthy dose of action beats with minimal speaker attributions or none at all.

1.) ACTION BEATS ALONE ENHANCE DRAMA, especially with only two speakers, allowing less chance for confusion. This excerpt from A Hope Undaunted shows it both ways—with speaker attributions and beats, and then beats only, which I think elicits more tension. But . . . you be the judge!

SPEAKER ATTRIBUTION/BEATS:

“Is that all this was between us then?” he said, locking her wrist midair when she tried to slap him. “A little fun while your rich boyfriend was off limits?”

“I never started any of this,” she said, jerking her hand free, “and you know it. It was you.”

“No,” he said, fingers digging in as he pressed her to the counter. “But you sure finished it, didn’t you?”

BEATS ONLY:

She tried to slap him, but he locked her wrist midair with a painful grip. “Is that all this was between us then? A little fun while your rich boyfriend was off limits?”

She jerked her hand free. “I never started any of this, and you know it. It was you.”

His fingers dug in as he pressed her to the counter. “No, but you sure finished it, didn’t you?”

2.) ACTION BEATS W/MINIMAL SPEAKER ATTRIBUTIONS CAN ENHANCE EMOTION. In this angry love scene from A Passion Most Pure, I relied heavily on beats (underlined) because speaker attributions can slow the flow of a tense scene. Only two speaker attributions are included (bolded) to drive emotion home with a strong response.

She jerked her hand from his and stood, quivering as she caved against the chair. “I can’t marry you, Collin.”

He leaned in. “I know you love me. Can you deny it?”

She didn’t speak and he jumped up, gripping her arms to lift her to her feet. When she wouldn’t look at him, he grabbed her chin. “Look at me! Can you deny you love me?”

She stared through a mist of tears. “Let me go.”

“Tell me you don’t love me.”

“I don’t love you.” 

“You’re lying, Faith. I would have thought better of you than that.”

“Well don’t!” she screamed. “I’m not better than that. You’ve said your apologies, Collin, now let me go.” 

She tried to turn away. He jerked her back. “I know you love me. Don’t you think I can feel it every time I touch you?” He silenced her with a savage kiss. She struggled to pull free, but he only held her tighter, the blood pounding in his brain. His mouth was everywhere—her throat, her earlobes, her lips—and he could feel the heat coming in waves as she melted against him. She was quivering when he finally let her go.

“You love me, Faith,” he said quietly. “You know it, and I know it. Your heart belongs to me, and nothing can ever change that fact—not Charity, not you, and not your god.”
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Julie Lessman is an award-winning author whose tagline of “Passion With a Purpose” underscores her intense passion for both God and romance. A lover of all things Irish, she enjoys writing close-knit Irish family sagas that evolve into 3-D love stories: the hero, the heroine, and the God that brings them together. Author of The Daughters of Boston, Winds of Change, and Heart of San Francisco series, Julie was named American Christian Fiction Writers 2009 Debut Author of the Year and has garnered 18 Romance Writers of America and other awards. Voted #1 Romance Author of the year in Family Fiction magazine’s 2012 and 2011 Readers Choice Awards, Julie was also named on Booklist’s 2010 Top 10 Inspirational Fiction and Borders Best Fiction list. Julie’s most recent novel, Isle of Hope was voted on Family Fiction magazine’s Best of 2015, and Surprised by Love appeared on Family Fiction magazine’s Best of 2014. Her independent novel A Light in the Window is an International Digital Awards winner, a 2013 Readers' Crown Award winner, and a 2013 Book Buyers Best Award winner. Julie has also written a self-help workbook for writers entitled Romance-ology 101: Writing Romantic Tension for the Sweet and InspirationalMarkets. You can contact Julie through her website and read excerpts from each of her books at www.julielessman.com<http://www.julielessman.com/



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