As I came to the meeting, I'd drawn a blank coming up with a subject for our discussion. As the meet and greet portion of the night was winding up, five minutes before calling the meeting to order, Bruce Haedrich approached me with a question. "What are we discussing tonight?"
I looked square in his eye and said, "I have no idea. I've been trying to come up with something but come up blank. Nobody's suggested a subject either."
He shrugged and said, "Too bad. I think I'm going to read a piece from one of my Dan Marin mysteries."
As we talked, Bruce said, "All my mystery stories are in the first person."
An epiphany, my brain slammed into gear and we had a discussion for the evening. As usual, when I broached the subject, it took on a life of its own. Numerous facets of writing in Past, Present, and Future tenses, First Person, Third Person, Narrative, or Point of View came into play and, the subject turned to dialog and how to employ it, even in the first person, to express a thought in the proper tense.
As the discussion wound down, we concluded, if you are going to break from the conventional style of writing, do it well and know what you are doing. Nothing turns a reader off faster than poor writing.
Moving into the reading portion of the evening, we heard from six of our members and enjoyed each offering. All readers were met with valuable comments and suggestions.
A story of a Fighter Pilot engaged in a dogfight with a worthy enemy left us on the edge of our seats as, instead of concentrating on killing the enemy pilot, the victorious pilot was content to kill only the machine.
Next, the theme of mercy continued with the story of a fisherman doing battle with a huge fish. After a long and arduous struggle, the fisherman reigned victorious. But, in honor of his worthy adversary's valiant struggle, did the angler release his catch and make sure the huge sea creature was sufficiently recovered to return to his home in the deep or, did he feed an entire village with the catch?
Once again, we heard an installment in the saga of the Landis House, a luxurious house of ill repute in San Francisco following the great earthquake of 1906. We eagerly await the story's conclusion at the next meeting.
Lois Stern, creator of Tales2Inspire, brought some book cover blurbs seeking the group's opinion on the content. Such blurbs and elevator pitches are tough to write; too few words and too little time.
As the final reader, Linda read from her memoir, she's using an interesting twist. The membership made numerous suggestions and offered suggestions to streamline the piece. We can't wait for the next installment.
During the readings, Ed Ellis presented his article on dialog, or dialogue if you please. The following is a copy of that article.
The Four Horsemen of Dialogue by Edwin R. Ellis
As a writer you have an obligation to the reader to study and deploy the techniques and skill of dialogue. This means as writers we need to pay special attention to this subject. It’s a structural backbone of fictional stories.
Most of the writers of our generation either have forgotten, never learned, or don’t know about the four Horsemen of dialogue (David Kantor’s Four Player System). Each horse leaves a mark when designed into dialogue. Why? In the readers mind, they know intuitively about the Horsemen, simply because they (the reader) is alive and human. We all should realize that each sentence we write is designed to communicate ideas, ideas from our heads via ink on paper and into the mind of the reader.
So what are these Horsemen and what do they do?
Horsemen #1 rides a horse named “Mover.” Moving an idea into action.
Horsemen #2 rides high in the saddle of “Opposer.” They stuff anyone’s and everyone’s ideas into a sealed wooden barrel and then walk away to see what happens?
Horsemen #3 is bareback upon the stallion “Follower.” They follow an idea as if they were sheep. They join other’s ideas without question.
Horsemen #4 rides a pony named “Bystander.” as the word implies, they stand to the side of the idea and simply observe what is taking place.
Let’s provide a simple example:
Pretend for a moment you are on a double date cruising down the boulevard being cool with another couple in the backseat of your 1957 Ford convertible. You have one hand firmly gripped upon the steering wheel, the other on your date’s leg. “Let’s head down to the Regal Cinema and watch the Rising Sun starring Clark Gable.” This character has assumed the role of the first horsemen ridding atop the horse called “Mover.”
The gentlemen from the backseat; “no way, last time we went to the Regal we got kicked out because Sam caused a problem.” This character assumed the role of the opposer throwing up roadblocks.
The gorgeous blonde in the front seat; “I really don’t care where we go, I’m along because I’m with Ed.” This character is in bed with horsemen number three, and might end up between a rock and a hard space.
The stunning brunette in the backseat; “I wish I had a tape recorder to record the three of you. You make me sick with all the syrup in the front seat. You three are something else. It was an experience just sitting here listening.” This last character has assumed the role of a bystander.
Okay, now that we have this in our minds, how can we use this valuable information as we write? If you are creating your work in a word processor, simply choose a color for each horsemen and highlight that portion in your dialogue. Who knows, you may create red, white, and blue sentences.
Here are the principles behind Kantor’s Four Player System.
“Without movers, there is no direction.”
“Without followers, there is no completion.”
“Without opposers, there is no correction”
“Without bystanders, there is no perspective”
There may be some questions brewing in the back of your minds.
Can a single character assume the roles of each horsemen or a portion of each horsemen in the same dialogue frame? Absolutely yes.
Does each character need to be attached to one or more horsemen? Absolutely yes.
Each time you focus on the power and strength of the horsemen, your character or characters will start to leave their world of flat. It’s like connecting an air hose from a hand tire pump to round out your characters.
We all know the four Horsemen from the moment we started communicating via speech. The complete stable forms from our own personal experiences. We have witnessed all of them over the years.
The difficulty is; this is so hardwired in our brains we except the behavior without thought or question. Think about this for a moment. I’m a character. I’ve stood here in a one-way dialogue frame using all four Horsemen, capturing what I believe is the immense power of the human mind to communicate clearly.
Before concluding there is one more example: this is a test. Get out your pencil and paper. After reading my concluding sentence, see if you can determine what horse or horses are at play.
“I’m the reason the beer is always gone.”
See you on the 15th,