Saturday, October 24, 2009

Meat & Potatoes, Corn, Peas, and Beats

By Keith Fisher

No, I didn’t spell it wrong. Let me explain, but first, Theres a book lauch party in Fillmore today. Click on the link at the bottom.

In critique group this week, we heard a story about a writer who explained the need of adding potatoes to a manuscript. In the simile, the manuscript is dinner, the dialogue is the meat, and the narration is the potatoes. Some writers are carnivores and their meat is spectacular, but they have to go back and add the potatoes for a well-rounded dinner.

That is the syndrome I’ve fallen into, chopping the narration, making the dialogue stand-alone.

In Writer’s Secrets, published by LDStorymakers, Linda Paulson Adams compares the bits of narration to the glue that holds the dialogue together.

I was told in critique group, parts of my dialogue needed beats. This is a common suggestion for me. I know what it means.

In the book, Self-Editing For Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King, we learn. Beats are little bits of action interspersed through a scene, such as a character walking to a window or removing his glasses and rubbing his eyes—the literary equivalent of what is known in the theater as stage business.

When beats were mentioned, the lady who’d told the story about meat and potatoes said, “hey what are beets?” We had a pot luck dinner at critique group this week. So, by the time we got to my chapter, It was late, and we were getting loopy. We all leaped to the comparison of the meat & potatoes story, and the beats. Someone said something like, “Beets? Okay, lets get our vegetables strait.”

We were left with explaining the concept of beats, not beets. I always think of rock n roll. The beat makes the rhythm easier to play. Beats interspersed with good dialogue keeps the reader going, and removes the stumbling blocks.

Whatever vegetable or binder you prefer, leaving them out makes a reader stumble. If it’s hard to read, it’ll get tossed. But Keep in mind, as Linda Paulson Adams said, using too much glue, can ruin the project. Beats, potatoes, or beets can also be overdone.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.
Come to the book launch Click on the picture and I'll see you there.


L.T. Elliot said...

This is something I'm trying to work on too. I'm trying to make sure my narration is just as moving as my dialogue. Great advice, Keith. Wish I could be there tonight but alas, it won't work. Have fun though!

Heather B. Moore said...

Great advice & analogy!

Yaya' s Changing World said...

Thanks for the analogy. I never thought of writing that way, but it certainly will help me in the future. ~ Yaya

Keith Fisher said...

Thanks for Commenting all of you.

Evelyn Curtis said...

I had a high school English teacher who taught this theory. It taught me a lot about writing... way before I was even interested, or knew that I would take on the challenge of writing a novel that people would want to buy. Thanks for the reminder!