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Friday, June 1, 2012

Dialogue Crit #4

Critting dialogue, paying minimal attention to the tags and surrounding action. Yellow highlighter points out repetition. My apologies if I lost any italics -- they all dropped out in the copy/paste.
Title: The Rogue King
Genre: Adult Science Fantasy

“The truth is you nearly killed her. That she left because she wanted no more of me and none of you.” The proud jaw twitched and Kael shrunk from the fire in his father’s eyes. “The truth is you cost me a woman I dearly loved.” Veng glared at him, shoulders bunching in an effort to contain the rage. “Is that enough truth for you?”

“Why risk your life to save me if you hate me so much?”

Veng sighed, his breath ragged. “I don’t hate you, Kael.” He sunk onto the dune, back pressing into the sand. Eyes closed, he tipped his hairless head up, baring his dusty-brown throat to the suns. “I just miss her.”

“Is she ... dead?” The hope of ever meeting his mother shivered at the thought.

“She’s with the nomads. I’ve sent dozens of messengers. Every one of them was turned away and but -- unless there's a reason why turning messengers away tells him she's still alive, as far as I know, she’s still alive.” Eyes still shut, he frowned. “Unless something has killed her, He just said he knows she's alive? old age won’t catch up with her for a while, she’s only nineteen.” Bad grammar that easily falls into simple sentences. IME, bad grammar happens in dialogue because of complex lines of logic -- but that's just IME.

That young?
He’d always assumed his mother had been older, someone his father would’ve respected. Surely not nineteen. That would’ve made her eleven when he was born. She’d have barely stopped being a child herself before baring bearing one. “And you, being thirty-eight and nineteen years her senior, have only two years to live,Don't talk about the elephant in the room. Plus, how is this relevant to this conversation? Kael said, surprising himself with his vehemence.

Amber eyes opened slowly, head twisting to look up at him. “I went through that talk with your mother.” He sighed. “You’d be surprised how little leeway she gave me.” One corner of his mouth lifted. “Quite a stubborn woman.” Maybe you've explained elsewhere how one gets leeway on dying at a particular age? I'm guessing I'm missing a lot of world-building if Kael is only eight but speaking like an adult.

“You sure you didn’t just charm her clothes off?”

Eyelids lowered, his father peered at him through long lashes, the only hair he possessed. “That’s twice you’ve mentioned it,” he murmured. “And it sounds familiar. Are they still teaching from that old book?”

Old? It was barely older than he was. “They taught us your life, in history because you’re supposed to be dead.” And yet, if the school taught them that the great Rogue King was dead, then why were the guards still hunting for him? Furthermore, how had they known Kael was his son? He had none of Veng’s structure and looked nothing like the man in colour. “Are you really my father?”

Eyes wide, Veng stared at him before slowly looking away, doubt on his face.

“You don’t know, do you?” he asked, anger bubbling to surface once more when his question was met with silence. “How could you not realise realize, unless you're British it? I look nothing like you.” Character call: not answering the question and being bass-ackwards along the way. Is Kael supposed to realize this isn't his father because he doesn't look like him?

“And everything like her.” Given only this dialogue, I have no reason to think he knows what his mother looks like. His voice was so quiet, Kael barely heard the words over his own breathing. Veng looked him over, eyes shutting away all emotion. “Your mother always swore you were of my blood and I’m inclined to believe her.” Which still allows for her doing his brother, admittedly... He lifted a shoulder. “Besides, it was I that tended to and protected you, even if you had come from the loins of another, you’re mine now.” Bad grammar that easily falls into simple sentences, again. And I'll have to assume that Veng "tended and protected" but still left before Kael was old enough to remember him, know who he was? 

There's a lot unclear here, and some of that can be blamed on lack of context. Not all of it, though. Given how the conversation rambles, I gather that neither character has a clear objective here, but the subject matter is weighty enough that I'd think Kael would be pursuing a clear answer. 


Angela Brown said...

Sounds like this is a scene where young Veng has somehow found or stumbled upon his supposed-to-be-dead father. In the desert. At least this is what I've gathered from reading this.

The notes and questions mentioned are good things to have pointed out. One thing I appreciate is the lack of obvious tags. The he said, he said kind of thing that would have been easy to stumble into. The use of character reaction was helpful in maintaining the volley of conversation.

mshatch said...

Great crit, L. Agree completely.

Alicia C. said...

Great Crit. When I read dialogue, I get tripped up, or slowed down quite a bit if things are constantly repeated. Or Overly explained. It's so hard to remember that you have to write from inside your character's heads. They know a lot of this stuff and would never say it out loud. I have a hard time with this too...Not easy!

Aldrea Alien said...

That last sentence is actually Veng, his father, speaking. Which is something I probably need to make clearer. Although, I'm not entirely sure if that's needed as, by the time a reader reaches this point (chapter 17, some 80k in), they should darn well know what the heck is going on and who’s who.

There is a ton of world-building that comes into play here, which makes this the hardest of my stories to explain (I was trying for a piece that was dialogue heavy). But here are the short explanations: Years are doubled (Kael's 16/17). No one gets any leeway for dying. His mother’s been gone since Kael’s birth, Veng knew her since she was young. And it's been some five/six years (their time) since father and son have seen each other.
Lastly, I’m not British, but we use the same spelling. ^_^

Hope that clears up some things. After around 15 years of living with this story, it all comes naturally to me ...

Donna Hole said...

I liked the back and forth confrontation here. There was some definite growing pains on the part of the kid, and Veng had some denial and wonder both. A curious meeting. The only thing that really threw me was the voice; both characters sounded the same without tags.


Brooke R. Busse said...

I'm actually intrigued by this story, especially with what Aldrea posted above about the double years. How does that work? And the line about him dying in two years was actually a major hook for me, but since Aldrea has said this is 80k into her novel, I guess that doesn't matter so much.

I've found all of your critiques to be very insightful so far, L.