Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Too Much Viagra in Your Dialogue

You're not going to like what I have to say ... because it's poorly written.
I swear I was thinking about something productive when I derailed and started rewriting Return of the Jedi!  Star Wars has been on my mind lately with the announcement that a new edition to the saga is coming out in 2015.  And that got me thinking in particular about the original trilogy (truthfully, I try to think of the prequel trilogy as infrequently as possible.)
                Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back were completely awesome movies in all respects.  The action, the story, the characters, the dialogue, all just what it needed to be for those movies.  Then came Jedi.  I’ve actually grown more fond of the third movie as time goes on and after experiencing Jar Jar Binks, I’ve come to realize Ewoks are just not the worst thing that can happen to a movie.  Jabba’s great, the Emperor is great, and the Ewoks are at least tolerable.  So what keeps this movie out of the same league as its two predecessors? 
                It’s the dialogue. 
                Something happened between Empire and Jedi that caused Luke and Leia to start speaking formally, especially to one another.  I’ve checked and it was written into the script that way, but shame on Mark and Carrie for not speaking up and saying, “Our characters don’t sound like this."  And "It’s Han, not HAAN!, Billy D.!”
                Anyway, that got me thinking (a little back on track at this point), what could some of the more wooden scenes been like with better dialogue?  The grossest offender in my opinion (the only one that counts in my own blog) is the scene where Luke tells Leia they’re siblings and Darth is their daddy.   This should have been a great, amazing scene, but it fell flat because of the stilted dialogue.  Could I have done any better?  Questionable, but let’s give it a try anyway. 
                Below is my version of the scene.  See what you think and then call J.J. Abrams if I need to be writing the next three.    

                The glow of primitive illumination flickers in the tiny windows of the huts hung from trees high above the forest floor of the planet moon of Endor.  Small creatures skitter below and leap from tree to tree in the canopy above.  Standing alone on a walkway connecting the huts, Luke Skywalker stares up at the night sky, his gaze fixed on the monstrous, skeletal satellite hanging against the starry canvas.
                From the dark, Leia approaches, cautious, as though a sudden movement could startle Luke away. 
                She speaks gently.
                “Luke, what’s wrong?  Something’s been bothering you since you rejoined the fleet.  Is it this mission?”
                Luke brings his gaze down to her, his face tight.  “My mission is a little different than what they’re planning inside.”  He hesitates and his expression softens.  “Do you remember your mother?  Your birth mother?”
                Leia looks taken aback, but she allows herself to remember.  “Just impressions, feelings.  I can’t be sure what parts are real and what I just imagined anymore.”
                “Describe her,” Luke presses, with a strange intensity.
                  “She … she was beautiful, at least the way I remember her.  But … always sad.”
                Luke nods.  “I’ve never been able to remember my mother.  Only my aunt and uncle.  And they wouldn’t talk about her, if they knew her at all.”
                Leia puts a hand on Luke’s shoulder.  “Luke, I’m sorry.”
                “Or my father.” 
                Something causes Leia to withdraw her hand from Luke’s shoulder.  He looks to where her hand was then away again.
                “Vader’s here.  On this moon.”
                An uncontrollable wave of nausea overtakes the princess at the mention of her tormentor, the monster who stood by as her world and everyone she loved was destroyed in the black emptiness of space.
                “He knows I’m here.  The force is drawing us together.  I have to face him.”
                “Why?”  Leia’s eyes are tight with concern.  “Why does it have to be you?”
                Luke stares into Leia’s eyes, trying to brace her.
                “Because he’s my father.”
                Leia takes an involuntary step back, the repercussion of what she’s just heard hitting her in the chest like a blow.  She reaches out for the roughhewn railing beside her.
                “No,” she whispers harshly.
                “There’s more, Leia.  You have to be strong to hear this, the way you always are.”
                “I can’t hear this,” she says, her nails digging into the railing.  She can sense something coming, something worse than she's already learned. 
                “You have to.  If I fail, it all falls on your shoulders.”
                 “I’m a rebel, Luke, not a Jedi.  I'll never be able to do what you do.”
                Luke shakes his head gently, like a patient parent.  “The Skywalkers are strong in the force.  My father passed down the gift to me … and my sister.”
                Luke waits and watches as Leia’s eyes widen, understanding dawning on her face.
                “To me.”
                “Yes.”  Luke smiles gently.  “My twin.  To you, Leia.”
                “Our connection, it’s always been there.  It’s like I’ve always known.”
                “Then you understand why I have to try to save him.”
                “No!” Leia steps back toward Luke.  “There’s nothing to save, Luke.  He can’t wash away the blood on his hands.  He’s not my father.  My father died on Alderaan.” 
                Luke looks up again to the sky.  “I can’t undo what he’s done, but if I can bring him back from the dark side, Vader will be destroyed forever.  My destiny is not to kill Vader, it's to save our father.”
                Leia lets her head fall.  The connection is strong.  She can feel Luke's determination, his need for this to be possible.  “No one else will try to save him.  You are his only hope.”  
                Turning, Luke puts a hand on Leia’s shoulder.  She reaches up and locks her hand on his, closing her eyes.
                “The force goes with you, Luke.”
                Luke squeezes Leia’s shoulder and steps quietly into the darkness, out of the Ewok village toward a waiting speeder.
                As Luke slips into the night, Han emerges from the hut where much preparation is going on for the attack on the shield generator the next day.
                “Hey, is the Jedi going to take out the generator on his own?” he says with a lopsided grin.  “Kid might be getting a little cocky.”
                Leia’s cheeks are wet and only after turning into the flickering light of the hut windows does Han see that she’s been crying.
                “Whoa, what’s going on?”
                “I…” Leia’s voice is quivering.  “I can’t say.”
                “You can't say or won't?  It sure looks like Luke knows,” Han says, pointing a finger into the darkness.  “You can tell him about it but not me?”
                “It’s not like that,” she says.
                “Ahh…” Han waves it off and starts to walk away but stops short.  He’s not the man he used to be.  He can’t walk away so easily anymore.
                “I’m sorry.  Is Luke in trouble?”
                Leia moves quickly and is in Han’s arms, her head buried against his chest.  Nothing will ever be the same. 
Drama ensues, teddy bears beat white clad, cross-eyed soldiers to death, wrinkly old dude is flushed down giant electric toilet, Lando does more than just scratch Han’s ship, Luke wonders who the hell the kid next to ghost Yoda and Ben is, and John Williams theme blares!

Bring on Episode VII!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

99 Problems But A Query Ain't One

Jay looks like he's just gotten back a few form rejections.

I’m pleased to report, after the borderline whiny tone of my last post, that querying has gone very well this go around.  I currently have a whopping five full manuscripts and two partials out with some of the best agents in the biz.  I’ve actually become accustomed to positive responses to my queries, which is an all together unnerving change of circumstance.  When I received a polite decline last week I actually thought to myself, “Oh well, your loss.”  How’s that for letting a few “Not no’s” go to your head?  Occasional grounding rejection aside, I’m very hopeful that things are on the right path with this one.    

So, I feel like I’m at a bit of a crossroads.  I’m very hopeful this book will connect with a great agent.  I’m not quite so bold as to think it might connect with more than one agent and what a dilemma that will create for me.  (Ok, I lied, I have thought of that.  My secret ego knows no bounds.  It’s like Doctors Without Borders only exponentially less usefully to mankind in general).  In the meantime, I’m trying to brainstorm my next book’s premise, and that’s where I’m having a little difficulty.  I’ve written two books before this current one, and while I think they both have merit and could even become great reads with some guidance from an experienced agent who could show me where the tweaks are needed, there was something about them that didn’t catch an agent’s eye the last go round.  Without a firm understanding of what those shortcomings were, or, better yet, some feedback on what made my current work so appealing, I’m gun shy about committing close to a year of my life to a story that might not have the market appeal it could if I just had a little powwow with my (future) agent beforehand. 

What a great problem to have, huh?  So sure that I’ll have an agent in a few months that I don’t want to start on my next project without their feedback first.  Have you ever seen someone else jinx something so completely or effectively?   

While I wait patiently for the first response to my full manuscript read through, I will continue to let my mind wander, attempting to let an infectious story take hold in my brain and fire up a passion in me for it that just won’t allow it not to be written.  Because, truly, with or without expert advice, if I can’t come up with a story that I’m absolutely in love with, no one else will ever fall in love with it either.  And those are the kinds of books I’d like to write.