Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Circus Tent

First off, make sure you check out the current standings for Word Processor Wars (the post below this one). And if you haven't thrown in your vote yet for which word processor you use, get on down there! (Especially if your vote is for WordPerfect. I'm just sayin'.) Everyone's comments were killing me. You guys are hilarious!

Secondly, sometime today, my blog will get a new look! And an ACTUAL NAME. No, really. (Up until the time it goes live, I'll take guesses on the name. :)) I've been waiting in line for my turn for a few months, and I'm so excited I'll get to show you soon!

Okay, now on to the actual post.

Every single year, my sixth grade teacher hung hundreds and hundreds of really long strips of crepe paper from the ceiling in the exact center of our classroom. He then took each strip and attached it to the wall, only a couple inches from the previous, letting it hang down a bit in the middle. The end result made it look like we were inside a circus tent.

I can't even imagine the time it took. And he re-did it every year, choosing different colors.

So, what did it accomplish? Well, school had to happen. We had to go learn about integers and symbiosis and homonyms and lost civilizations. Those things were inevitable. You couldn't progress to the seventh grade without them. Even with a fabulous teacher, learning all that stuff could very well have been mind-numbingly boring. But let me tell you-- those things are SO much funner to learn when you feel like you are learning them in a circus tent! When you can just imagine that you are in the center of fun things going on, it truly made a difference.

When we write, there are dialogue scenes that have to happen. They're inevitable. Things couldn't progress in the plot if these scenes didn't happen when they need to happen. But they have the potential to be boring. Even with really great dialogue!

And that's where the circus tent comes in. When your dialogue scenes happen in interesting locations with interesting things going on, it truly makes a difference. If the dialogue happens while racing through back alleys, or crouched hiding in a dank cave, or in the middle of a blinding snowstorm, or backstage in a play as the characters wait their turn to go on, or floating in the middle of the ocean with fish nibbling at your characters' toes, it makes it more fun.

Not only does it add excitement, but it adds another layer to the conversation. Extra stressors. Extra distractions. Extra difficulties. And that can turn a boring scene into one of your favorites in the entire manuscript!

So what kind of cool locations have you used in dialogue? Or what locations have you WANTED to use?


linda said...

Aww, your sixth grade teacher sounds awesome! And this is a great reminder about setting. Definitely one of my (many) weaknesses. Hm... off to ponder potential backdrops!

Kate Coursey said...

Hi Peggy,

I found your blog earlier today and I've loved reading through your posts! I'm a newly-agented YA writer from Utah, and I've only recently started to get into blogging. Personally, I've always wanted to write a dialogue scene with characters climbing the ancient Mayan temples in Guatemala. Random, I know, but there you have it.

Anyways, looking forward to more of your posts!

Carrie Butler said...

I ~do~ have dialogue during a snowstorm in my MS. ;) Now that, that was a fun scene to write--especially because one of the characters was intoxicated. lol Great post!

Jenny S. Morris said...

I have a scene in the Grand Canyon on a cliff that you can only get to if you can fly, I loved writing it.

Oh, and I think your 6th grade teacher was awesome!

Jennie Bennett said...

I haven't considered this before, but it's an interesting idea. I like what Jenny said, that sounds like a fun place to be :)

Abby Fowers said...

Oooh - I want to make a circus tent! How cool is that? I love teachers who go the extra mile to make learning special.

Hmmm - I think it would be cool to have a scene written in space, even though I'm not really the sci-fi type. But I love outdoors stuff, like caves, and forests and things like that.

David P. King said...

That's a fabulous idea! I had some awesome teachers, but never a circus tent-making one.

Cool locations? I want to do something on the east coast. Not sure what just yet.

Shilpa Mudiganti said...

I wish I had your sixth grade teacher in my school too! LOL! Great post...reminded me that the story needs to be fun for the reader too! :D

Ruth Josse said...

I love this! There is always some element we can add to punch up our story. I had potential love interests talk in the dark, which was kind of fun because the senses are hyper aware.

sm said...

well written

Jessie Humphries said...

My first book I set it all in cool areas of France that I fell in love with.

Bkloss said...

I absolutely, positively LOVE LOVE LOVE this post! And I am in love with your sixth-grade teacher. HOW AWESOME is that!

AND such a great tie to writing *pats you on the back* *hands you cookies* Thank you for sharing. I will now keep that crepe-paper circus tent in my head as I'm writing those necessary (NOT EVIL!) scenes.

Seriously. This is good stuff!

Peggy Eddleman said...

Linda-- He WAS awesome. Really tough, but awesome.

Kate-- Hi! And thanks! Welcome to the blogging world. I'm going to have to come check it out. And congrats on being agented. Mayan temples = awesome.

Carrie-- A snowstorm AND intoxication! Sounds like ingredients for an awesome dialogue scene!

Jenny-- Ooo! Good one! And yes, he was definitely an awesome teacher. I owe him a lot.

J.A.-- I agree!

Abby-- Space would definitely be fun. Especially a scene with no artificial gravity.

David-- There are definitely a lot of possibilities!

Shilpa-- I wish everyone did! He was great.

Ruth-- Thanks! And great scene! I love that.

sm-- Thanks!

Jessie-- Now see? That's another reason why it's so cool to go live in another country for a year or two (especially one with so many cool areas). You have such an insider's scoop! So awesome.

Barbara-- Awww. Thanks! And thanks for the cookies! And totally not evil.

Tara Tyler said...

great inspiration!
one of my scenes is in a farmers market in mumbai, with help from my neighbor

Shell Flower said...

Wow, Peggy, your blog is already lovely. I am excited to see how it works out. I once wrote a huge dialog/explanation scene taking place while my characters were sledding (and I wrote it in July). It helped me keep my cool. LOL.

Libby said...

I agree. You read in a lot of screenplay writing books about how most conversations in screenplays take place in cafes and how utterly boring that is. :)

Peggy Eddleman said...

Tara-- Talk about unique! That sounds fabulous!

Shell-- Thanks! "Helped you keep your cool." Hahaha! That's awesome!

Libby-- I'd never really thought about that, but you're right! There are a LOT of conversations happening in cafes (especially ones outdoors)! I am never going to look at one of those the same ever again.