Roman Castavet, a Satanist and morgue employee, has been supplying the antagonist Corky Laputa in Dean Koontz’s The Face with foreskins from cadavers. He is a character that we meet very briefly. To that end, Koontz must make him at once a “character”. We all have that obligation. But at what cost? We visit again the dreaded adverb when Corky surprises Roman with a visit in his place of work. Corky assures Roman that his presence won’t raise eyebrows because the guards at the sign-in desk think he’s a visiting Pathologist.
“Huh? Why would they think that?”
“I have a source for excellent forged documents.”
Roman boggled*, “You?”
“Frequently, it’s advisable for me to carry first-rate false identification.”
“Are you delusional or merely stupid?”
“As I’ve explained previously, I’m not just an effete professor who gets a thrill from hanging out with anarchists.”
“Yeah, right,” Roman said scornfully.
Reading the give and take in its entirety, this dialogue already shows us that these two are far from friends. That Roman doubts Corky’s competence and ingenuity is implied. Do we really need the adverb? Must we be truly shown or can the author (I still say it’s the editor flubbing this book) describe the sentiment? You decide.
*Boggled is a verb. Very descriptive too.
Well, yes and no. In a series, one relies on the POV character (1st person usually) in such a way that when they describe someone’s speech or action with an adverb we aren’t jolted out of the story but are brought into it by the narrator/POV character’s description. We are immersed in their world and are not repelled by them relating events in their voice. In fact that’s why we read the series.
That said, sometimes one-off novels implement this same technique when tagging dialogue from an important secondary character. It is sparse and rare but it nonetheless exists. In Dean Koontz’s novel The Face, page 155 Bantam Books, May 2004, Hazard Yancey is (SPOILER ALERT!) visiting Rolf Reynerd at his apartment in connection with some mysterious gifts left at the doorstep of famous actor Channing Manheim. At one point there is a knock at the door. The suspect, Reynerd, says he isn’t expecting anyone. The next line reads, “Me neither,” Hazard said dryly. By the time we read this line, we know Hazard’s personality (pretty dry). We also know that someone in a stranger’s house is likely to make this comment dryly. Yet here it is, stated in the obvious. I wonder today, so many years later, if this tag is editor-generated. Koontz is way too seasoned to do such a thing.
At any rate, readers should already know if a statement by a character is made “dryly”. But if you are writing a series, feel free to add these tags to your dialogue as part of your narrator’s (protagonist’s) voice.
And, yes, I know that “dryly” is called for in this context. I just don’t like it.
And by “a little crazy,” I mean “a lot of crazy.”
Now I recognize the man was a literary genius, at least in the sci-fi world.
But his genius was fueled by paranoia and schizophrenia. From an early age, Dick battled problems determining what was real and what wasn’t real.
He claimed to have encounters with a “pink beam”–which he said was an intelligent being that imparted wisdom and clairvoyance to him.
Then this, according to Wikipedia:
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Almost eighteen years ago now since I attended my first writing group. One night we got on the subject of vignettes, those usually one-off scenes so well-written and well-rounded–as far as they go–that pop into our minds and fluidly out onto our paper. The instructor asked how many we had and from my school desk (we met weekly at the high school across from my apartment) I indicated a stack of them about so high by placing my hand two feet above the floor. We all laughed. It was funny because it was something we all shared. Vignettes are the easiest things to write. They are the self-contained worlds of sudden inspiration. Perfect spheres of everything and of nothing. They lead nowhere. There is no backstory, no plot line. Just the perfect snapshot of a world that exists and ends in itself. I have notebooks full of them. The one thing they all have in common is action. That’s what makes them so easy to write. We see something that triggers that burst of inspiration.
But vignettes are not a story. They are not exposition, not streams of consciousness. They are motion, scene-ettes usually triggered from visual inspiration. Vision cannot see exposition or a stream of consciousness, but it can see motion.
To that end, I keep a gesture journal. A list of gestures or actions performed by characters almost always inspired from real life. The entries are close to vignette length because describing the gesture takes space.
“She placed her hand, palm down, two feet above the floor indicating in a gesture her answer to the number of vignettes she had written in her lifetime.”
That one sentence can be expounded upon to include the classroom setting, the other students, the instructor’s trouble making an elderly doctor understand that this was a fiction class–he wanted to write a biography–and my reluctance to read aloud the manuscript I was then writing (the dreaded sex scene!). I might also include one student’s quip that Sissy Spacek would play the female role if my novel was ever scripted. But apart from it being an almost-scene, it wouldn’t move a story forward. There’s a lot of laughing, gnashing of teeth, and sweating–all actions–but no story in itself. I couldn’t take every vignette in my notebooks and paste them together to make a story, not even if they were about the same people. Neither can I take my list of recorded gestures and make a story from them, but they, like vignettes, make ideal writing exercises and create fodder for future endeavors. From the writing of a gesture to the writing of a vignette to the writing of a scene to the writing of a story. A simple little gesture list can create worlds.