Making a book come alive

In my continuing pledge to pick up the reins of my work, I decided to share some age-old techniques that can help your characters tell your story. When I originally wrote the story, I used what is known as a “stream of consciousness” style of writing. In other words, I did not use the rules of grammar:

actors“Because we probably would be wandering these caves until we died of hunger,” Egarot replied.  “Have you not noticed that no matter which way we turn, we either head into a passage that ends in a rock wall, or a direction that never ends?  It is obvious that we are lost.”  Rosenet turned to face Egarot.  “But you said that you had been here before,” he whinnied.  “Yes,” Egarot replied.  “But I do not remember these caves running so deep within the mountains.  It was a short walk that led to a desert on the other side.” Humbalt turned to the griffon.  “A desert? The tunnels led from a desert out to another desert?”  The griffon laughed.  “There was a small area, sparse with trees and a large pool of water.  I did not know if it would still be there, but I could smell water somewhere before I entered the cave.  Let us press forward, my nose still tells me there is water nearby.”  Too tired to argue with the griffon, Humbalt turned around and pressed forward, his eyes straining in the darkness ahead. They had been traveling for what seemed like days, every smoothed wall beginning to look the same as the next when they found the lighted cave.

  *          *          *

So, to allow my characters to better tell the story, I will separate the voice of each character by portraying an action with their voice while minimizing redundancy in the prose:

“Because we probably would be wandering these caves until we died of hunger,” Egarot replied.

“Have you not noticed that no matter which way we turn, we either head into a passage that ends in a rock wall, or a direction that never ends?  It is obvious that we are lost.”

Rosenet whinnied, turning to face Egarot.

“But you said that you had been here before.”

“Yes,” Egarot looked ahead.

“But I do not remember these caves running so deep within the mountains.  It was a short walk that led to a desert on the other side.”

Humbalt turned to the griffon.

“A desert? The tunnels led from a desert out to another desert?”

The griffon laughed.

“There was a small area, sparse with trees and a large pool of water.  I did not know if it would still be there, but I could smell water somewhere before I entered the cave.  Let us press forward, my nose still tells me there is water nearby.”

Too tired to argue with the griffon, the group turned around and pressed forward, their eyes straining in the darkness ahead. They had been traveling for what seemed like days, every smoothed wall beginning to look the same as the next when they found the lighted cave.

  *          *          *

Now what I have is no longer a clump of words, but the makings of a story. By separating action from the voice, I am allowing my characters to tell the tale.

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