f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: As I Sat Counting

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Friday, June 04, 2004

As I Sat Counting

Okay, I began my little experiment on AWPS by counting the first few pages of Richard Russo’s Straight Man. I finished 111 sentences and stopped. I have no idea if that’s enough of a sample-size (somebody with a stats background can let me know) but Straight Man ended up with a 17.5 awps.

I’ll do this with various books of the next couple of weeks. If you feel so compelled you may send in your own results.

Anyway, the sudden burst of inspiration I had while sitting there counting reflects something I’ve thought about for a long-time in regards to much of CBA fiction. There’s a lot of dialogue.

If there’s a distinct difference in the AWPS between books, part of it is going to attributable to the amount of dialogue, because, in general, people don’t speak in long, complicated sentences. In the pages of Straight Man I counted there are only snippets of dialogue and in those snippets are 1 word sentences. 3 words sentences. 5 word sentences, etc.

Full disclosure: I am not a fan of dialogue. I see lots of manuscripts that have pages upon pages of it. I know every book is different, but my upbringing/schooling taught me that dialogue should only contain a few absolute essentials. Everything else should be relegated to narrative. That may or may not be “right,” but that’s my particular bias and so I’m sensitive to the amount of dialogue in a particular book.

(Dialogue that consistently carries out the purpose of exposition is the most grating to me. See The DaVinci Code for a concrete example of that.)

Anyway, this will be just another topic for discussion at some point. What exactly constitutes a “scene.” How do we enter one? How do we transition from “scene” to “narrative,” and how do we link scenes together with narrative to form long, rich chapters?

Great weekend to you all.

Just an alert, I have no idea how next week will turn out. I have both a freelance deadline looming and my youngest daughter will be having eye surgery on Wednesday. The deadline is fine, a nuisance, but fine. We’re greatly optimistic about the surgery, but it’s unnerving. Your prayers, should you remember us, would be greatly appreciated.

Anyway, just me making preemptive excuses should I be a little rattled next week.