Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Writing craft

A few years ago I read LaVeryle Spencer on the subject of backloading, unfortunately the advice came too early for me to absorb it or apply it to my writing. I was still struggling with punctuation. :)

Last year I signed up for every class Margie Lawson offers. Backloading was mentioned again. This time I got it. The concept is simple, but like lots of writing devices, it is all in the execution.

Backloading effectively is one of the details that seperates great writers from those who are not. The term refers to putting the strongest word last in a sentence, in a paragraph, in a scene, in a chapter.

Here's an example sentence:

Without backloading.

"Yes, he is a murderer," she said casually, not even looking back at me.

With backloading.

"Yes," she said causually, not even looking back at me."He is a murderer."

6 Comments:

Blogger Lori Borrill said...

Oh god, one more thing to think about? LOL! I'd never heard that term--you taught me something new today. I think many of us do that instinctively, though I'm sure I'll be paying attention from now on.

But your revised sentence also structures the dialogue more appropriately. I remember being taught early on that if you are adding description to indicate the tone with which dialogue is delivered, you should put it before the dialogue, not after. Putting it after causes the reader to mentally have to go back and "fix" the way they read it in the first place.

For example:

"Leave me alone!" she teased.

versus

She giggled and teased, "Leave me alone!"

In the first example, depending on how the scene is carrying out, you may have interpreted the dialogue completely different until reading the word "teased". By then, you're tripped up and have to mentally "re-envision" the dialogue.

I'd learned that ages ago, and you'd be surprised how true it is. I see it done incorrectly in a number of books and yep, they're right, you get tripped up and have to mentally rethink the phrase.

Interesting stuff, which goes back to the notion that non-writers really don't have any idea how much goes into constructing a good novel. On the surface, it can look easy, but peel it all apart and it's immensely complicated.

12:19 PM  
Blogger Evanne said...

Lori,

You're write that many writers do things instinctively. Personally, I analyze things to death. LOL

You're right about the dialogue tags too - description needs to come ahead - makes perfect sense now that you mention it, but one of those things I never considered. . . at least no consciously.

1:11 PM  
Anonymous T.J. Killian said...

Actually, I do this when I visualize the scene. If the character in my head pauses in a line of dialogue, I split the dialogue for impact.

Good thing to learn, and a great tool.

T.J.

4:02 AM  
Blogger Evanne said...

T.J.,

Thanks for stopping by - one of the great things about writing is there's always more to learn.

I'm please to be able to give you a tidbit.

7:51 AM  
Blogger Avery Beck said...

I second T.J. That's exactly what I do, but I never knew it had a name. Backloading sounds like what happens to writers with deadlines and bags of leftover Easter candy...

8:54 AM  
Blogger Evanne said...

Avery,

You witty thing!

9:20 AM  

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