As the title alludes to, I went for my six-month cleaning today at the dentist and am happy to report I have no cavities. Yahoo! But when the dentist asked me if I had any other issues I told her that every once in a while when I chew on my right side I get this little jolt of discomfort. She nodded and explained that my bite was probably off. So she checked my mouth and smoothed one of my teeth a bit to see if that would help.
So (as usual) this experience made me start thinking about my writing. What you might ask? How about how ‘bite’ appears in writing…to me, it is about the dialogue.
Bite can be QUICK (think front incisors) and cutting, much like humor. I can’t seem to write a book without some type of humor involved. I started a new project a few months ago and was surprised when the heroine and hero were not really ‘funny’. But in walked the heroine’s best friend who is so funny that I laugh out loud when I write scenes with her.
Bite can be SHARP (think canines) like Kyle, my heroine in my Mind Sweeper series, who is sarcastic but does this to hide her true emotions (ah, you knew it was something deeper, right?).
But bite can also be steady (think back molars). Chewing includes comfort and a book must provide sustenance to hold a reader’s attention. You can’t JUST have sarcastic or funny, otherwise it will grow old rather quickly. There needs to be meat to the story.
What does it mean, then, when a story’s bite if ‘off’. Well…
- when characters don’t speak naturally. Often you will hear this described as ‘stilted’. (For example, contemporary dialogue should be using contractions. Very few people say “I will be there.” Instead, they answer, “I’ll be there.”)
- when the dialogue lacks emotion (and I don’t mean simply adding tags that say, ‘She yelled’ or ‘He glared angrily’ after the dialogue).
- when the dialogue has too much emotion (no I’m not playing with you – if your characters constantly yell, or act ‘over the top’ the book becomes cartoonish).
Bite is important in stories and can make the difference between a really GOOD book and an OKAY book. So work on your bite and make sure you avoid those jolts of pain for you and your readers!