While my first round of edits for my upcoming release, Blue Violet, revealed the need to bring tension forward in the story as well as the need to show instead of tell (see previous blog about my new love of editing), round two of the edits has revealed my bad habit of writing talking heads.
Talking heads happen when your characters are in conversation but make no movement – unless absolutely necessary to the story line. In my case, my characters had a lot of facial expressions to go along with their talking, but nothing else.
This is something that makes complete sense to me now that Wendy, my editor, has pointed it out, but I honestly don’t think I would have noticed this issue on my own. And it makes such a huge difference – in a very subtle way – to the narrative.
People move. Think about conversations in which you’ve engaged. Don’t you think you’d be incredibly creeped out if you both stood stock-still only changing facial expressions while you chat. Next time you’re in the middle of a conversation pay attention to the body movements the participants make. Even if you’re not engaged in an activity like eating, you still will see actions like shifting from foot to foot, crossing or uncrossing of arms, scratching, biting nails, looking around the room, etc.
I’ve actually had a lot of fun (I’m a geek I know) going back through the conversation scenes in Blue Violet and adding small physical actions in between the dialogue, and sometimes even supporting the dialogue. I’ve had to answer questions like: Why would they do this at this moment? Is this is just a “getting comfortable” action? Or should they do something that reveals an emotion? Is this an action this character does habitually?
I love that with this very small addition to the dialogue sequences I have a chance to make my characters more human, to enhance the display of their emotions and reactions, and sometimes even add to who the character is by supplying mannerisms.
Huge thanks to Wendy for this piece of editing and advice! I will absolutely be incorporating this into my writing from here on out – although I’m sure it’ll take practice putting it in automatically.