Yesterday, I went to the Gay Authors’ Workshop monthly meeting to read my novel, “Bokassa’s Last Apostle”. If you have dipped into the extract, you will know the plot is detailed and rich and the style is very dialogue heavy and the authorial narration almost non-existent. I read them chapter 12, which had been sent to a copy-editing service for a free edit/evaluation ages ago. The feedback from the editor was that she had greatly enjoyed working on the extract and would love to get the job.
Yeah, right, but then again, maybe she was being genuine? Anyway, it went down well. I had prepared a summary of the plot up to then and read that out first. There had been a discussion earlier in the meeting about the difficulty of finding a really good plot, and so I was gratified when the first comment after the summary was: “Well, no difficulty finding a plot there then!” Yeah, right (again), if they only knew how many miles I’ve walked around Liège and Harrow trying to work out how to make all the ends meet! The key, I suppose, is that it’s NOT actually all fiction. I’ve basically joined up bits of reality and woven the story around them. Is that more difficult than writing something completely made-up? I just don’t know. My last post about the apparent non-existence of Bokassa’s ring is a case in point.
Another old chestnut resurfaced after I’d read chapter 12. And more to the point. One member commented that he thought it too dialogue-heavy and that it read like a play. Suffice it to say, his own extract had a very distinct authorial narration and used a lot of reported speech. It’s a question of style, and this is NOT meant to be a criticism of his own work, which I really enjoyed.
He’s right, actually, it WOULD work better as a screenplay or a play script, only I just don’t know how to write one of those. AND the market is that much more restricted. At least as a book there are established channels, GAW/GASPS amongst them, which I can use. If, in the fullness of time it is picked up for a TV series or a film, so much to the good. Although, rather like William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, I had hoped it would be too graphic in places to get made into a film. (You would have to read the original opening to see why! LOL) It would also be too difficult to get an actor with the right attributes to play Everton. LOL! Maybe he would need a voice double, at the very least.
Whatever… that comment was immediately contradicted by another. This time he said he was envious of the dialogue and the pacing. Take your pick.
Actually, I was very proud when that was said, because I’ve worked extremely hard on getting the dialogue right. To be brutally honest, I never believed I’d be able to write dialogue, and it’s come as a complete surprise that I seem to be rather good at it. It’s a bit of a cliché, but it begins with the character living inside your head. Somehow, the dialogue just follows from that. But it takes time for the characters to come to life. Then there are technical issues such as scanshion, rhythm, voccabulary, use of elision, errors, and phoneticisation and, in my case, grammar errors—like Édouard calling Everton’s famous trousers “that trouser”. NB there are certain lines of good taste not to be crossed. JK Rowling would have had Fleur saying “Zat trouzer showz everyting”, which is crude to say the least.
But then… and then… the way I’ve written this book says a lot about the cultural space I inhabit. Maybe next time I should chose a chapter with less dialogue?????