The happy day has arrived to begin announcing the winners of my Eleventy-one Celebration Writing Contest, in honor of making 111 blogging friends.
Contest entrants submitted a short piece, 700 words or less, that was dialogue-driven and displayed and instance of characters negotiating or persuading. I've selected four winners out of the thirteen entries: a grand prize and three runners up. Winners were selected based on how well they followed the prompt. Here are the questions I asked when evaluating each piece:
~Does each character have a clear point of view and emotional pulse?
~How skillfully does the persuader work his or her tools of persuasion?
~Does the persuaded character convincingly defend his or her ground before capitulating?
~Is the story coherent and smooth?
~Is the dialogue paced well for the situation?
~Does each character have a distinct voice?
As I post each winning entry over the next four days, I plan to include a short commentary afterward with some analysis and take-home tips to try in your own work.
Without further ado, my third runner-up winner is...
Jenna won The Scene Book: A Primer for the Fiction Writer by Sandra Scofield.
You can read Jenna's winning novel excerpt from The Shadow Scribe HERE.
(My publishing copyright arrangement with winners was a one-time short term use. All rights reverted to the respective authors after one week.)
I really like the economy of this interaction between MC Lara and Isobel. We pick up pretty quickly that they're in a restaurant without getting bogged down in excessive description. Just a few well-placed cues like pointing with food and the waitress interrupting. The setting is somewhat incidental, but not irrelevant--being in a public place puts certain constraints on how heated a conversation can become.
Jenna uses almost no dialogue tags, the "she said, I said" sort of thing. Instead, she makes each character's voice unique enough you can quickly distinguish each speaker. Isobel's speech is more formal and nuanced, while Lara's is colloquial and straight forward. A few actions sprinkled in keep us anchored.
This act of persuasion is very light-touch. Isobel builds her case in little increments, always starting from points of agreement with Lara, then pressing against Lara's areas of resistance with questions. This is an excellent way to shape a negotiation.
When Lara presses back, note how Isobel tries to appear nonchalant, as if she's willing to back down, when in fact she's just dodging a blow. Lara's internal thoughts show where and how the persuasion is working. Nice, huh?
I think Jenna's most compelling technique here is drawing in an off-stage character and building an alliance against him. She's subtly moved the line of conflict. Not longer is it Isobel vs. Lara, but Isobel and Lara vs. David.
What do you appreciate about Jenna's winning entry? Which of her techniques do you want to try in your own work?
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