I was Stumbling, again, (see this post for a brief explanation of Stumble) and was brought here.
Fiction writing is something I used to do a lot of in elementary and middle school. I was never able to finish anything, so I stopped. The problem was that I never had any real plots, so it was hard to go anywhere after a while. I like writing more for the act of putting words together (I do love me some tasty words) than for any actual story-telling capability. Of course I do wish I could write a story. Someday.
At any rate, the first paragraph of this writing advice page reads:
Speech tags can be as simple as said or as complicated as three paragraphs of hand motions. Said is best used, in my humble opinion, when the dialogue is important and you want the reader's full attention. Hand motions and facial expressions are good for emphasizing how characters respond to the dialogue or even just for exhibiting mannerisms that help establish their character. This list includes speech tags that I've found in various works and the only reason for maintaining this list is so I can occasionally browse through it when I'm searching for just the right way to describe something and I think said isn't quite the right word.
The emphasis is mine. Read it again. Okay, maybe I'm wrong, and I know that there is not really any such thing as a writing "rule," but isn't the general idea that if it's not important, don't write it?
I guess maybe if you're trying to build suspense, go for it. And of course you want your dialogue to be realistic, but I could have sworn that one of the most basic tenants of fiction writing is that if something you just wrote does not a)advance the plot, b)develop character, or c)set up something for later, then you should cut it?
This is much on my mind right now because I am reading the Wheel of Time series, by Robert Jordan.
I know. I'd seen them on the shelves at bookstores for years, but never bothered to find out what they were - there were so many of them, and my own first principle when planning a new purchase is that the more prolific the author (and the more often those books show up in commercial bookstores), the crappier the book would be. Plus, I'm a snob. I don't want the books I read to have huge followings. (I satisfied my snobbery during the Harry Potter phenomenon by being an avid fanfiction reader. Uber-nerdiness for the win!)
So anyway. I started reading them because Beloved adores them. He wants to own each one of them in hardcover. It is my task, while he is deployed, to locate and purchase said copies. Obviously, I could hardly buy a book and not read it.
I'm currently on book five (out of, like eleven or so), and I'm ready to tear out my hair.
Robert Jordan's writing is the epitome of excess, non-essential information. ARGH!!! Seriously, I say, "Argh," to my roommate about these books at least once a day. There are whole chapters that could be compressed to a few paragraphs, or even excised completely. Some folks, I suppose, might write this excess off as characterization. That would be fine, if there were any character development going on. Most of it is, instead, everyone being singularly stubborn and distinctly not changing.
Not to mention, that if I have to see exact replicas of motions/thoughts/phrases another time, I am going to have a fucking COW. If these repeats were over the course of separate books, fine. He wrote them slowly and I'm reading them much faster than that. But they're not. They are within chapters of each other. Every single woman in the story "smoothes her skirts" and "crosses her arms under her breasts." Without exception. All the fucking time. The girl who wore pants in the first book is forced to disguise herself by wearing a dress the next time we see her, and has been in them ever since. And she does the same shit. The nominal "main" character can't seem to avoid the thought that he "can't kill a woman" every time we are taken back to him. You would think that occasionally, when we're taken to his location, he wouldn't be thinking about this, right? But no. Every time. Even in the chapter where he'd just got done having sex.
Oh. Wait. Side note. This main character? It is prophecied, fucking prophecied that three women must "share" him. The best part? A blonde, a brunette, and a fucking redhead. I can't make this shit up. ARGH.
Back to what I was talking about. The repetition. Every. Single. Character. At some point, boggles over how men/women are utterly incomprehensible. Without any exception I can think of.
Seriously. If you are an author, and you have a sociological bone to pick, do it in your academic writing. Do not interrupt my fantasy story to try to convince me that men and women are different species who will never understand each other yet through the magic intervention of random couplings somehow come to love each other. People do not do this.
The pants-wearing gal? (I call her that loosely, since she only wore pants the one time.) Yeah, well she has visions about people. Her vision about the main character? That she would fall desperately in love with him. Since that vision she had the first time she met him, she has seen him another once or twice. And now, just like that, she's near to obsessed.
MAKE CHARACTERIZATIONS THAT MAKE SENSE, PLEASE.
Wow. This turned into a very long rant.
Let me explain.
No, there is too much. Let me sum up. ;)
Robert Jordan has written a very long series (which he was unable to complete before his death). Give me a red pen and the rights to it, and I could make it half the length and a million times more enjoyable to read.
Moral of the story: Do not write dialogue (or internal monologue) that does not move the plot, develop a character, or set up an important change.