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Authentic Dialogue in Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

As mentioned in previous posts, the WWAT crew just finished Bone Gap by Laura Ruby. In our group post, I spoke about how impressed I was with Ms. Ruby’s use of dialogue. There are quite a few great articles out there about writing authentic dialogue and formatting it appropriately, so for the sake of this post, I’ll just summarize some things. As writers we have several tricks when it comes to how characters speak to one another. Dialogue tags: This is of course when you denote the speaker by saying: he said/she said. ie. “Dialogue tags do the job,” he said. Action or Descriptive tags: This method makes use of a character’s actions before or after what is said. This method can be very powerful, giving the reader the added benefit of expression and movement. ie. He scratched his chin and glared. “So you like action tags, huh?” Again, I won’t get into when to use each one. The important thing is this–as a reader, our primary interest is knowing who is doing the talking. I want to highlight how Ms. Ruby does this–and let you judge the result. In the beginning of the novel, we have a scene between Finn, the main character and the aptly named Rude boys–a band of bully brothers:    One of the Rude boys turned around. “Hey, look. It’s Moonface. Trying to sneak up on us again.” “Whatcha doing, Moonface?” “Mooning at the moon?” Mean as yellow jackets, dumb as dirt. He sighed, the sharp exhale like the hiss of the plants all around. “Who you laughing at?” And easy, too. “I’m not laughing.” “Yes, you are.” “Okay, I’m laughing.” “Not at us,” said one. “Not if you’re smart,” said another. “Haven’t you heard?” Finn said.  “I’m not so smart.” Remember how I said the most important thing when writing dialogue is noting who is speaking? Well,  so much for that. In this scene, there is one character we know, and a group we don’t. Her focus here is the interaction and not getting bogged down in nameless, unimportant characters. We still get the idea that Finn is outnumbered, and she uses an economy of words to do it. Here’s another–this time between two important characters, Finn and his best friend Miguel:    “I don’t have an act,” said Finn. “You know what Amber Hass told me?” Miguel said. “No, what?” “That you looked like that actor.” “Which actor?” “Who cares, dude! Amber Hass says you look like an actor, you... read more

When Nice Guys Finish First

Recently, my critique group read Bone Gap by Laura Ruby. Not only did I sit there thinking that Ruby has a special talent for writing things in such a gorgeous way, (and in a truly creative and visceral sense), but I also fell in love with her characters. In particular, I was really taken by Finn. He’s a good kid. A nice kid. And here’s a YA genre spoiler alert: There are not a lot of nice guys out there. Sure, there are sexy romantic types. But most of the heroes are tough or dangerous or tortured or stuck up or filled with sleazy thoughts. And since I myself met my significant other at the age of eighteen—a kind, nice (but still totally sexy) boy—a guy whom I would go on to marry two years later (and am now celebrating 15 years together!!!), I thought I’d like to give a shout out to some of my favorite “nice guys” in YA lit. The Fault in Our Stars – August is special. No doubt, he’s grown up quickly with his dire cancer battle, but the way he relates to Hazel has us all bawling our eyes out at the end of the novel. My Life Next Door – Jase Garrett comes from a big family. But that makes him sensitive, responsible, and totally adorable as he and Samantha fall in love. He’s the kind of boy you just can’t stand for her to hurt. Out of the Easy – Ruta Sepetys always dazzles me with her writing, and this book, which takes place in 1950s New Orleans, is no different. I love the not-so-bad-boy Jesse, who lets us have our motorcycle fantasy while proving he’s really a gentleman under all that sex appeal. So, who are your favorite nice guys? Any YA heroes making your heart beat faster these days by being hot and polite? Because I’m all ears.... read more

The Magic of Imagery

Our critique group read Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap. It is a young adult novel with magical realism. Ruby’s voice is fantastic. She adds touches of magic to her descriptions. This is what immersed me in the real and created believability. Often, I’d forget the world was imagined.   How did she do it?  She emphasized the charm in the setting, the plot, its characters. She used the comparative devices of personification and metaphors to enchant the mundane. Throughout Bone Gap, the corn whispered, yapped, and twitched its green fingers. The scarecrows weren’t intended to scare off the crows, but to intimidate the misbehaving corn. The river sucked at legs, lifted and pulled a person forward. The honeybees whirled and the queen bee’s movements were determined. The characters in love even acted like bees: “The twitch of her nerves was like the beating of a billion tiny wings, as if messages passed from his breath and his hands through her skin and back again, the way bees stroke one another’s antennae, feeding on another by touch.” She showed the character’s worries with a black horse, a night mare. She brought to life love with the horse as well. It carried the young lovers through the woods and leapt at the edge of a mountain: “…they were falling over the cliff, until they felt the wind catch them, carry them in its soft, dark hands as if the horse and two riders were nothing but a feather that wended its way down the mountainside.” There are many successful writers that use the magic of imagery. What are some of your favorite children’s literature voices? How do their voices utilize imagery? “But if I’m it, the last of my kind, the last page of human history, like hell I’m going to let the story end this way…Because if I am the last one, then I am humanity. And if this is humanity’s last war, then I am the battlefield.” —Rick Yancey, The 5th Wave “Because Margo knows the secret of leaving, the secret I have only just now learned; leaving feels good and pure only when you leave something important, something that mattered to you. Pulling life out by the roots. But you can’t do that until your life has grown roots.” —John Green, Paper Towns “The words were on their way, and when they arrived, she would hold them in her hands like clouds, and she would ring them out like... read more

What Hooked Me: Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

Megan: So, Lauren Ruby has written this incredibly complex, lovely, funny book that takes place far from more popular settings. (OMG, if one more YA novel is set in the Northeast, I’m going to blow a gasket…there are other locales, people! Not that I mind these novels–in fact, I have some favorites set in NYC and New England–but…). Anyway, I think what I loved about this book, even more than the beautifully constructed writing, was the weaving together of the farm town location, with the sprinkling in of the international. What do I mean by that? Well, I’ve been to Poland. Actually, I am Polish. And I think it was so incredibly clever to make the beautiful girl a foreigner in this story. The culture barrier was perfectly imperfect, and I wish more authors would be comfortable with a more global approach, because I think teens (and yes, us grownups) can really benefit from trying to look at our world through the eyes of those who grow up in a different cultural experience. So I loved the Polish aspect, as much as I loved the corn being a character. It just struck the right balance between what we think we know, and what we don’t. John: Bone Gap is labeled as magical realism, and one thing that really wowed me was the magically real dialogue. The banner is quick and witty and often makes wonderful use of brevity. In WWAT crew discussions, we decided that some of the instances actually could have used more dialogue tags (he said/she said) or descriptive tags (an action that lets the reader know who is speaking. But for me, I really got caught up in the speed at which the back and forth takes place. Ruby does a wonderful job of making sure that each of the characters has a unique personality expressed through the way he or she speaks. Characters sounding too similar is an issue that’s often commented on in Amazon or Goodreads reviews, so it’s wonderful to see an actual text-study in how to do it right. Bravo Ms. Ruby! Jess: I was hooked by Bone Gap’s imagery. The magic of this story is in Laura Ruby’s words. Using her magic wand (keyboard), potions (personification), and elixirs (metaphors), she magnified her setting and charmed the mundane. Reader beware, you will be enchanted and unable to observe bees, corn, or love the same way. The pages were filled more so with... read more

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