You don’t count the zero

Tonight during my shower, two characters were having a discussion in my head about how to count anniversaries in relation to an actual count if things.  It’s easy with birthdays or anniversaries of events, but when you’re talking about actual items you can count as well, it can get confusing.

For example, the first day of the tenth graduating class from a high school only marks the ninth anniversary of the opening of the school.  The first day of the first graduating class is the event being remembered, but the class gets a count of its own as well.  The first class is the start, or the zero if you will, so while there are ten classes there are only nine anniversaries.

If you didn’t follow that, don’t blame me.  I told you it could be confusing.

Now, my characters aren’t debating high school anniversaries; they’re actually discussing young women sacrificed annually to a dragon.  (I started the above example thinking that something real-world would be less convoluted.  That didn’t work so well.)  The thirteenth sacrifice means that it’s been going on for twelve years, because you don’t count the first girl as a year.  (She’s the start, the zero, the event being remembered.)

The really irritating thing about this conversation, besides the confusing reality of the talk itself, is that these are not characters from any of my current stories.  No, these are new characters that I created a few nights ago to help me sleep.  They don’t even have names, just Dragon Master and Sacrifice Thirteen.  Usually (although not always) my sleep-aid characters stay just that.  Their stories are simple, straightforward, and only exist to keep the work hamsters quiet.  I shouldn’t be surprised, though; two of the characters in Dragon started out the same way, and look where that led!

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Tangled Conversations

Have you ever had one of those conversations that starts at point A, aimed for point B, but instead of taking the direct route it meanders its way through C, D, X, J, and Y before finally finding its way back to the original topic?  Sometimes the conversation gets so convoluted that it won’t ever find its way back around!  Here’s an example:

A: “Do you want to go somewhere to get lunch?”
B: “That might be possible.  Let me see what I have going on this afternoon.”
A: “Oh, we have that staff meeting at two, right?  I can’t believe we’re reviewing the dress code again.”
B: “We have to!  Haven’t you seen what Lacy’s been wearing lately?”
A: “Seriously!  She did have some really cute shoes on the other day, though.”
B: “I forgot to tell you, I found this great website!  Really good deals on shoes, and some of them are super cute.”
A: “Oooh, show it to me!”
C: “Hey you two, should we go get some food?”

This is how conversations often work in real life, but dialog in books and movies is much more straightforward.  Dialog rarely exists simply for the sake of having people talk; it is there to convey information, be it knowledge, character relationships, or plot advancement.  Often we as authors are advised to include less dialog, to focus on the description and the action and the story.  It’s true that a scene with only dialog gets bogged down and boring, even hard to read, but in real life conversations are the lifeblood of most relationships.   We talk to our friends, chat and gossip and make plans.  It behooves us as authors to find a balance between descriptions and dialog, between conversations to convey information and conversations to develop relationships between characters.

How’s Your Book?

“How’s your book?”  This is a question that I get a lot, mostly from acquaintances.  (They remember that I write, and it’s an easy small talk type of question.)  The actual query itself isn’t strange, although the wording is a bit odd.  It’s not “how many have you sold” or “how far are you on your manuscript, just “how’s your book?”

The vagueness makes sense for people who don’t know me well, however, and I generally know what they’re asking.  My current answer is “My first book has sold over 30 copies as an e-book, and I’m about to send out queries for the second one.”

Since this is usually part of a simple conversation, that’s about all I say.  People who are really curious will ask further questions, and people who are just being polite are happy to move on to another topic.

Isn’t it interesting how writing can be a conversation starter?