By Al Kalar
I know I’ve harped on this before, but here’s a solid example so you can see how it’s done.
Anne McCaffrey is one of the top-selling authors in the Science Fiction and Fantasy arena. She’s a master of her craft.
I was re-reading a book of short stories (Get off the Unicorn, Ballantine/Del Ray 1977), when I ran across this short story. A sequel to her novel, The Ship Who Sang.
Background: Helva is a “shell person”, someone who can only live in a bio-shell, with special life-support. Her nerves and other functions have been merged with a spaceship (with her permission) so that she is the ship. Most “Brain Ships” are teamed with a “brawn”, a normal person who acts as a partner to do the things the ship’s “brain” (shell person) can’t do to complete an assignment.
Now, I want you to notice two things about these two pages:
- She uses ONE dialog tag only (“said”). In spite of that, you never have any doubt as to who’s talking.
- She keeps her “actors” in constant motion (okay, Helva can’t move, but she has verbal quirks to keep her “alive”). They are not two “talking heads”, but real-live people who move, gesticulate, scratch, etc. while carrying on a conversation.
These are two of the IMPORTANT things that make the difference between a “good” writer and a “great” author.
Here are the first two pages of the story: