Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Story Element #4: Dialogue (Rocks in His Head)

Only three days left, including today, to be a part of the awesome GIVEAWAY. A quick reminder: answer the question and leave your e-mail in the comment section of any post from Feb. 14-28, for a chance to win one of two Market Guides. Comment on more than one post for multiple chances. Share the giveaway with others if you can. Totally NOT required, but it sure would be nice. 

Today, 10% of the county is without power. My house is one of them. Don't know how long it will last. Thankfully, I'm at work WITH POWER. And thankfully I took a shower (if we're out for days...I just won't run, do chores, sweat, move...) Anyway...!

Today's book is...
Rocks in His Head

Author: Carol Otis Hurst
Illustrator: James Stevenson
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Year: 2001
Word Count: 1318
Focus: Dialogue

Summary: "A young man [the author's father] has a lifelong love of rock collecting that eventually leads him to work at a science museum."

Jacket Flap:
Some people collect stamps. Other people collect coins. Carol Otis Hurst's father collected rocks. Nobody ever thought his obsession would amount to anything. They said, "You've got rocks in your head" and "There's no money in rocks." But year after year he kept on collecting, trading, displaying, and labeling his rocks. The Depression forced the family to sell their gas station and their house, but his interest in rocks never wavered. And in the end the science museum he had visited so often realized that a person with rocks in his head was just what was needed. 
Anyone who has ever felt a little out of step with the world will identify with this true story of a man who followed his heart and his passion.
I just love this little book, well actually it's considered kinda long at 1300+ words. I collected rocks and minerals when I was little. Now, my son does. We love rocks! But today's focus is dialogue. So let's get rockin'! The dialogue in this book is NOT chit chat. The quote from the jacket flap sums up the essence nicely.

Spread 1:
Dialogue without the quotes. People said he...
People said he had rocks in his pockets and rocks in his head. He didn't mind. It was usually true.

Spread 2:
Dialogue WITH quotes now evident.
When people asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he'd say, "Something to do with rocks, I think."
"There's no money in rocks," someone said.
"Probably not," said my father.
Spread 3:
When he opened a gas station, he built shelves for all his rocks.
People said, "What are those shelves for?"
He said, "I've got rocks in my head, I guess."
Spread 4:
When he started collecting Model T car parts...
People said, "If you think people are going to buy that junk, you've got rocks in your head."
"Maybe I have," he said. "Maybe I have."
Spread 5:
We get a little expansion from the "norm" thus far. Here's a snippet.
"Where did you get this one?" a customer would say, holding up a rock.
"Found it in a slag pile in New Hampshire," he'd say. Or, "Traded for it with a fella from Nevada. Gave him some garnets from Connecticut."
The rest of the dialogue show us that people from other states collect rocks (or "have rocks in their heads") too.

Spread 6:
The dialogue tells his family that he's still a pretty smart guy.
"I may have rocks in my head," he said, "but I think bad times are coming."
And bad times did come.
Spread 8:
The dialogue continues to always be about rocks. It gives a type of pattern and flow to the book. The reader begins to expect it. When the bad times force him to move, his friends come to help and say,
"Watch out for those wooden boxes. He's got rocks in his boxes, now."
"Yessir," said my father. "That's just what I got in there. Take a look at this one."
Spread 9:
His wife tells him (and I'm summarizing now) that the rocks will never amount to any good and that he has rocks in his head, to which he of course replies,
"Maybe I have....Maybe I have....Take a look at this one."
Spreads 11 through 14:
Ongoing dialogue (yes there's still narration, too) between him and the museum curator. And of course, they talk about rocks, how many he found, how often he visits, where he found the rocks in his personal collection, where he keeps them, about a job at the museum, his education, and how he finally lives out his dream.

This book is the perfect example of dialogue adding to character, voice, patterns, and repetition. It also drives the plot forward.

Use an existing ms or one you're ready to begin and think about character, voice, patterns, repetition, and plot. Think about what you're trying to accomplish with your story. Could you think of a recurring subject matter, like rocks, to always bring to the surface of your story, if it's appropriate of course. Think of your story's theme, and write several phrases that relate to it and think of how you could incorporate it into the story to move the plot forward.

What's your birthstone? Or your favorite rock? Or both?

My birthstone is diamond. But I've always loved amethyst. It's probably the first rock I learned; it was my great aunt's birthstone. One of my favorite's is unakite. It's pink/peach/salmon/orange color mixed with green. I have a small unakite pendant I had made from the minerals my husband and I panned for on our 10th wedding anniversary when I was pregnant with my daughter. Keep on keepin' on...


  1. Replies
    1. My sister is aquamarine. So what's your favorite red rock? Ruby? Garnet? You know, I actually make custom mother's bracelets out of genuine gemstones. With a few substitutes for diamonds and sapphire. And the ruby I use in embedded in green zoisite.

  2. Amethyst, but my favorite is probably a Geode. I love the surprise of it -- plain and kind of ugly on the outside and thrillingly beautiful on the inside.

    1. Oh, yes, geodes are exciting! My son especially loves them.

  3. You have been blogging your tail off Christie! My birthstone is blue topaz (December).

    1. I know! After tomorrow, I'm slacking off for a while. But I must finish my personal challenge. One blog post a day about Story Elements from Feb. 14 - 28. I thought December was turquoise. Then again, some months do have more than one. For example, June is pearl and/or alexandrite.

  4. I don't know what my birthstone is. (My birthday is in December) But I really like my river rocks.

    1. December is turquoise, blue zircon, tanzanite, or blue topaz. Basically...BLUE. I have a few river rocks around the base of a potted plant. I like to water that plant from the bottom, and then the rocks get a little water too. So pretty.


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