Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dialog can be fun

I've had fellow writers ask me about writing dialog. It seems like a lot of people struggle with it. I look forward to the dialog in my novels...because it feels like it's writing itself, as if I'm listening to a conversation as it occurs. I think I'd struggle with it if I saw it as writing dialog.
  There's no secret formula for writing dialog. I have only one tip: Don't think too much about it. Listen to conversations people around you are having. Do they, like some writers feel they must, question everything they say as they say it...wondering if it sounds natural? If they do, give 'em a hug. They'll be off to the nut house soon enough and you won't see them for a very long time. It should be the same with characters. Just record.

Here's a bit of random dialog from Sexton Spice. The setting: inside the museum. The body of a fellow protector is on the floor when Barkerson walks into the room. Sistelli speaks first, and makes it plain he isn't interested in the corpse.
   "Any missing statues, Barkerson?"
   "Why? Sir, he..."
   "Is the spitting image of one of the Americans. Think of it as dying for a cause, Barkerson. Our cause." He grinned. "More money to go around, yes?"
   Barkerson smiled. His upper lip was tight against his teeth. "Unless you decide to kill me, too."
   "Not a chance--we're partners," He shoved Tursek's dead leg with the toe of his boot. "Besides, you don't resemble any offworlder who should share, or take the blame for our little adventures."


Jeffrey Miller said...

You also have an advantage in this department having been in numerous plays at EC and knowing how dramatic spoken language can be as well as the timing. Case in point, or in this case, cases in point Painting Churches and True West those were some finely crafted scripts and you knew all about timing and that is translated to your writing.

I would suggest to any beginning or novice writer to read some one act plays to get the rhythm of dialogue down. It also helps to read aloud to sort out meter and flow.

I draw upon my brief acting experience when crafting dialogue and always read it aloud.

I plan on writing (for a contest) a 2,000 word story of nothing but dialogue--no narration, no he said, she said. That ought to be fun.

For War Remains my biggest challenge was capturing the flavor of the 1950s slang with expressions like "what's the dope" "naw" as well as military slang from that era.

David J. Steele said...

Painting Churches... I almost forgot Painting Churches. Interesting play. Even more interesting when one of the characters went entirely waaaaaaaaay off script. As I recally (in nightmares from time to time) that actress took us to places never envisioned by the author of the play.

Cue "Twilight Zone" theme...

Jeffrey Miller said...

And I was in the audience that night; you and Angie Shoemaker did a bang up job of keeping it together as the actress took to the play past the sign post up ahead and into the Twilight Zone.