Monday Motivation for Writers! #30

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Pride Yourself on Your Great Dialogue!

Definition: the conversational element of literary or dramatic composition

I’ve often wondered if authors whom I’ve read, like Edna Ferber, wrote pages and pages of narrative/description because they never mastered the art of dialogue. Hmmm.

I got lucky because I began my writing career by writing stage plays. And they are nothing but dialogue. So early on I learned from, not only writing plays but, reading plays…thousands of them over the years.

To be good at it, I think one of the tricks is to write more and more dialogue and then write some more. You have to be able to get in that character’s head. What do they ‘sound’ like? Is their grammar messy? The character who hails from the Bronx, for example, is going to cut off words such as: walkin’, talkin’, eatin’, and so forth. There will be more idioms (such as ‘grill’, ‘to front’, ‘rachet’, ‘na’mean, and ‘spaz’)  than a person who was raised in a household where grammar and diction were more valued. You have to be able to switch characters and write ‘flavor’ into their speech. How would an eastern Indian, whosewriting, create, write, blog, authors
first language is not English, ‘sound’?  Now write it that way.  How would a southern ‘sound’? Be careful, people from Charleston, S.C. sound totally different from people in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Now, go back over your story and focus on how each character sounds. Is one character’s grammatical habits spilling over into another? Once in awhile I will read over my dialogue and suddenly one of my characters ‘sounds’ like me but they’re not anything like me. I let my own idioms slide right into my character’s mouth.  It’s disconcerting because it’s so easy to do. When you’re out and about listen to other people’s speech patterns, idioms and speech habits.

“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” E.L.Doctorow

“People say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading.” Logan Pearsall Smith
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