Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Inspired by Bird By Bird -- Dialogue

This week's chapter is on Dialogue a very vital element of fiction writing. Ann Lamott said something that really hit with me. You have to spend a lot of time listening to people speak. I find eavesdropping to be fun. Not that I listen to what's being said but how. Word choice, cadence in speach are so important. Dialogue means two. When a person is thinking we might call this internal dialogue but it's really a monologue -- unless the person is answering themselves but that's another thing entirely/

Ann Lamott speaks of ways to help yourself. One is to read the dialogue outloud. If you can't do this for some reason, mouthing the words can help. A second thing is to identify each character not only by what they say but how they say things. What words do they choose, what tone of voice. Often when I write the first draft of a story, the people often sound alike. One reason is that I don't know the characters or that I'm in a hurry to get things down. Nothing wrong with this but when revising I must look at each character and realize them inside myself.

She suggests just letting the two characters talk to each other about their past, their present or their future. Another tip would be to take two people who don't want to talk to each other and find a way for them to have a dialogue.

Another thing struck me. You have to like your characters and feel compassion for them, even your villains. I happen to like villains and they are among the favorites of many of the characters I've written.

So understanding is the essential ingredient for a writer. Understanding the characters will help create the kind people want to read about.

A final thing Ann Lamott spoke about is dialect. For me this isn't something I like to use very much. Only if it gives a character character and only in small doses.

A bit of a question for everyone. When your characters engage in a verbal interchange, do you read your dialogue outloud? When you are alone? When there are people around?


Taryn Kincaid said...

I love Bird by Bird.

If I'm not mistaken, YOU gave me my copy!

Great advice, written in a hilarious and elegant manner.

Liz said...

Dialogue is one of my strong suits - I probably should write screenplays.