Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Tuesday's Inspiration triggered by Bill Pronzini
This quote from an essay by Bill Pronzini made me think. "Mastery of the art of dialogue truly can make the difference between sales and rejection slips."
Can it really be this easy? I do read a lot and there are stories I put aside because the dialogue doesn't seem to fit the characters or the story. A long time ago, someone advised me to read my dialogue aloud. Not just aloud but to just read the words the characters said. To do this, in my early days of writing. I typed out just the words they said like I was writing a play. Mary: then her words. Bill: then his words. Suddenly I began to realize things like the characters sounded the same. So I thought about the characters and listened for their voices. This kind of work really helped. There are times when I fall into old patterns here and then I have to go back and read the dialogue like I'm writing a play.
Another thing I did in the beginning was to use taglines that I thought showed how wonderful I was. No one said or asked. They responded, sneered, and once smiled the words. I had a vast list of the ways people spoke. But what I found was instead of paying attention to what the speaking characters meant, I started looking to make sure they did this in a different way. Then I discovered I didn't have to put he blurted or she asserted. I could use an action. Sometimes I find I do this sort of thing, "I'm out of here." Mary said while walking to the door. Makes life more simple to say "I'm out of here." Mary walked to the door.
I've also learned to leave out the adverbs to show the characters emotions about the words. "I'm out of here," Mary said angrily. becomes "I'm out of here." Mary slammed the door.
So think about the original quote and make your dialogue fit the character and watch the taglines and adverbs.