Thursday, March 12, 2015

ABC ... EASY AS ... 123, THE LETTER 'D'

Today is 'D' day. The word of the day is 'Dialogue'.
(My continued journey of novel writing tips from A-Z)

di·a·logue
noun

1   A written composition in which two or more characters are represented as conversing
2   a:  a conversation between two or more persons
     b:  an exchange of ideas and opinions 
     c:  a discussion between representatives of parties to a conflict that is aimed at resolution 
3   The conversational element of literary or dramatic composition 

***
Dialogue is an integral part of any story. It is a multi-purpose tool that should do some or all of the following:
1        Reveal something about the character and the relationships between characters.
2        Help to move the story forward.
3        Increase the tension between characters or of the story line.

Action:
A key element to writing good dialogue is to break it up with action. The reader needs direction in order to visualize a scene. Otherwise, the dialogue would be boring. In Winter’s Captive, Georgia confronts her cheating ex-husband. The sample below reveals elements of each character but doesn’t move the story forward.

 “Have we moved on? Have you?”
“How can you ask if we moved on? I presumed you did that a year ago. Now you’re asking me? I don’t think Julie would be too happy to hear this conversation.”
“This has nothing to do with Julie. It’s about you and me.”
 “You really are something. There is no you and me. There hasn’t been for a long time. And I’ll tell you something else too. It’s about you and only you,”
“How can you say that? I’m trying to communicate with you about how we feel. I want to know what you’re thinking.”
“Where was the communication when you left me? Where were you when I tried to figure it all out? When I doubted myself as a wife and a woman? I’ll tell you where, with Julie, right where you wanted to be. You never gave me an explanation or showed any concern for my feelings then. You shut me out and even refused to talk to me. It’s your feelings we’re really talking about here, because you’re confused. You never even asked to see your baby until I pushed it on you. You haven’t even asked me her name. I’ll tell you what I’m thinking, Colin. You’re a whiffle bird.”  
“A what-bird?”
“A whiffle bird ... he flies in ever decreasing concentric circles, faster and faster, the circles getting smaller and smaller, until finally--he flies up his own ass.”
 “I guess I deserved that, didn’t I? I know I’ve been a shit to you. I couldn’t talk to you because I didn’t know how. And then there was Julie, telling me I had to make a clean break. She was so jealous and insecure. I felt like I was being pulled in opposite directions. I’m sorry I hurt you.”
“That's my point. Again, it’s about how you felt,”
“You’ve changed. You were never this ... aggressive before.”

Here's the same sample with action and thought:

Colin stared at me for a long moment. “Have we moved on? Have you?”
“How can you ask if we moved on? I presumed you did that a year ago. Now you’re asking me? I don’t think Julie would be too happy to hear this conversation.”
“This has nothing to do with Julie. It’s about you and me.”
My mouth dropped open. “You really are something. There is no you and me. There hasn’t been for a long time. And I’ll tell you something else too. It’s about you and only you,” I said, my anger rising.
“How can you say that? I’m trying to communicate with you about how we feel. I want to know what you’re thinking.”
“Where was the communication when you left me? Where were you when I tried to figure it all out? When I doubted myself as a wife and a woman? I’ll tell you where, with Julie, right where you wanted to be. You never gave me an explanation or showed any concern for my feelings then. You shut me out and even refused to talk to me. It’s your feelings we’re really talking about here, because you’re confused.” I was wound tight. All my pent-up anger released. I stood up and leaned towards him. “You never even asked to see your baby until I pushed it on you. You haven’t even asked me her name. I’ll tell you what I’m thinking, Colin. You’re a whiffle bird.”  
“A what-bird?”
“A whiffle bird ... he flies in ever decreasing concentric circles, faster and faster, the circles getting smaller and smaller, until finally--he flies up his own ass.”
Colin stared at me, a look of shock on his face, and I stared back defiantly, hands on my hips. After a long silence, he started to smile.
“I guess I deserved that, didn’t I? I know I’ve been a shit to you. I couldn’t talk to you because I didn’t know how. And then there was Julie, telling me I had to make a clean break. She was so jealous and insecure. I felt like I was being pulled in opposite directions. I’m sorry I hurt you.” Colin took my hand in his.
“That's my point. Again, it’s about how you felt,” I said, shaking my hand from his.
“You’ve changed. You were never this ... aggressive before.”
I gave my shoulders a shake and turned towards the water. “Let’s walk.”

Big difference, right? By adding action, we’ve moved the story along and added tension to their encounter by showing body language and thought.

Dialect:
The most important thing to remember when depicting dialect in dialogue is to be consistent. This is a very tricky element to express. If you have a character with a southern states drawl or a Native American dialect, etc., it is extremely difficult to carry their dialogue with the right inflection throughout the entire story. It was suggested to me by my editor to choose some key words that reflect their dialect and use them consistently throughout the story. The dialogue will ring true to the reader and they will buy into it. But only if you are CONSISTENT.

In Winter’s Captive, Book 1 and Chasing Georgia, Book 2 (to be released in April), two words I chose to indicate that Nonnock was an indigenous native, were references to her Peoples and when she talked of nature as the Mother or Mother Earth.

For all of you writers out there:
Keep on Keeping on Writing!

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