Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Can we talk?

Seriously, can we?

I attended a discussion Tuesday night about how our characters talk. Author Laura Hayden spoke at the Pikes Peak Writers' Write Brain program. The event was a great introduction to the organization and its people.

With an intimate venue, Hayden demonstrated how a little context, character descriptions and narration can completely change the meaning of dialogue.

Later, we tossed out our own dialogue lines and character descriptions. Once shuffled, the random pairings created a few quandaries. Hayden asked us to "make it work." Through narration, imagination and skillful writing, several volunteers shared their examples using the random prompts and they made me want to know "what happens next" in the story.

Hayden offered a great check list of things to consider when writing dialogue. A few of my favorites include:

Did I write exactly what I meant to say? She suggested allowing someone else to read your work out loud. This might help you pinpoint a problem area where your intention did not make it to the page.

Does the dialogue move the plot forward?

Is it evident by the speech pattern or tone who is speaking? Is the dialogue in the character's voice?

She also mentioned that it's okay to speak in incomplete sentences.

Dialogue is difficult for me and I needed this session. As a former journalist, I transcribed and framed quotes into stories. Sure you outlined the narrative, but you didn't create the dialogue.When I write fiction, it's a bit unnatural. I must create the words, the mannerisms and the language a character uses. It's a struggle for me, but I'll do my best to make it work.

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