Writing dialogue can be akin to wrestling with Medusa. It’s a knock-down, drag-out battle with a mess of words that may as well be snakes – they are that slippery and hard to get the better of. All to ensure that a particular character’s voice will hit the page the way it sounds in my head.
Writing dialogue is tricky. It isn’t exactly how people talk – it can’t be. No one would wade through pages that read like the transcript of an actual conversation. Believe me, I’ve transcribed enough research interviews to be sure of that. Conversation may sound okay when you’re present for it, otherwise not so much.
In his book, On Writing, Stephen King tell us that dialogue is a skill best learned by people who enjoy talking and listening to others.
I love to write dialogue. When I block out a new scene it’s always in terms of what characters are going to say. Only later do I flesh out the setting, add the beats that allow pacing and the character attributions that keep the reader on track. The compass I steer by is my intimate knowledge of the characters.
Here’s an excerpt from my newly released novel, Chasing Down the Night. See what you think?
Izzy shook her head as she remembered their earlier talk about wedding dresses. It had occurred a month or so after their decision to get married. Liam had caught Izzy by surprise when he asked, “What are you planning to wear for the wedding, Iz?”
She had looked up from digging one of Robbie’s T-shirts out of the laundry basket, giving it a brisk snap, folding it and laying it on a pile of the boy’s things. “Oh, I was thinking of not wearing anything at all. A naked wedding might be fun.”
Liam pulled a magazine from a stack of things he’d brought home from the library that afternoon. He flipped it open to a page marked with a blue tab. “What do you think of a dress like this?”
Izzy took the magazine from his hands and sat down on the sofa beside him. She stared wide-eyed at the full-page photo of a young woman who stood facing the camera in an elaborate, formal garden. The model wore a traditional white gown; the low-cut bodice was scattered with pearls and the train swept across the lawn behind her. She held a massive bouquet of pink roses in front of her at waist level. The fabric behind the flowers took on a dreamy glow. Her eyes were downcast; thick lashes shadowed her glowing cheeks. Izzy swallowed in disbelief.
Liam pulled out another magazine, flipped to a similar blue tab and said, “Or maybe something like this?”
Izzy accepted the second magazine wordlessly. This time she saw a woman wearing a white, off-the-shoulder, peasant-type dress; her arms were filled with wild flowers and more of the same decorated her long hair. She was spinning around in a field. Izzy closed the magazine and placed both her hands flat on the top cover, trying to obscure the words, Modern Bride. She glanced at Liam for a moment to see if this was all part of some kind of elaborate joke. When it obviously wasn’t, she said, “Have you lost your mind, Liam?”
“Don’t think so. You did say I could plan the wedding.” He pulled out another book and turned to a red tab. “Do you like the idea of fondant for the wedding cake? It looks pretty fancy.” He flipped to another red tabbed page, “But this looks more like people could actually eat it. What do you think?”
Izzy reached past Liam to grab a notebook from the pile. She held it up and said, “What exactly do these colour-coded tabs stand for?”
Liam smiled as he began ticking off a list of things on his fingers, “Blue is for clothing, red for food and beverages, yellow for the service, green for music, purple for decorations and flowers, orange for the guest list and I think pink is for gifts and rings.”
Izzy put the book down carefully. “No coloured tab for psychiatric institutions?” She threw the folded piles of laundry into the basket, got up and headed for their bedroom. As she yanked open Liam’s dresser drawer to throw in his underwear, she heard him say, “I’m not sure you could pull off this sixties flower-child look anyway. The traditional gown has more class. What do you think?”
She balanced the laundry basked against her hip, walked out of their bedroom and passed him on the way down to Sophie’s room. “I think you should make an appointment to see a doctor. You are way further gone that you realize, Liam.”
This is release weekend for the e-book edition of Chasing Down the Night. Please pop over to the venue of your choice and pick-up a copy. Early sales always boost an indie authors confidence.
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As always, many thanks for your support.