(Wow. I sort of neglected my blog for a while, didn’t I? Oops. School and all… I’ll get around to writing a post on that, I swear!)
Like everything else, writing dialogue is a fine art. It’s taken me years to write dialogue that doesn’t make me cringe when I read it aloud, and to be honest dialogue still isn’t my strong point. I hate reading my pieces out loud. Still, there are a couple tricks for creating good dialogue that I’d like to pass along. Part one:
Dialogue is like a talking stick.
Bobby gets the stick, and words pour out of his mouth. He talks about the weather in Kansas and leans up against the living room wall by the bookshelf, and all this happens while he’s got the proverbial stick. Then, Dean wants to say something. He receives the talking stick and suggests that he and his brother take a roadtrip down south to check out the crazy weather.
There’s a difference between dry dialogue and interesting dialogue… “Talking about the weather” could mean two totally different things. For instance:
Bobby leaned against the bookshelf in the living room. “There’s some crazy weather going down in Kansas,” he said.
This doesn’t tell the reader anything about Bobby’s living room or the weather in Kansas. It doesn’t even reveal anything about Bobby, because there are no specific details about, well, anything. The above paragraph could definitely use some spicing up.
Bobby propped his elbow up on the lowest stack of dusty tomes in the living room. “There’s some crazy weather goin’ down in Kanas,” he said. “Think it’s demons?”
This paragraph evokes more images in the mind than the first one did. “Propped his elbow up” is visually stronger than “leaned against,” and a pile of dusty tomes describes the living room far better than any bookshelf. Furthermore, Bobby’s living room is messy enough to have successively larger stacks of books, and Bobby is the sort of person who doesn’t mind a mess–the reader delves more into Bobby’s character through this dialogue. “Think it’s demons?” leaves the conversation open for another character to further the plot. It also engages the reader–demons? Where, Kansas? Why? How?
Then, once Bobby’s done talking, he “hands off” the talking stick to Dean. Dean’s reply to the first paragraph might go something like this:
Nothing in Bobby’s declaration about Odd Kansas Weather indicates that he expects a response from Dean, so in real life, Dean probably wouldn’t respond. The second paragraph, however, opens up the subject for discussion. Dean might say the following:
“Kansas? They better not be in Lawrence,” Dean grumbled. He grimaced and shrugged into his jacket. “Hey Sammy, demons in Kansas. Wanna come?”
Not only does this draw from Bobby’s dialogue and further the storyline, it also engages another character in the conversation and keeps the dialogue going. It drives the story.
To sum up the Talking Stick: it passes from one character to the next, but in order to be passed there needs to be conversation happening, not just random statements.
Next time: eavesdropping.
(Wow. Heh. Wrote most of that during my Creative Writing class, and I just had to piece the sections together. What do you guys think about dialogue? Do you think each character needs to stimulate the other to conversation, or are there exceptions to this? Opinions on dialogue, anyone?)