Friday, March 27, 2009

How I write, or don't write, dialogue

Tip of the day: A really nice librarian has made a book trailer of my book FAR FROM YOU. Check it out HERE.

Okay, here's the funny thing. As a person who writes novels in verse, my challenge is to try and NOT write much dialogue. I know. It sucks. And the thing is, there are times I have to. And when I have to, I feel like I'm a terrible writer and should be thrown to the sharks to be eaten alive. Or something.

Novels in verse are supposed to be poetic. And dialogue, if we're talking realistic dialogue anyway, just isn't going to be poetic. But sometimes you need it, right? Well, I do anyway. The thing that's great about trying not to write it, however, is it forces me to cut to the chase. When I'm writing a book in prose, I'll find myself writing paragraph after paragraph with one person speaking. Okay, realistically, no one talks that much all at once. No one! But oh, this character has a lot to say, and I must, I MUST let her say it!

But in verse, I have to keep it short. Maybe I can't make it as poetic as I'd like, but I can keep it short. If I try really hard, that is. So I ask myself, what's the point here? What NEEDS to be said? Dialogue is so important for showing how characters get along. Or don't get along. Dialogue shows us how close two characters are. Strangers talk more formerly than two people who are intimate, for example.

Besides getting to the point, I have to ask, how can I say it so it sounds real to that character? One of the hardest things about dialogue is having characters sound differently. I like how Deena said she'll give one character a slang term or phrase to use that distinguishes her. I also think your character's personality should be reflected in the dialogue. For instance, a shy character is going to talk differently than an outgoing character. That's why realistic dialogue doesn't just mean how kids talk today. It means how a particular character should sound.  

When you have a cast of colorful characters, each with their own distinct personality, there is nothing better than a good conversation between some of them. Think of BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE by Kate DiCamillo and all of the wonderful conversations Opal has with her friends around town.

As I wrote my mid-grade novel last spring, IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES, I had SO much fun writing the dialogue. Finally, I could spread my wings and have my characters talk. Really talk. It was wonderful. And as I finish up my current verse novel, I'm ready for some more of that conversation.

So, characters in my next book, get ready. Have glasses of water nearby. Because you'll be doing a LOT of talking. 

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career


Emily Marshall said...

Really interesting post, Lisa. I love your thoughts coming from a verse novel writer and how important each word of dialogue should be. Thanks!

Kate Fall said...

When I get home, I'm scanning my copy of FAR FROM YOU for dialogue. You have intrigued me and I am ready to learn more!

This whole week has me scrutinizing dialogue in the books I'm reading. So I'm getting a lot out of it.

DeenaML said...

I never thought about how dialogue is barely in verse novels -- but you're right, of course!

Kristina Springer said...

I also like giving characters certain words/phrases that only they use. Of course I didn't start doing this until after Deena told me.

Anonymous said...

Wow. When I write first drafts, it's all straight dialogue. Like, a bunch of floating talking heads. Yet another reason why you are awesome and I am a chit-chatting fool.