Some are masters of plot, crafting storylines so tight and complex that readers cannot possibly guess what is coming next.
Others excel at writing sentences so beautiful, they force you to put the book down for a moment and swim in those words for a few seconds longer.
As for me? My strength — or at least the part of writing I enjoy most — is dialogue.
Writing dialogue can be a tricky business, but for me, it’s always been the easiest part of writing, and here’s why.
(1) Talking is what I do. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I like to talk. A lot. Too much, actually. But my penchant for talking has served me well in knowing what someone might say in a certain situation and how a conversation might naturally proceed. Even though the volume of my speech might be extreme (apologies to everyone I know), the actual sentences contained therein aren’t necessarily all that long. I probably wouldn’t say, “I think that’s a good idea.” I probably wouldn’t even say, “That’s a good idea.” In all likelihood, I’d simply say, “Good idea.” By possessing the gift for gab myself, I can impart that gift for gab onto my characters.
(2) I used to work in broadcast news. When I was a field producer and reporter, part of my job involved logging (i.e. transcribing) interviews with everyone from government officials to students to bakery owners. By listening to these people speak on camera, I unwittingly began to understand how people speak — how a tax policy wonk at a DC think tank might sound different than, say, an environmental activist from Britain or a business owner from South Carolina. Their speech patterns and turns of phrase began to imprint themselves on my brain, and so when I sat down to write a fictional character, I could draw upon my broadcast experience and say, “This is how someone like that would speak.”
Back in high school, one of my English teachers referred to dialogue as punctuation — something that would break up long passages of description with the staccato notes of your characters’ voices. That description has always stuck with me, to the point where I almost need to remind myself to do the reverse: punctuate my dialogue with paragraphs of description. Regardless, as someone who loves to talk, I will always love writing dialogue — and reading it.
What about you? Do you like reading and/or writing dialogue? Do you ever find yourself skipping over paragraphs of description to get to the part where the conversation begins or resumes?