“Don’t rely on the bulb to light up on its own; power it yourself!”
And I have returned, here, to talk about inspiration!
Now, why have I returned?
To talk about *drum roll* nature!
Nature, for me and for many others, serve as an artistic inspiration. But, rather than discuss just how it serves as an artistic inspiration, I’d rather show you. And so, behold, from the archives of my very own camera, the inspiration inherent in all of nature.
Of course, to gain inspiration from nature, one must do more than stare at it through an antiseptic screen. But, for now, stay here with me – then, afterwards, go search for your own inspiration, out there, in the wild greens and browns.
This is less of a woe, and more of an advice to whoever cares enough to listen to a self-taught writer who may or may not know what the heck she’s doing. Anyhow, I had saved this post for a different page, but, alas, I decided to post it here – so, here we go, my two cents on the matter of dialogue:
Identify and toss the extras
How often do you hear yourself talk in lengthy complex sentences?
How often do you toss in five adjectives in one sentence, maybe more?
Not often, right?
While poetical writing is beautiful and poignant in its own right, it can be difficult to make work in dialogue, particularly in modern times (a.k.a. the age of text messaging).
Of course, every style and voice is different, but where it pertains to dialogue only, I very much believe that less is more – to quote Stephen King: “the road to hell is paved with adjectives.”
But, but, but, there are always exceptions: if you’re writing a historical piece, for example, you should always engage in dialogue that fits the period.
Mind the punctuation
When you identify and toss the extras, the punctuation becomes important. Why? Because while we don’t naturally talk in complex sentences, we do tend to talk in ellipses, dashes and italics. Do not, however, rely on ellipses, dashes and italics in your dialogue. If used too often, they lose the punch-thwack effect you want them to have. Bottom line: trust the reader to understand what your characters are saying and instead use the punctuation to tell the reader how your characters feel. If you will, have a look at the example below and consider the effect of punctuation on the mood of the sentence rather than the clarification:
“… Can meet? What do— can? I’m set to leave for Wallace’s property— land— the man’s whatever in a matter of days. You said that you would help me; now you ask me to finish the document all on my own with guards lurking outside my door both day and night, breathing through the damned keyhole, until the two of us can meet again— can meet—what do you mean by can?”
Delay the underpainting
One way to secure an easy, readable flow in your dialogue is to delay the underpainting and focus solely on the tennis-match dialogue itself. When applied to writing, the so-called underpainting equals the meaty bits of text in between your dialogue – that is, your character’s actions, the tinkering of plot, scenic descriptions, and whatever else. It can be advantageous to save this for later so that it won’t interfere with the natural flow of dialogue as it transfers from your mind to your fingers and, lastly, to the paper before you.
Read it aloud
In a way, dialogue is much like poetry in that it ought to be read aloud. After all, dialogue happens out loud in real life and not inside your head (of course, that’s debatable, but let’s not debate that just now). Reading dialogue aloud gives us the absolute best idea whether something sounds natural or unnatural. It shows us the hitches, or the lack thereof, in the flow. Remember that in the matter of dialogue, our ears work far better than our eyes.
Easy is as easy does!
Basically, if you do not speak it, you should steer clear of writing it, so always keep that rule of thumb in mind. Otherwise, write your dialogue however you want to. The best writing ultimately comes from the gut – in it’s original, first-draft form, of course.
First, I’d like to throw my thanks at R. L. Tierney for tagging me to do this, providing me with a great way to spend an otherwise dreary Danish Sunday. Next, if you’re not interested in my personal perspective on writing, you probably wanna skip this post… probably, possibly… definitely…
Amalie (not a misspelling; sorry!)
- Five words that describe your writing?
Dialogue, subtlety, versatility, wittiness… erm, animals in armor?
- Literature / art / films you’d recommend?
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – rarely have I read such extraordinary characterization!
Pixcell-Red Deer (sculpture) by Kohei Nawa – something about this series of his is just so gurh for me; it’s vulnerability and force combined.
The Rurouni Kenshin Trilogy (Japanese) from a couple of years ago, because wow, the best manga-to-anime-to-liveaction adaption that exists on the market! Plus, the soundtrack is to die for!
- Images, symbols, and settings you associate with your work?
I’ll give you one overall image: a tightrope of brightly colored wool stretched taut between the trunks of two trees, hard rocks scattered on the ground below, water lapping gently nearby.
- Themes / concepts you are hesitant to write about?
Hm, I can’t think of any. I’ve done a lot, including LGBTQ and (admittedly poor) erotica, but I suppose I haven’t done… well… fables? Ah, no, wait, I have done that, too – damn. Ah, an epic! An epic would be something that I would hesitate to write. I plan my novels as I write them, and I imagine that planning an epic only while you write it is… well… a bad idea.
- What would you tell someone who’s nervous about starting out?
Writing is like getting your first tattoo; you feel afraid to mark a clean canvas, but once it’s marked, it’ll be a part of you forever (and what a fantastic thing that is!)
- Three of your writings you’d recommend to people who’d like to know more about you?
Children of the Gods (drabble), Showtime (novel), Rubble (poem) —— though, honestly, I’m super versatile, and my best stuff is not accessible online, but kept on my dusty windowsill, ready for adventures in publishing!
- What pushes you to keep writing?
……… air? my lungs? ……. my roommate that pesters me for more chapters first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening?
So, this was super fun! I’ll keep the trend of tagging alive, and tag three of my favorite writing blogs below, but even if they don’t feel like doing this – which, really, is their decision and all; I’m not interested in forcing their hand – I still urge you to check them out. The content on their pages is just superb!