Creative Series IV: Mastering Dialogue
If we look back to our discussion in Creative Series III, we found that dialogue can not only make or break our story, but allow our characters to tell the story for us. When you create dialogue, there are no perfect words that you can give to your characters. As the creator of your world, you have to allow your characters to interact. The best method in learning how to deliver fantastic dialogue, is to become a good listener.
Your objective is to understand dialogue.
To learn about people, how they interact with each other, you need contact with the world. Go to a “public location”. Any established business can be considered a “public location”. Bring a pad and a pen or pencil. Please notice that I did NOT include recording devices. I am certain that simply installing a voice recording app in your cell phone would make this assignment less painful, but there is a reason I am giving you this advice. Aside from other countries in the world, if you are in the United States, you can be prosecuted in at least 12 states for illegally recording conversations without someone’s knowledge (http://www.rcfp.org/reporters-recording-guide). For my award-winning short story I created my dialogue by listening to conversations that I jotted down on a notepad, snatches of conversations that I overheard from my fellow shipmates.
Even though I knew them well, I took notes of their conversations.
Lessen your risk as a writer.
Learn how to write down snatches of conversations you may hear. A journalist is a person who collects, writes, or distributes news or other current information to the public. Develop these skills. You will find that they can help you in your endeavors to create meaningful dialogue between your characters.
Make an attempt to converse with a total stranger in a public place.
You may or may not know what you are going to talk about. You may find yourself interrupting a conversation that is already in progress. The purpose of this exercise is for you to understand your own motivation in a conversation. Work on listening to the other person’s answers. Make a concerted effort to ask questions whenever possible, rather than making your own statements.
Understanding motivation behind dialogue.
External factors can motivate dialogue. In my work as a bookseller, I meet many people. Over seventy percent of my customers were talking about the weather today, because the past week has brought the southwestern United States searing heat. When Mt. St. Helens erupted in 1980, the entire world was talking about the eruption, because ash was drifting thousands of miles, even reaching the east coast of the United States.
Think about external factors as moments in time, that can be as fleeting as the wind.
Create five characters, defining their motives for living life as they see it should be lived.
Make each character different from the other characters, with the understanding that you will be forcing your five characters to interact with each other in the future.
Work on developing a conversation between at least 4 of your 5 characters.
If you are having problems, try some of these examples:
What kind of conversation could an atheist have with a person who believes in a religion. What could they talk about? Could they find common ground?
What kind of conversation could a person who believes in peace have with a person who believes in war?
What kind of conversation could a person who believes in liberal democracy have with a person who has conservative values?
What kind of conversation could a person who is endowed with a beautiful face and body have with a person who possesses a normal face and body?
What kind of conversation could a person from a city have with a person from a rural town?
Work on developing conversations between people who in “normal” circumstances may not meet each other. Use what you learned from your previous two exercises.
Next week: Creative Series IV: Weaving the Tapestry that is our Story.