A couple of weeks ago, I attended a 4-day Immersion with psychologist, writer, world-acclaimed teacher, Margie Lawson. I returned home with my mind popping with ideas. Today, I’d like to give you my key take-back-to use tips from that workshop.
A big percent of dialogue is silent.
- How does your character sound? Is he loud? Does she speak with throaty, sultry undertones? When a person speaks, we listen to how they say something as much as we listen for the actual words.
“Charles” can become a question, an endearment, or a cry of fear. On the paper, how would I know, if I don’t explain how the dialogue is delivered? If I’m scared, I might write it like:
“Charles.” The tone she used sounded like the squeal of a tornado alarm.
If I’m telling of my love, you would see something like:
“Charles.” The lilt of my words seemed to wash over him like a bubble bath.
- What’s your character’s body language? He might shift with nervousness or cross his arms over his chest, but I doubt he stands still. Show us what he looks like while he speaks. For ideas, watch people in a waiting room. They thumb through magazines. They cross and swing their right leg. They shift positions several times. They clasp hands and roll their thumbs in a circular motion. Study body language at a mall, an airport, or a library.
3. Is there action going on while they talk? People often work while they talk. They may continue
to saddle a horse, or wash the dishes. They may move closer into their friend’s face. Do they
skip, run, or do calisthenics while they answer, in which case, they are probably breathless?
4. Do you want your character to smile? Good. What does the smile look like? Is it a brilliant,
thousand-watt smile or one that’s bittersweet, disappointed, sad?
5. Describe your character. The first time you “meet” the character, the reader needs to visualize
With glasses perched on her tousled-blonde head, she twisted her mouth in a lost-in-thought reflection. “That might work.”
Or, you may know the character, but need to see the effects on their looks later in the book.
This is a good place for similes or alliteration to heighten the description, such as:
“I wish I could do that.” Her face relaxed like a prune soaking in water.
I hope my take-home tips spur your imagination to add pizzazz or pop or potential to your prose. Don’t forget the non-verbal communication. I would love to read your examples.
My writing group is hosting a writing contest where the whole story is in dialogue, 750 word limit. The details can be found on http://pen-keyboard.weebly.com. The competition is open to everyone, but nothing but dialogue, spoken or in thoughts, can be used. The deadline is Aug. 15.ReplyDelete
We need to be careful when "describing" a character. We need not to wax poetic, and we need to work the description into the story, weave it in, not write a description dump.
Good challenge, Vivian. That contest could really push us to improve our dialogue which is such a big part of our story.Delete
Great advice, Janet. I struggle with the deeper characterization in dialogue, so this was helpful!! Thanks for sharing.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Mary Beth. We always need instruction in dialogue. Margie's expertise as a psychologist makes her read our body language, expressions, etc.ReplyDelete
Thanks a lot with this great ideas..I give me more knowledge..ReplyDelete
Thank you. Hope it helps.Delete
Great post, Janet! All those subtle nuances that happen when our characters speak needs to be woven in to the story. Otherwise, we've just got talking heads.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Melanie. Oh, I hate those talking heads.Delete
Janet, great post. I love the examples you used for actions that add to the dialogue. I shared it!ReplyDelete
.you for doing that. Karen. I know I learn best by example.Delete
Well done, Janet, as always great tips to sharpen dialogue.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Dianne. I really love dialogue.Delete
Excellent post, Janet. I am presenting a writers' workshop in Melbourne in August and just what I needed reminding to share there. You have presented the examples well. Will certainly include the URL on handouts for your post and blog address there too. Thank you so much.ReplyDelete
Thank you so much, Mary. I'm glad it could help you. Good luck on your workshop.Delete
Thanks for sharing your examples of how to weave deeper meaning to our dialogue passages.
Thanks, Joan. I learn best with examples. I've very visual. Ha!ReplyDelete
These are some interesting examples of what you learned at your workshop. Thank you for sharing.ReplyDelete
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