The Art of Writing No. 21

A further note on writing dialogue.
People speak with different sentence lengths or breaks, they use personal metaphors, their language varies in richness and substance yet much of what passes for speech in novels is barely differentiated. The writer often uses his characters to talk the plot along but not deepen our sense of individuality.
Trying to separate out characters has to be done via our descriptions of what they look like, what they wear and some account of how they speak. By doing this the writer builds a mental construct for each character and should enter that construct every time the character talks. Reading aloud what has been written helps to pinpoint what is different about the individual – particularly reading dialogue aloud with or to a friend.
From the reader’s perspective each character is signposted. A verbose person is easily differentiated from a brusque one, a child’s metaphor and simplicity of language from an adult’s, an individual’s acuity from a dunce’s denseness. Gradually, as empathy with each character becomes more easily experienced and transposed into text, dialogue takes on a robust strength and the writer finds that he or she does not need to scaffold conversation with constant descriptions of how the character is speaking or feeling (“he interjected angrily”, “she said sadly”, “he agreed amusedly” etc). As I pointed out in an earlier blog, once framed  a conversation can elicit much that you don’t need to put into words. Much of the time a question mark, a few dots or an exclamation mark delicately steers the reader through the conversation as though he or she is listening with a glass at the wall of a private chamber.
In The Strange Attractor I tried always to maintain the central character’s flip, Marlowesque speech patterns but diluted by his sense of impotence at events. In Azimuth I spent much of the time in female characters. Many of them and all different. It was a test to create speech patterns that served their profiles.
The Strange Attractor by Eric le Sange Kindle Amazon 
Twitter @profjacksanger

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