Today’s blog tagline (5/29/21) from Neil Gaiman asserts that [writing is mostly] “one word after another.” And Stephen King says (somewhere in On Writing) that it’s “one word at a time.” I guess these things are true and who would know better than these two guys. But when I’m writing dialogue, I know I’m in deep shit with the story and characters if I find myself thinking up stuff for someone to say next. If the characters and story are really working, dialogue flows naturally from the characters and the scene – it’s not “What do I want Sammy or Barkis or Evangeline to say next?” It’s me scribbling down what I hear them say next, like I’m on the seat behind them in the bus or in the next booth at The Tin Hat, eavesdropping.
How does it work for you?
As in much of what I do, I am inconsistent in writing dialogue. At it’s best–or, at least, most comfortable–it’s just a matter of transcribing what these characters would say to each other in this circumstance. Sometimes the circumstance needs dialogue, and I feel compelled to write some. I don’t like that much. Then there are the times when there is dialogue that comes unbidden to my mind, compelling me to find someone to say it. That’s tricky, as it easily becomes pedantic and forced. The challenge then is to find the right home for it. I find it challenging to construct a world around dialogue snippets, and don’t do it often. I must admit, though, that I have constructed short stories around bits if dialogue that dropped into my head while I was gardening or biking. As I said, I’m inconsistent, consistently.
The notion of writing a scene in order to deliver one’s self of some bit of dialogue is interesting. I have a number of pithy sayings clamoring for such exposure:
* “Good fiction is truth unconstrained by fact.” * “Fashion is the refuge of those without style.”
And like that. But something in me balks and tells me that to write a story in order to lay such eggs on an unsuspecting reader would be tantamount to writing a play because I just had to get out “Religion is the opiate of the people” or thereabouts.
But now you’ve been warned, be on the lookout. (those two above may have turned up already somewhere in the oeuvre.)