Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Speak To Me

My editor calls my novel "dialogue heavy." I'm not surprised because it's my favorite part about writing. I enjoy dialogue the most. So much so that a screenplay attempt is in my future. Notice I say attempt, but nevertheless I consider it a very real goal of mine.

I don't necessarily have a formula or guide with which I follow when creating my "speaking scenes." I have better luck closing my eyes and imagining myself in the middle of the room - my head turning back and forth between the characters and absorbing every word they say. I try to think about which character would say what and let myself feel his or her mood. Simply put I use my own past experiences and conversations with people to determine just what my characters might say.

Dialogue is the time to let the personality of the character shine through. It can reflect an educational level, socioeconomic background or character flaw. It can tell the reader if a character is bossy or abrasive, ditsy or sweet.

Here's an example from my book, Whistlin' Dixie in a Nor'easter. My lead character, Leelee, has just received an unexpected phone call from a Vermont real estate agent whom her husband, Baker, has recently contacted about buying an inn in Vermont. It helps to know that Leelee (a born-and-bred southerner) is not at all happy over this notion and somewhat irritated at Baker for even suggesting it.



“Ed Baldwin calling from Vermont.”

And how does he already know my name? “Oh hi, how are you?” I looked over at Virginia, pointed to the phone and then over to the prospectus beside her.

“Fieeene,” he said, sooo Yankeeish. “Just fieeene. I wanted to make sure you had gotten the material I sent you and Baker on The Vermont Haus Inn.”

“Mmmhmm,” I answered. “Yes we did.” I glanced over at Virginia and rolled my eyes.

“Good. Well then, when will you be arriving in Vermont to tour the property? I’ll make your arrangements on this end.”

He caught me totally off guard. “I haven’t really thought that far ahead, Mr. Baldwin. We only received it a few hours ago.”

“Actually, the weekend of August 4th would work well for me. Do you guys have any prior commitments for that weekend?”

The nerve of this man. “I . . . I’m not really sure, but I can check my schedule and get back with you,” I said, with a tinge of irritation.

“I don’t mind holding. Take your time.”

I’m not believing this. “Alright,” I said, miffed. I put my hand over the phone and whispered to Virginia, “you’re not gonna believe this guy.” Then I hustled into the house, obeying this total stranger. My calendar was blank on that day but it was still two weeks away. I never planned that far in advance.

“Mr. Baldwin?” I said, while walking back outside.


“I don’t have anything on my calendar for that weekend right now. There’s a chance we may be able to make it up that weekend, I suppose.” I motioned to Virginia to share the phone with me so she could listen to this Northerner’s voice.

“Good, it’s settled then, I’ll call you back when I’ve secured your accommodations.”

Unbelievable. “But I haven’t confirmed it with my husband yet.”

“He seemed quite eager to see it when I spoke with him on the phone. It sounded to me as if he wanted nothing to stand in his way.”

“Oh . . . well, I wasn’t aware of that.” I didn’t know what else to say. He obviously wasn’t even picking up on the fact that I was peeved.

“I’ll check to see if the Vermont Haus Inn is available. It stays booked up months in advance, you know. I’ll let you know A-SAP. Talk to you soon, Leelee. Goodbye now.”

“Bye.” I hung up the phone, sat back in the swing and looked at Virginia. “Well, I’ve never!”

Hopefully you can get a pretty good idea of both of their personalities from this small bit of dialogue. Ed is pushy and Leelee is well, shall we just say too nice or shall we go ahead and admit it? Leelee is a pushover - at least when we first meet her she is. Since Whistlin' Dixie in a Nor'easter is told in first-person-narrative, the whole world is seen through her eyes. While the reader has the luxury of seeing Leelee's thoughts and observations through her own voice, I had to depend on dialogue to reveal the personalities of my other characters.

When writing dialogue, I'm at a distinct advantage. Since I'm a natural-born-talker myself, speaking and conversing are what I do best. Have a great week everyone!


P.S. Please forgive my absence last week. My other job, the one that pays all my bills, required an absorbent amount of hours from me. We're moving to another building plus we had a large concert that I was completely in charge of. All went well, but it was exhausting!


Jillian Cantor said...

Great scene, Lisa. So excited to read the book :-)

Maureen Lipinski said...

Love the scene! Can't wait to read it! And Katie has the sharpest eye for dialogue, doesn't she? :)

Lesley Livingston said...

That is a terrific scene! And very evocative of your characters. Props, Lisa!