Thursday, January 31, 2013

Notes on Writing Dialogue

In many - or perhaps most - writing workshops and classes, the topic of writing dialogue is brought up. There are exercises and assignments about writing dialogue. It's good; I'm not disagreeing with the practice at all. But I have found that dialogue flows easily for me.

If the writing assignment instructions say to include at least six lines of dialogue I can just smile. I have that; no problem; and I might make it twelve or twenty. Not that I'm counting.

I have had some great writing instructors and mentors with good writing exercises and experiments. Things like one from Inga Muscio to go somewhere we don't normally go (or may even internally rebel at going) and strike up a conversation with someone unlike ourselves. Ariel Gore is great for helping writers get to the dialogue - to include conversation in our writing. Other tips from here and there have included eavesdropping, of course; interviewing; watching people and listening. And more.

encaustic painting by Serena Barton
A couple days ago I was thinking about writing and reading. I won't walk you through the stream of thoughts and how one thing led to another - oh, except to say that I was thinking, again, about how I haven't been doing as much reading recently. Not until starting last weekend.

I wasn't feeling guilty about not reading more. I do that, sometimes; I mean, as a writer I should be reading more, right? Right? I do read. But I'm not the speed reader my partner is; I'm not super slow. I'm busy.

Anyway. I was thinking about how good it was to be able to read a book again and thinking about which fiction book I'm gonig to read along with the non-fiction (mostly writing) books I have in progress. Oh, and I do have an audio book going - always; it's great for my drives to and from work, decreases my stress on the busy routes I have to travel.

A little bit of guilt crept in and I realized - not for the first time, but it's been awhile - that I wasn't reading anything other than audiobooks and some non-fiction for about three weeks because I was in preparation for interpreting plays. Two of them a week apart, which meant overlapping preparation and reading two stories.

 I do find that I read books less when I'm working on plays. Some of that is because I have to really get into the story of the play; I have to know it fully and have the pace, the flow, the characters, the concepts inside of me. And I'm working on translation of concepts and how to get characteristics and differentiation of the characters in my body.

So I am reading and re-reading the plays and thinking about them.

I'm reading dialogue!

I do write dialogue well and I think I always have. It's something which comes fairly natural to me as a writer.

Bu I also realized that all of my script reading has probably had a strong positive influence on my ability in writing dialogue, as well.

(a) I'm not "not reading" - I'm reading scripts
(b) I'm reading dialogue
(c) I'm embodying the dialogue and the characters and their stories

Oh. And (d) I am a sign language interpreter, so I work in language and dialogue. Which is not saying that I do or can use anything I do in the course of interpreting in my writing - I don't; but, again, I do work in communications, and not the electronic type as in computer science type of things.

So it was an interesting insight.

Maybe I'll try that with a writing workshop I'm developing - a new approach to writing dialogue.