If I were a character in your book, would I be able to get a word in edgewise?  Writers have told me they have a hard time writing dialogue, and yet, readers love dialogue – want to listen in on characters’ conversations.  Characters have so much to say, but are silenced by rampaging narratives, leaving little space for them to communicate orally. Trust your characters’ thoughts and ability or disability to speak.  Let them develop their own voice, distinct from yours.  Once again, it’s a control thing – writers wanting censorship.  Give your characters the freedom to express themselves, stand back and witness what they get themselves into or out of, and simply listen to what they have to say.

Here’s a conversation from Threads that balances narration with dialogue and lets both Dr. Rossi and Alice, his patient speak independently of the writer:

He looked at the monitor and called her into his office.  She saw him an hour a week, unless she couldn’t sleep, then her dad would panic and make her do double time with the mind prick.

She held out the branch. “I come in peace.”  Then gave him the offering.

He studied her face as he pulled up a chair opposite her and started recording. “Think of it as a movie, and you’re the star.  You’ll be famous one day.”

“Are you my agent now?”  It was a like/hate relationship.  She hated how he thought he could do something for her, how he never cried for her, how he wore expensive clothes when she was heart-frayed, and she didn’t know why she liked him. Maybe because he was helping to keep her dad balanced, by taking her on as his patient.  Maybe because for fifteen years he was documenting her bizarre life in case one day she totally forgot who she was, and the good doctor would be there, pretending to save her.  She didn’t think he even liked her.

“I don’t want to be your agent.”  He recalled the last H.E.A.D. episode (hyper empathetic acute dreamopathy).  “It’s been months since the last coma.  You were dreaming you were in Efes when it happened? Right?  Where’d you go this time.?”

“London.”

“Have imagination will travel.  Was it first class or economy?” And his mouth smirked into self-applause.

“Rossi, you’re an asshole.  My dad should be paying me to come here.”

“I was trying to be funny. I know it’s out of character, but I thought I’d try it before you throw me against the wall like you do every fucking session.  You don’t get it, Alice.  I’m the best, the very best.  I’m it.  I try to lighten things up, and you keep blowing out my candles.”

“That’s the problem.”

“What is?”

“Candles light your way in the dark.  Spacemen light mine.”  Rossi stared at her.  “It’s a metaphor, Rossi.  They’re not real spacemen.  They’re men and women, at least they look like men and women.  They live here and there. They have names and professions.  They live and die.  They know me better than I know myself.”

“Ally, yesterday your heart stopped, and orthodox medicine saved you.  Where were your space buddies then?”

Advertisements