The Art of Conversation – Start That Novel Part 5

I’m feeling more than a little bit sorry for myself… I’m on my second cold of the year, and not only has it spoilt my week off work but it’s also had an impact on my writing. I’ve moaned about feeling ‘fogged’ on here before – somehow anything viral seems to sit in my head like an unwanted toad, blocking all creativity and ability to write. It’s times like this that I realise how much I need to write for my sanity – I get incredibly annoyed and upset when I can’t manage to get on with it…

But anyway, before I wallow anymore, I’ll get on with telling you about the latest session in Start That Novel – this week, we looked at dialogue. We thought about the uses of dialogue and decided that it:

–       Develops character.

–       Moves plot.

–       Is useful for ‘show not tell’.

–       Adds colour and texture to the story.

–       Adds drama.

–       Can lighten the mood.

–       Adds to the psychological action – why our characters are motivated to  act as they do.

–       Helps our characters to be identifiable by the way they speak.

And one very important thing it doesn’t do is:

–       Mimic real life – all those umms, repetitions and clichés we use in our speech – don’t use ‘em!!

Rosie explained to us that when deciding about the way each character speaks, it’s important to consider:

–       Their educational level.

–       Their characteristics; are they nervous, impulsive, aggressive or shy etc.?

–       Their geographical background – do they have a regional accent?

–       The relationship with the person they’re speaking to.

–       Their attitude to the topic of conversation – are they keen to discuss it or would they rather avoid the subject altogether.

This struck me as useful things to ask yourself about your characters anyway – it can only lead to stronger characterisation.

In any case, the golden rule we have to bear in mind is: ‘Every word of fictional dialogue must add to the novel.’ Remember this and surely we can’t go too far wrong.

Next we did a couple of fun exercises. During the first one, we wrote out a completely one sided conversation, where we saw how much of a story we could tell this way, and in the second one, we did a spoken role play where we had to imagine that one person is desperate for information from the other. This was to help us think about how dialogue can illustrate the balance of power in relationships.

Many moons ago, I used to do a bit of acting, and whenever stuff like this comes up, it takes me back… I certainly couldn’t do it now though and am firmly convinced that writing has become my arts based activity of choice, now all I need to do is shake off this cold!


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