I think every writer has something that comes first and foremost—a singular thing that motivates and shapes their stories. For some it’s the plot. For others it’s a strong visual of location or a message to convey. Often it’s a character.
For me it’s dialogue. All I write is built around this—the plot forms to conversations I’ve already envisioned, the scenery is filled in behind the conversations, the words define the character’s personalities. Dialogue is where it all starts.
This probably makes my plotting even more difficult. I have to fill in any holes or add small details to make my characters discussions make sense and bring the drama. I also do a lot of cutting and pasting to string conversations together and keep my word count down.
Physical descriptions are sometimes hard for me to write, but with dialogue I can put across a strong sense of who a person is and what drives them. Describing a scene is also a hard for me so I write dialogue first. Then I read the dialogue and fill in the rest with what I envision the backdrop and actions of the characters to be.
Because dialogue is the basis of my writing, it is probably the strongest part of it. When my beta readers come back to me the first thing they always comment on is their love of the dialogue (Of course, then I always say, “And the problem areas?”).
I’m always on the lookout for great, sharp dialogue material. I have a tiny little journal I carry in my purse and anytime I think of or hear something with possibility I record it. Most of these are one liners, but sometimes it’s a small conversation. I’ll share two I’m hoping to include in the book I’m writing, but haven’t really decided where or how. As you read them I think you’ll be surprised how much your mind will fill in and build around it and you’ll see just a little bit of how my crazy mind works!
The first one is….
“Offense, Desiree! Offense. The second you drop back to defense is the second you’re dead.”
See what I mean? Why is Desiree needing to learn offense? Who would kill her? Who is training her? Where is she at? This one line leads to so many questions for me to answer and build on.
The second one is a little vaguer…..
“It’s not a matter of weakness. It’s that people don’t know how to use their strengths.”
This type of line is something that helps me build a theme for my book. I’m not sure who would say it or even if it would be said at all, but it definitely keeps me focused and gives my characters a direction.
I love books with amazing dialogue. Realistic, dramatic, emotional, witty. It has to have it all. I realized the other day this is why I like Regency era books—the dialogue is awesome (at least in the good ones!) I absolutely love the wit and polite snarkiness of that time—they would choose their words carefully and sometimes cruelly. The ability to cut someone down with one word or well placed phrase always blows my mind and leaves me looking for more. And that’s the challenge of writing a dialogue driven book—keeping the dialogue real yet intriguing. But I think it’s so worth it and probably couldn’t write any other way.
Here’s a pic of my little journal…hopefully, I can keep it full of great dialogue ideas for book two!