Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sparkling Conversationalist... I am not.

Influence this week: “Ticking Bomb” by Eyes Set to Kill (Broken Frames, 2010)

I started a new manga series. Yeah, I know I said I was gonna give up my guilty pleasure. So shoot me, I didn’t. Reading manga is somewhat of an addiction to me. I don’t feel high, or feel euphoric every time I pick up a new volume or find a new scanned chapter straight from Japan. I smile secretly to myself and consume it. It’s like picking up that fifth of vodka and knocking it back or opening a new pack of cigarettes and smoking them all until they’re gone. There is no satisfaction in the addiction, only the feeding. Then you’re left with the guilt and the want of more.

I’m in awe of the fast past of manga. Picture and dialog based stories. I’ve struggled to write realistic conversations between my characters since I started. I’m sarcastic. Nothing I say comes out the way that I want it to, even when I’m being sincere. I’m constantly stating in emails when I try to be serious, or sincere that I’m not being sarcastic or mean. I can’t get my voice to express that type of emotion. Apathy (it amuses me that apathy can be construed as emotional laziness) doesn’t translate well into conversations. And while that’s all fine and dandy for some of my characters (Tory, for one. Ry, for another) I need to grow as a writer.

When I come to a dialog heavy portion in my writing, I ponder it for hours. Days. Weeks. I write it, read it and cringe. It’s stilted. Full of sarcasm on my part as the writer. I don’t find my characters lacking the emotion for the scene or even myself lacking the emotional state to pour it out, it’s wording and placement. It’s clues to be given, advancement of the storyline. I’ve tried just pouring it out and moving forward. Rushing it makes it worse. Stalling brings on bouts of doubt and self loathing for my lack of creativity. I fall into a pit of despair every time I run into dialog. And that’s often.

I don’t read many self help blogs and books about writing. (Maybe I should. I need a therapist for all the characters and personalities inside of my mind while I work on my two separate series’.) I once read that agents and publishers flip through manuscripts to see how many breaks in a line per page. If there were lots of short sentences, they knew the book would read fast, keep the reader interested and engaged on the storyline. But if the paragraphs continued on and on without many breaks, the manuscript tended to be put to the side.

I find dialog to be incredibly boring. Sorry. For me, writing description, filling in the blanks for the reader is what keeps me interested. While dialog may move the characters forward with the reader, for me, description is what allows me to show you the world and the situation the characters are placed in. It allows me to interact with my reader, allowing them inside my mind, what the scenery looks like as it played out. Dialog is incredibly telling. While dialog allows you to see how my characters connect to others, the way they interact within the situations is showing you more of their personality.

I’m torn. My number one goal of a writer is to learn, to grow and mature. I want to be the best. I’m too proud to ask for help. Too shy to take an improv class. (I read Janet Evanovich did this before she started the Plum series.) And too poor to start taking classes. So I come to you, oh wonderful blog readers (and also fellow writers). What are your suggestions for learning to write more creative and showing dialog? Tips are welcome too. Do you like to write dialog or description more? And what is your least favorite part of working on a novel?


2nd Chance said...

Wow, this is tricky. To be honest, I'd watch more movies that are known for their dialogue. Or television series... I was in awe when I really started paying attention to the dialog on The West Wing, for example.

Or Buffy. Or Castle... Shows that manage to establish personality and push the story forward with dialog. If you hear it and pay attention to what it is that makes it so good, how it shows the story, shows the relationships...it can help you figure it out yourself.

You could go to IMDB and copy dialog that really impresses you and rewrite it in your voice, see if you can communicate the same thing.

Or say screw it, write the way you write and make it so good that people will want it, whether it fits the idea of what everyone is so sure is wanted! ;-)

Marnee said...

I'm with Chance; this is tricky. I think especially because I feel like I'm the opposite of you. Description is where I fall on my face. My stories are dialog dialog. I have to go back and put in the description.

I like the idea of watching movies. And I'd find a couple books that are really fast paced, dialog based books and see if you can analyze what they do. I know you like the Black Dagger Books. I think she does a great job with fast paced dialog. And I like how her characters say one thing and do something else. I always find that kind of dialog fun and interesting.

Good luck sweets!

Scapegoat said...

I'm in the same boat on this one.

Echoing Chance's suggestion, I'm going to go back and watch episodes of the Gilmore Girls - quick wit, comedy, romance and drama all done through the most awesome of dialog.

As a viewer, I was always in awe when I watched so maybe it's time for me to deconstruct it like a writer.

Irisheyes said...

As a reader (and writer) I love dialog and am not very fond of description. In fact, I've been putting a lot of books down lately because the descriptive parts are driving me a little insane, especially the historicals. I think I'm just in a mood lately. LOL I do find, though, that when I'm really not into a book I always skip to the dialog to try to re-engage.

I think I like the interaction between the characters and you can't get any more interactive than dialog. I even like a lot of dialog in my love scenes. I read a blog recently where an author said she was slammed by a reader for "too much talking during the love scenes". LOL I read that and thought... Wow different strokes for different folks again!

Now just because I LOVE dialog doesn't mean I'm that good at it. It is the one area where I really struggle. Maybe cause it's so important to me I obsess over it too much.

I like the suggestions to watch shows with catchy dialog and deconstruct it. I think trying to write sarcasm or humor is extremely hard - I marvel at writers who can accomplish that.

Donna said...

Sin, I'm sorry you're suffering over this. And I'm surprised that dialogue is hard for you, because the samples I've seen here were great.

I understand what you mean about it coming out differently than you intended. I mean, all of us would run for cover if you reached inside your coat, because we'd be expecting you to come out with an icepick, not a candy bar. :) But can you use that aspect of surprise to your advantage?

I love dialogue, and it's my favorite part of writing AND reading. I'm more interested in what the characters are saying and how they are interacting with each other than what their world looks like. :)

Hellion said...

Does anyone else find it ironic that Sin doesn't prefer dialogue--it's not her favorite--and would rather read description, but reads Manga--which has no description and only dialog--like it's crack?

I'd say what's important with dialogue is not what is said, but what isn't. That's what I enjoy most in reading dialogue; it amazes me how often we don't say what we're really feeling because we're always protecting ourselves. Where the outcome matters, we say less and less or the wrong thing entirely to throw the other person off the scent. When we don't care, we suddenly are spouting off the most "honest" (and usually hateful) remarks. And it's more than just not caring about the other person--because there are lots of people where you're probably not real worried about their opinion, but you wouldn't outright say what you think because you wouldn't want to "hurt" them. Not because their opinion of you matters, but because they didn't do anything to deserve your bad humor. But you get the right individual, someone where you don't care what they think of you AND you don't care if you hurt their feelings (or they don't have feelings)--and that's honest dialogue. The rest of the time--your dialogue is couched in subtlety and subtext. Something is always going on. *LOL* And subtext is an art and a skill. I'd think you'd like it. *LOL*

I agree with Chance. Watching movies and TV shows with the sort of dialogue you enjoy (or tolerate) is a good way to learn. You can learn the beats and rhythm. Pay attention to who has the good lines--it's usually not the hero, it seems, but a sidekick.

Donna said...

Chance, I miss the West Wing. That was some awesome dialogue, and for about a zillion different characters! But it was always compelling, and inspiring.

Irish, that cracks me up about someone complaining about talking during the love scenes. I would love reading that.

Sin said...

I like to read other people's dialog. Then I get frustrated with the fact that they can write it so well. Whereas, when I write it, my dialog seems stilted and forced.

I've tried reading it in front of the mirror to improve it. I hear you should read it all aloud so that you can hear the parts that suck and are unnatural. My whole scenes of dialog sound unnatural. Only with my bestest of girlfriends do I ever talk enough to have whole conversations. With other people, you're lucky you get two words from me before I shut down your bubbliness.

And sorry guys, I hate TV. Not even for writing can I force myself to pay attention to it to improve myself.

However, the GPS did suggest that maybe I need to do some role playing with my characters via IM (Instant Messaging) and maybe that would improve it. Back when IMing was new, the GPS and I did RPG in chatrooms. I might try this. Not the RPG's but the IMing method.

Sin said...

Of course sidekicks get all the best lines. The hero is already sexy, capable and has the best toys. If the sidekick didn't get something, he'd end up murdering the hero halfway through the adventure.

Sin said...

Chanceroo, Castle was on the other night. I really like the relationship between him and the lead girl. Um..


What's her name..

*running to look it up through google*


I was jotting down notes for my UF novel and it was playing in the background. Main reason I can't pick up TV shows, I can't remember when they are on. And half the time, I don't want to sit down long enough to watch them. :(

Sin said...

Marn, I really think that JRW does great realistic dialog with the guys (up until about the point they turn into complete basket cases over the love interest.) Even though Evanovich irks me sometimes, her dialog is stellar hilarious. And realistic between Plum and Morelli, Plum and Ranger, and Plum and Lula.

I understand that all writer's can have stilted parts of dialog. Even my favorite authors struggle with it. I know there has to be other writers out there that struggle with dialog like me. But I feel like I'm a writer alone on my own piece of loser island.

Sin said...

Ooh, Scapey! If you're on my island of dialog struggling, we can remain it to description paradise.

How is the writing coming along? And since you're having the same issue as me, what makes you struggle with it?

Sin said...

Irish, as a reader, I love description but 50 pages right off the bat of description and you'll bore me out of my mind. I really think there has to be a healthy balance between the two in books. But I can understand the description writing. When you struggle to do one or the other, you fall back on what you're good at, what you excel at. And I don't want to shy away from writing dialog because I suck at it. I want to improve. It's all about trying to find a way to improve it that doesn't require me to stand in front of people and think on my feet or become a mindless zombie in front of the TV for months.

I like sarcasm. I think I could do sarcasm between two characters. But humor is not my forte. I'm not a funny person in general.

Sin said...

Hellie you write some of the best dialog I've ever read. You're so clever and witty. I want to take your brain out, wire it to mine and use it.

Donna said...

Sin, I don't watch much TV, and what little I do watch is either on Hulu or Netflix -- which means I can watch it on MY schedule. Maybe that would work better for you if you want to study dialogue.

I was going to also suggest you sit somewhere in public and just listen to what people say, but I don't think it's safe. For them. LOL

Sin said...

<--- does not have Internet at the house for this very reason.

If I had Hulu, (Or CrunchyRoll access) I would constantly have Anime up and running.

Sin said...

I have no willpower when it comes to the power of procrastination. I get more done by not having access to watch TV via the Internet or reading online. Sounds primitive, but it conserves some of my time.

Hellion said...

Wiring our brains together, Sin, would alter the fate of the universe, I'm sure. It would never be allowed to happen. *LOL*

Sin said...

I'm okay with that. The altering the fate of the universe, not with being stopped.

*slinking off to get the blueprints ready*

Marnee said...

But I feel like I’m a writer alone on my own piece of loser island.

*Marnee throws something at Sin, then is thankful she has a bad aim because she'd feel bad if she actually hit her*

You're not alone. I read over my dialog a billion times to make sure it fits the character, make sure it doesn't sound too formal, make sure it doesn't sound to informal, etc. You're not alone!

*Starts humming that Michael Jackson song, realizes what she's doing and stops abruptly, shivering.*

Sin said...

*sticking fingers in my ears* Don't come near me humming that. I don't want it stuck in my head on repeat all day.

Someone get a hottie over here stat for Marn to wash away the song memory.

Is it because I don't like to talk to people or am I that bad of a conversationalist that I can't do dialog? It's like I belong in a porn movie or something.

Marnee said...

You're not a bad conversationalist!!!


*throws something else, it falls uselessly over the starboard railing* Rats, I'm no good at this.

I was just thinking, have you checked out any suggestions for writing screenplay? I wonder if they might have some suggestions about writing dialog you could find useful. I mean, those folks only write dialog.

Just a thought.

2nd Chance said...

Okay, TV isn't your forte, but your friends recommend a certain show because the dialog is so great... Call it an assignment. Or! Take what they recommend and find the dialog on the internet and read it!

As for the reading out loud stuff. I read my entire first book aloud and it was really helpful, but you have to do it with vigor! The dog and cat don't mind if I ham my way through scenes...

If you want to get better, Sinister, you're gonna have to try something you don't normally do! Because normal, according to you, isn't working!

I mean, I'm a much better conversationalist online than in person, so don't worry about making your characters sound what is natural to you since you don't do natural! ;-)

Sin said...

*stroking chin thoughtfully*

Hm, screenplay?

From the people who bring us NaNo have a National Screenplay Writing Month. Ugh, that would be an awful month for me.


But you're right. I need to look up tips on writing screenplays and see if there are tips out there for banter between characters. The Manga I'm reading (well, I'm caught up with) is about two actors who fall in love with each other. I think what got me all gloomy over my own dialog is reading what's written between them.

Sin said...

Gah, I'm about to out myself, but I love to read books aloud and make the voices up for them. I used to do it all the time for the kids in my life, but they've all outgrown my silliness on their behalf.

You're right. I need to go outside the box for this. But the thought of outside the dialog box is unnerving. It gives me the creeps. Does this mean you're going to send me out to smile and talk to some random person? There will be a first on the ship. I will beg on my hands and knees not to make me do something so degrading.

Finding dialog of the shows online and reading it... now that sounds interesting. Honestly, I didn't know they did that.

Hellion said...

Not everyone is chatty, Sin. Life is not a TV show full of witty banter. How many times have you fumed during an argument--or right after--because you couldn't think of the right thing to say? We ALL HAVE. Not everyone has the right thing to say every moment of the day. Most of the time most of us are saying the wrong thing.

Plus a lot of the stuff we say on a day to day basis isn't dialogue worthy. You get that in dialogue tips all the time. Dialogue isn't actually real, though we work to make it "sound real", but what it is is actually crap we wish we were saying instead of, "Honey, can you get a box of Tampax from the store when you get milk?" or "What'd you say? I wasn't listening."

You're reminding me of someone who refuses to go out on the dancefloor because you're afraid everyone is watching and you know you look stupid--and you glower because you're not having any fun. No one's watching; and you just need to move to the music. Believe me, if you were moving like Elaine, we'd tell you and help you tweak it. It's called Revision, which I know you haven't heard of because you don't believe in it, but it exists and you better have a Come to Revision moment soon, I just gotta say.

Hellion said...

If your characters aren't talky, then why are you making them act out of character by forcing inauthentic dialogue? I assume they communicate when they have to relate something, right?

Sin said...

Well, I haven't started my UF yet, and that should be lighter on the dialog since Ry's really not a talker, but Kiki is flippin' chatty. Sarcastic, heartfelt and quick. And while I may be sarcastic, I'm quiet, like Tory. I'm more of the kind to listen and give a look depending on what response you're looking for.

And I love to dance. My initials should be scratched into the bar top at the Vu.

Sin said...

Hellie, I love when you get fired up.

Sin said...

I will cry to you when I go into revision mode and have to rewrite major portions of Kiki's first book. It's a giant wreck. NaNo is great to get the quantity out there, but horrible on making sure it's in the right place or making it readable. But like you said, it's all about me having a Come to Revision moment.

2nd Chance said...

Well, dance with words! And Hel is right, not everyone is fabulous with RL dialog. Most of us aren't. Save with the internal dialog where we rehash what we wished we'd said!

Sin said...

I like internal dialog. But I also like talking to myself. lol

Bosun said...

Now, back to the timesheets. Hopefully I'll get back before everyone goes home for the day.

Bosun said...

I don't even know where to start. First off, dialogue IS action. Put two people in a car on a road trip and tell them not to talk. See how much happens. And dialogue is not telling, it's the best form of showing I know. As Hellie points out, what they don't say is huge. How they say what they say, their speech patterns, it all SHOWS a ton about the character.

You won't read craft books or watch TV. I have to say watching a one hour show (40 mins if you FF thru commercials) to analyze is not being mindless and does not mean you have to lose huge portions of your life to it.

I'm all about reading dialogue aloud, but I don't get the "in front of a mirror" part. I'm doing it to HEAR how it sounds, not SEE how it looks. Besides, looking in a mirror is the best way to put me in a crummy mood.

I'll second seeking out some dialogue writing tips from the screenplay aspect. You can find entire screenplays online. And it's not about who or what you are, it's about your characters. If Kiki is chatty, then write what she's saying to you in your head. You say they talk to you constantly, what's she saying??

I'm with Irish, loads of description would drive me nuts.

Scape - I LOVE Gilmore Girls. Adore the dialogue and still watch it in reruns almost every day. That show can be a master class in constructing a romance, just by Luke and Loralie alone.

Janga said...

I think description and interior monologue will always be easier and feel more natural for me than writing dialogue, but a couple of things helped me improve dialogue. First, I found Tom Chiarella's Writing Dialogue useful, particularly what he has to say about the importance of listening. Then I did what I usually do with problems involving craft. I studied authors in my subgenre who IMO are the best at writing dialogue--and I mean studied. I read and reread sections of dialogue, analyzing why and how they worked.

Scapegoat said...

Sin - my main issue with it seems to be that I just can't force the funny and it's not living up to the quick banter and wit I have in my head.

I just can't seem to get that to come across on the page. I need help with the flow of comedy dialog I think. I feel like it's different than dramatic dialog - faster, more interruptions, etc.

Quantum said...

I think that description is vital for catching atmosphere, particularly with suspense, and is easier to write than dialog I think.

I'm not very good, but for what its worth I try to write as I would speak. Imagine myself acting the role on stage and write down the dialog as it comes.

Not easy to switch roles between contributors, but it seems the best way for me! Having gotten it down on paper, I polish it up to remove bits I wouldn't want in print, and improve grammar etc.

Missed you sin. I so enjoy your cerebral blogs! :D

Sin said...

So sorry I'm not keeping up guys. I'm in charge of a huge district meeting tomorrow with another business hosting and the coordinator of the other business is, well, killing me slowly with her incompetence.

Maybe I need to clarify while I find dialog incredibly boring (to write) I know it has it's place in the context of the novel. I know it brings a certain amount of action to the writing. To me, it's the most boring part of the writing. I have fun with it sometimes, but it bores me to type it out.

Yes, my characters speak to me. And sometimes about other characters, but most of its internal dialog. Or about me and my failure as their creative ruler. Anything that is between the characters immediately is written down regardless if I'm weaving through 5 o'clock traffic or not. It's kinda fun to watch someone give you a funny look when you drop what you're doing and immediately go running for the nearest pen and paper. I like to make people nervous.

Di R said...

Great blog, Sin~

When I'm stuck, I'll write the scene with only dialogue-no description. The trick is to make each character have a distinct voice. Through cadence and word choice.

Love the idea of reading screenplays.


Sin said...

Janga, I've never been much of a student. I'm lazy and unfocused. I do realize I need to change these ways. At first I hoped this was a fluke in my abilities and it would straighten up as I kept going. I think as time's gone by, my writing grew weaker and weaker. And in true Sin fashion has been ignored in favor of denial.

Per everyone's suggestions, I will take everything and try it. My stubborn side says I shouldn't ask for advice or take it, but enough is enough. I may not like to do something, but we all learn how to do things we hate in order to get results. No one likes to diet but we do it. Dialog is a nasty diet.

Sin said...

Scapey, I have that issue too. Nothing lives up to my idea of the caliber of dialog I think I should have. Or my ability to write it. The more aggravated I grow over this issue the worse it gets.

I wish I could help you with comedy/humor; but I suck at the regular stuff. I suck even worse at the comedy side. Unless it's crude and offensive.

Sin said...

Q! Darling! I've missed you too! *sideways glance* Unless you are teasing me about my blogging fashion, in which I will get you back when you least expect it.

I can't imagine you not being good at dialog. In my head you a smooth operator. You're the man across the room that all women lock eyes when as soon as they walk into the room. You can talk a woman out of her panties in less than 3 seconds. In my head, Q is good with his silver tongue. Not being good at dialog is not something I would associate with you dear.

Sin said...

Di! So good to see you out and about!

I've attempted to write just little snippets of dialog. I suppose I should've mentioned this in the blog. I tend to stutter a lot in my every day speech. Mostly in my attempt to say what I want to say and not say what I'm really thinking. If I said what I was thinking constantly, I wouldn't have a job. I'm the complete opposite. When I'm feeling frustrated and confuzzled, I turn to my descriptive writing. Describing the world around me and my characters. Bringing myself back into that world and trying to find comfort in the fact I'm struggling.