One must listen or I must listen?

Writing dialogue came up as an issue at Renegades last night. The words people use sets an age and a context for them and it is very easy to get that wrong. Class, region, age, environment, education, work all have massive effects on what people say and how they use words. Two of the members are very keen on planes and technical things, when they start talking it is sometimes almost intelligible to the rest of us, but if setting a scene in a place which requires this it is vital that the dialogue fits the environment. This is especially difficult when trying to write dialogue from a teenager. The words used when I was that age in the 1960’s are vastly different to a current teen, though, what they are saying is very similar. In a previous blog, Butters, I discussed this a little.

I had some difficulties because my character Vincent gets told off by The Queen, there was some discussion about how she’d have spoken. Perhaps she wouldn’t have even spoken to him, but this is a bit of a fantastical story so I think she should just for disbelief, but to make it work it has to be correct.

I think I am pretty good at writing dialogue. Some of this comes from having been alone a great deal, especially when travelling and attending the cinema, theatre and so forth. When you are with someone you are expected to listen to them, talk and concentrate on them (maybe a reason I am now separated!). Inasmuch you don’t hear other people talking. So ‘my sad lonely existence’ gives me an opportunity to listen to others, listen to patterns, word use, the broken off sentences of people who know one another, and so on. If for instance you are writing about a character going to a café, it may be worth going on your own just to listen to customers and staff talking. I have used a lot of these ‘overhearings’ in my writing and I enjoy the process of writing dialogue.

Do we use all the umms and ahhs and gaps in writing? Do we use fashionable words? Hard isn’t it (or innit) to decide. Some characters need the gaps, some use those gaps to think or maybe hesitate, an important character trait. But they can get in the way. However a stilted language is equally unsuitable, no conversations are perfect, in Pygmalion Shaw wrote such conversations for Eliza Doolittle which were meant to and did sound ridiculous, because of their correctness. One way round which I think I suggested to another member was to use reported speech, which can get over the nuances of dialogue without the phonetics and fashion.

Today’s photograph is of my front room undergoing some work today with an interesting lens flare that I think I created by pressing the wrong button!

Image

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