In the second of my blogs about dialogue, I thought I’d pass on one of my tips for young writers aimed at honing dialogue. It’s really simple: become like a spy and listen in on the conversation of strangers. Obviously, I’m talking about appropriate moments, like in public transport where you get a snatch of conversation, or in a cafe where the person next to you is talking VERY LOUDLY on their phone and you can’t help but hear.
(Please do not take this as a suggestion to go all James Bond and get into perilous situations to overhear things – make that the subject of your story, rather than real life.)
OK, so you are now innocently (and safely) listening into what people say. How would that work if you wrote it all down just as you hear it? Boring? Difficult to follow? Too much? But there are rhythms and patterns you can pick up and use, aren’t there? Of course it doesn’t have to be only the conversations on which you are eavesdropping; you can do the same for any family, teacher, friend or neighbour chats too – everything is a learning opportunity. Try to capture what makes that person in essence. Is there a teacher who has a unique catch phrase? That might be a good start for a character in your story.
Overheard scraps of conversation can also be great story prompts. My most recent of these was overheard in the cafe where I go to write in the morning. ‘He was very upset,’ said one man to another, ‘because he fed a frozen fish-finger to the piranha and the piranha died.’ Who fed the aforementioned frozen meal? And why did the fish die of it? The mind boggles. It could be funny or macabre – conversations like that open out in all sorts of directions! So get out that notebook and start planning.
And in other news, for those of you who like free gifts, I’ve just published under my pseudonym Joss Stirling a free short story to download on Kindle called Teasing Xav. It goes with the full length novel, Seeking Crystal, in my Savant series – a kind of taster prequel to that book. Here’s a book trailer which will give you a better idea of what’s going on in the story.