Muse Monday: Writing dialog

One of the hardest parts of writing a novel is the dialog. It’s one of the most fun parts, in my opinion, but it’s also headache-inducing. I completely loathe the squiggly red line that the computer is “kind” enough to put under so much of what I write.

Why is it so hard? I think that dialog should read the same way it sounds, and we use an awful lot of words that aren’t words. “Gimme” and “gonna” both come to mind. My computer finally learned those. But we often use sounds to convey some part of speech. “Shhh” and “ppbbbttt” are frequent parts of conversation around my house. We’re so mature. πŸ˜‰ Yes, I know that latter one is called a raspberry; but, it just doesn’t seem to be as much fun to tell what it is instead of actually making it a part of the dialog.

I’ve heard that people hear conversations in different ways. Some people are “visual listeners.” They’ll actually get a picture of what you’re talking about in their minds. Some people are “transcript listeners.” They actually see the words you’re saying. Apparently, these people are more rare. I’m one of the transcript listeners. Yes, I’ll sometimes see pictures. But I always see the dialog of what’s being said to me. Which can often lead to me giggling for no apparent reason. That’s a different story, though. πŸ˜‰

One memorable evening, I was waiting for one of my daughters to get done with her dance class. I was in the parent room with one of the other students’ older sisters. This young woman was texting. For an hour. And she was having audible reactions to almost every text she got. I gave myself a headache trying to transcript her noises. “Nu-uh,” “tchah,” and “guuuurl” were the ones she used the most often.

And then we have all the things we say without saying them. So many of our conversations have hand gestures or facial expressions or body language that tell part of the story. One memorable occasion that comes to mind is from when I was a teenager. Over breakfast, Mom was telling us that there was a slug on the lid of the trash can when she took the trash out that morning. She wondered, out loud, how the slug had gotten up there. My dad put both of his hands up by his forehead, curled his fingers over, and then pulled his hands down while stretching his head up. You’re probably looking at this with your head to the side going “I don’t get it,” but the visual is hilarious.

Long story short, all authors do the best they can with dialog. I just hope that all readers will remember that there’s an awful lot that we say without saying a word. πŸ™‚

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