Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Talk To Me, David and Maddie!

Do you ever listen to people talk? Funny, huh?

Years ago I attended a great RWA workshop on dialogue. The editor who spoke to us was from LoveSwept, one of my favorite romance lines. Unfortunately, LoveSwept is no longer around. The editor shared a great tip with us. She said to watch the sitcom Moonlighting, pay attention to how Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis sparred with each other and we'd learn how to write dialogue.

But do you ever listen--really hear--the way real people talk?

I have a friend who ends every few sentences with the phrase, you know what I'm saying? I want to shout, "Of course, I know what you're saying, I'm not a complete idiot." I just grit my teeth and listen.

My husband ends every few sentences with the word right. No, I don't grit my teeth and listen. Sometimes I say Right! right back to him. Other times I say wrong just to get his attention about right. Once I even asked what I'm supposed to say when he says right. I haven't received a satisfactory answer.

My stepson ends his sentences with the word anyway. Something like, "We were driving over on I-10 and this car came out of nowhere and sideswiped the car in front of us. We thought they were going to crash but they didn't. Anyway. . ." And that's the end of his sentence.

In college I had a photography professor who used a word over and over again. It drove us crazy and by his own admission, drove him crazy too. One day he brought an empty bucket to class and told us to toss a coin in it every time he said that word. (Wish I could remember what it was--but too many years have passed.) Of course, you know what happened. We tossed our coins and he went home with coffee money. :) I wonder if he's still saying that annoying word and making money from it.

Before you decide I'm a meany for making fun of my family and friends, yes, I have a word I use too. It's not unlike how my stepson uses anyway. My word is . . . so . . ."I went to the ACFW conference and met my crit group there. We sat in one of the rooms and hate chocolate and discussed our plans to meet with editors and agents. I haven't really decided how I want to proceed from here. So . . . (shrug)" And then I'll look at you in a way that invites you to finish my sentence and tell me what to do. :-)

The point here is, we can't write our dialogue the way we talk in real life, but we can learn from those silly sitcoms. Try this: Sit with your eyes closed and listen. There's a rhythm to their interaction that you'll hear and feel. Listen to what they're saying and how they're saying it. Pretty soon, your dialogue will be just as snappy as your favorite TV characters.
Anyway. . .
So. . . (shrug)


Erica Vetsch said...

LOL! My phrase is You know? or even worse You Know What I Mean? The question is, how much is too much if you want to give a character a speech quirk.

Right now I'm addicted to a Canadian show called Corner Gas. It has some of the funniest dialogue I've heard in a long time.

Georgiana said...

LOL, yes, we all use key favorites around here. My oldest says, "For seriousness" all the time. I say, "Pick that up off the floor!" A-hem, in a very loving tone. :)

Elizabeth Ludwig said...

I loved that show! My new favorite is Gilmore Girls. Talk about snappy dialogue. But you know what? When I first started watching it, the quick repartee irritated me. Eventually, I got used to, even liked it. Funny, eh?

Elizabeth Ludwig said...
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