Friday, June 25, 2010

It's All in What You Say: Writing Dialogue

"A dialogue is more than two monologues." Max Kampelman

My favorite part of fiction writing is dialogue. It serves many purposes. And so much can be revealed about a character through his thoughts, actions and especially words he says or doesn't say. Each word clues the reader in to that particular character's identity.

I love old movies and Casablanca is one of my all time favorites! William Bayer, in his book The Great Movies, classifies it as one of the 60 greatest motion pictures of all time. Bayer says it is one of the few adventure films where the adventure takes place indoors. There are no fights or outdoor adventures. "There are, instead, adventures of verbal jousting, of dialogue and innuendo, and they are dominated, in fact ruled, by a supreme adventurer, Rick."

What makes us know Rick is an adventurer is his dialogue. Bayer outlines several snatches of it that reveal glimpses into Rick's character:

His Irony
When asked to explain why he came to Casablanca, Rick says,"I came to Casablanca for the waters."
"What waters? We're in the desert."
"I was misinformed."

His Sex Life in Casablanca:
As seen with a girl in a brief exchange. She asks,"Where were you last night?"
"That's so long ago I don't remember."
"Will I see you tonight?"
"I never make plans so far in advance."

His Bitterness:
When he accuses Ingrid Bergman of having had other lovers: "Were there others in between? Or aren't you the kind that kisses and tells?"

His Urbanity:
"What is your nationality?" Major Strasser asks.
"I'm a drunkard," says Rick.

His Mystique (my favorite quote):
Claude Raines explains to Ingrid Bergman: "Rick is the kind of man that if I were a woman, I would be in love with Rick."

Besides revealing insight into your characters, dialogue moves your story along by providing important information. That's why the lines are there in the first place, and that's what keeps the reader reading!

Keep your dialogue natural sounding. Reading it out loud is a good test to hear if it sounds like a real conversation. As far as dialect, a little goes a long way. It makes your reader work too hard by having to intepret what you've written. Just throw in a few words, then leave the rest to the reader's imagination. They'll get the message regarding the character's speech pattern.

Hope this insight into dialogue has been helpful! If you haven't seen Casablanca, rent it this weekend! It's worth it!

What's some of the best dialogue you've seen or read lately?

Follow me on Twitter: @maria_mckenzie.

1 comment:

Deborah said...

Hey Maria! Aunt Helen just (well, a few weeks ago)told me about your blog. Congratulations and good luck with finding a publisher. I am very excited to hear about your writing.

I love your discipline in writing something several times a week. I have a blog, too, but have been extremely lazy about updating it! I'd rather be knitting, but sharing is a great thing, too, although I do do that in other places on the web. You may inspire me to get back to regular blogging!

Love,

Dehbi!