Saturday, January 15, 2011

Using Dialogue

Reading the list of AFI's top one hundred movie quotes reminded me of the importance of great dialogue.  Passive readers may think, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn," when it comes to the distinct ways characters speak, but if a fiction writer really wants his or her agent to "show me the money," the characters have to sound unique.  They have to be themselves and a great deal of that is shown through dialogue.

Great dialogue is really "the stuff that dreams are made of."  It shows truth, and when the writer sits down at the computer and looks at his or her reflection in the screen, feeling that he or she should, "Fasten your seatbelts.  It's going to be a bumpy night," afraid that the page will scream out, "You can't handle the truth," he or she has to say to the world, "I want to be alone."

With no on around, you pick up the "Rosebud" sitting in the vase next to the laptop, sniff it, dreaming that some editor in front of the editorial board saying, "I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse."  And the editor named Louis makes that offer, and after you ask, "You talkin' to me?"  and he says, yes, then you reply, "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship," then when he asks if you want to know the numbers, you reply, "Go ahead.  Make my day." and then he can have, "My precious."

Dialogue is communication, and as a writer you never want an agent or editor to pick up your manuscript and think, "What we have here is a failure to communicate."  So you pick up your "Martini.  Shaken, not stirred," and resist the urge to procrastinate, to put down that manuscript believing that "After all, tomorrow is another day," you build that story for Louis, because, "If you build it, he will come."  And because stories come organically from the writer, you can, upon completion, proclaim, "It's alive!  It's alive!"

Remember that your manuscript is your baby, and when your agent puts it in the slush pile, you call that agent, named Tom Houston, and say, "Houston, we have a problem,"  "Nobody puts Baby in the corner."

When it comes to writing, "Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death," but you can take that manuscript and scream out, "As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again."

And that day when you get that sale you call your friends telling them, "Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the fact of the earth."

How about a little scattershooting?

When you're writing murder mysteries you're telling your readers, "I see dead people."

You don't have to write at Starbucks.  I've tried and believe that "There's no place like home."  And when you have to force a line or two of dialogue, "May the Force be with you."

After that first novel hits the bestseller list, tell them, "I'll be back."  And when you look at your sailing craft in the marina that you paid hard-earned writing money for thinking, "What a dump," the answer is simple, "You're going to need a bigger boat."

When everything falls into place, look in the mirror, nod knowingly and think, "I'm the king of the world."

See y'all next week.  "Carpe Diem."

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