Writing Better Dialogue

I’m in a coffee shop, eavesdropping on multiple conversations, and I’ve realized a few things:

  • People mostly talk about themselves. They don’t ask a lot of questions. They’re just waiting to say the next thing about themselves.
  • Real dialogue sentences are short. People speak in short, simple sentences. They don’t have vast vocabularies and they don’t speak in complex metaphors. So when writing dialogue, keep it simple. Save your complexities for your paragraphs of exposition.
  • People say, “I feel like…” “It seems like…” and “The thing is…” ALL. THE. TIME.
  • In real dialogue, people repeat their favorite phrases over and over. The guy next to me has said, “Well, people are stupid” 8 times already in less than 10 minutes.
  • People trail off when they speak. They speak in half sentences, then make gestures with their hands. If the conversation is animated, the other person will jump in and finish each half-sentence. If the conversation isn’t animated or emotionally charged, people will sit back, and there will be long pauses while the person gestures vaguely with his or her hands.
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For People Struggling With The Writing Process…

Sometimes you don’t feel like writing. Or maybe it seems like you have writer’s block. Or – even though you’re writing, you’re doing the process – it’s not going well. Maybe a scene isn’t coming together. Or your dialogue isn’t realistic. Or you’re outlining and the plot seems too improbable.

Maybe you’ve published in the past and maybe you haven’t. Maybe you’re your own worst critic. Maybe you never get validated for making art.

Regardless, you’re struggling. You might even say that you’re failing.

For those of you in the midst of that struggle, here’s a great essay by the award-winning novelist Don Lee:

What’s The Point Of Writing If You’re Not Going To Succeed?

Struggling With The Work In Progress

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Once you’ve published a few novels, you start to feel like you know how to do things, like you have a style, like you can repeat the process. But it’s the same struggle every time:

My first draft is always terrible.

By draft two, I realize that I might be in the wrong genre.

By draft three, I realize that I need to cut at least 100 pages that don’t work anymore. Those 100 pages don’t have a single, salvageable paragraph.

Then by draft four, and I finally feel like I’m getting somewhere. I usually send that draft to my agent, and she tells me everything that’s wrong with it. She often says, “I’m not really sure what you’re trying to do with this novel…”

With my current work in progress, I guess I’m struggling most with my rhythm, with pace. After Too Shattered For Mending, I got a lot of praise for my short chapters, for how those short chapters pushed the reader forward. I thought I’d found something style-wise. But now – with my current novel – my short chapters aren’t working. I’m going back through the draft and running chapters together, moving chapters around, combining short chapters that lack significant action/content.

I can’t figure out what I was trying to do with my last draft. I keep saying, “Does this book even matter?”

“Should I keep working on it?”

Works In Progress – Spanish Poetry: La Pregunta

I’ve been writing poems in Spanish lately, then translating them back into English.

Here’s an attempt – a work in progress – a rough draft of a recent poem:

La Pregunta

Eres como un eclipse,

oscuridad del sol, día

muerte un poco

una sepultura, yo camino

y veo el cielo,

giró violeta, se sombra.

Un cuervo talla los cosmos,

confesor negro, pajaro

sacerdotal, y yo pregunto

mi consulta.

 

And in English:

 

The Question

You are an eclipse,

obscurity of the sun, day

dying a little

a tomb, I walk

and see the sky

twist violet, shadow itself.

A crow carves the cosmos,

black confessor,

sacerdotal bird, and I ask

my question.

Too Shattered For Mending – Book Trailer #2

This is the second installment of four book trailers for my new novel, each featuring a different character from the book.

Trailer #2 features Big, Little’s grandfather.

Click here to view the trailer.

Actor: Nate Skortman

Music: Caleb Etheridge

Script/Voiceover: Pedro Casapardo

Cinematography/Editing: Caleb Rexius