I like dialogue. Apparently because I'm female. Hmm. Only thing is, writing dialogue isn't like writing descriptions or scenes or an essay on Ransom as depicted in Out of the Silent Planet. (Not fun. Well, okay, a little fun.) I always thought writing dialogue was really easy, but the more I learn about it, the more I realize how tricky it can be. One misplaced word can botch an entire character. Dialogue has to be consistent, understandable, and, most of all, realistic. That's the hardest part. Why can't all of my characters sound like Morpheus when they talk?
When I'm writing dialogue, I have to ask myself some questions.
Would a human being actually say that? Though it would be cool if everyone could announce what they wanted for lunch with the air of a 13th century politician, that isn't realistic. I think there can be a couple of characters who say the poetic, epic, completely thoughtful, rehearsed, re-rehearsed, and utterly meaningful things. Someone has to know what's going on, right? But everyone else can just be stupid and say "um" all the time.
Is that something Morpheus would say? If it is, I gotta tone it down. If even Morpheus wouldn't say something this dramatic, then clearly I need to stop watching The Walking Dead.
Would this character talk like this? Something I find helpful is writing out personality traits and descriptions for each character, something I can refer to when writing dialogue. This helps me make sure that Ella isn't saying something Sanders would say, and Sanders isn't over there saying, "I don't understand anything that is happening in my life." 'Cause that would be weird.
Sometimes I'm plagued with Morphitis and find my fingers typing the most insane words.
"I am overcome with confusion, Kara," I said, sweeping my dancing hair-frizzies away from that patch of worry on my forehead. "Shall I continue to live in such a state of existence, or shall I finally conquer this bewilderment which threatens me?"
"I believe that life of yours which you possess demands the total truth," Kara replied. "Such a state is unnatural."
"Yes," I said. I nodded--just a single nod, one that held with it all the surety of a dragon. "Unnatural, indeed, dear Watson."
When that happens, I keep writing until the Morphitis has been cast out of me. Then I delete everything and start over. I think I need to put together a book that has every dramatic thing a character could possibly say. And then I would keep it forever and let no one else read it.
Anyway, I'm excited for this month's "left on mallory" workshop, which is focusing on...take a guess...dialogue! Hopefully over the next few weeks I will become a practiced writer of dialogue that's actually readable. Until then, I suppose I shall have to be satisfied with perfectly mundane speech. Sigh.