Has flash fiction been inspirational for you? Are you buzzing with ideas for drabbles and dribbles or addicted to six word stories?
This week I want to look at an important part of any novel... dialogue, speech or conversation between characters. Often a story is told through its characters, through their interaction, dialogue, thoughts and actions. The other descriptive paragraphs are merely background information. Dialogue can make or break a novel. Ernest Hemingway is considered to be the 'master' of dialogue. He writes it as it should be... simple and realistic... short and poignant. There is no need to indicate who is speaking or how they are acting; their speech tells all. It is thought that he spent a considerable amount of time on dialogue and I would like to share an example of his work with; it is from one of my favourite novels, A Farewell to Arms.
Catherine Barkley has arrived on duty at the hospital. She is late...
Catherine was not due on duty until nine o’clock. I heard her passing along the floor when she first came on duty and once saw her pass in the hall. She went to several other rooms and finally came into mine.
"I’m late, darling," she said. "There was a lot to do. How are you?"
I told her about my papers and the leave.
"That’s lovely," she said. "Where do you want to go?"
"Nowhere. I want to stay here."
"That’s silly. You pick a place to go and I’ll come too."
"How will you work it?"
"I don’t know. But I will."
"You’re pretty wonderful."
"No I’m not. But life isn’t hard to manage when you’ve nothing to lose."
"How do you mean?"
"Nothing. I was only thinking how small obstacles seemed that once were so big."
"I should think it might be hard to manage."
"No it won’t, darling. If necessary I’ll simply leave. But it won’t come to that."
"Where should we go?"
"I don’t care. Anywhere you want. Anywhere we don’t know people."
"Don’t you care where we go?" "No. I’ll like any place."
She seemed upset and taut.
"What’s the matter, Catherine?"
"Nothing. Nothing’s the matter."
"Yes there is."
"No nothing. Really nothing."
"I know there is. Tell me, darling. You can tell me."
"I don’t want to. I’m afraid I’ll make you unhappy or worry you."
"No it won’t."
"You’re sure? It doesn’t worry me but I’m afraid to worry you."
"It won’t if it doesn’t worry you."
"I don’t want to tell."
"Do I have to?"
"I’m going to have a baby, darling. It’s almost three months along. You’re not worried, are you? Please please don’t. You mustn’t worry."
"Is it all right?"
"I did everything. I took everything but it didn’t make any difference."
"I’m not worried."
"I couldn’t help it, darling, and I haven’t worried about it. You mustn’t worry or feel badly."
"I only worry about you."
Isn't that just beautiful? It is simple but says everything. We share the emotion and thoughts with Catherine and Frederic and are aware of the entire situation. It also flows naturally. In fact, it is realistic. Dialogue IS important.
I was extremely flattered when my editor complimented my dialogue in Stay in Touch. He commented that it crackled! Well, I took it as a compliment. Now, I know I am not in the same league as Hemingway but I would still like to share an extract of mine from Stay in Touch with you. Andrea has invited her sister over for lunch... she has something to discuss with her and needs her help.
Christabelle was tired of this farce and wanted to escape as soon as possible. She rose and walked across the hall into the dining room. There, on the table, lay two place mats, crockery, cutlery, and between them a large dish of salad and a quiche, but no potatoes or any sign of dessert. It was plain and simple.
‘Why am I here?’
‘OK. Straight to the point. I want a divorce. You know all about these things.’
At last this was more like Andrea, outspoken and direct.
‘He’s been unfaithful.’
‘I would never have thought it of him.’
‘Some floozy in the office, well his secretary.’
‘Are you sure?
‘I think so.’
At that point the phone rang. Andrea answered it and made it clear that she could not talk at that time. However, Christabelle heard the word, “darling”.
‘That wasn’t David was it?’
‘And HE’s the one having the affair? Come on, Andrea. I’m your sister. I can read you like a book. Daddy’s favourite.’
‘OK. I’m tired of David, the whole housewife and mother thing. It’s so boring. I wanted some fun and one thing led to another.’
Now, Christabelle knew why she had been unusually quiet at the funeral.
‘Who is he?’
‘No one you know.’
‘Where did you meet him?’
‘At a school PTA.’
‘Parent or teacher?’
‘Oh great. You’re having an affair with one of your daughters’ teachers. How are they going to feel? Have you thought about the effects of this?’
‘What does it matter? This sort of thing’s happening all the time. Wake up.’
‘Is he married?’
‘Divorced, widowed or bachelor?’
‘Does it matter?’
‘Oh great. This just gets better. Wake up. Any family?’
‘A son, lives with his mother. He sees him at weekends.’
‘How far has this relationship gone? All the way?’
‘Well, you want a divorce.’
‘Why all these questions, Belle? All I asked was about getting a divorce. You’re the one with that experience.’
‘You need a divorce solicitor. Dad’s solicitor tracked Richard down in Tibet and sorted things out for me.’
‘And you think I’m his favourite.’
‘You are, you know you are.’
No, I am not in the same league as Hemingway but I am proud of my dialogue. How do I create it? I try to make it natural and realistic by following the rule of making it short, simple and realistic. I read all of my dialogue out aloud to myself. I shout, scream and even do actions if I think they are appropriate. Finally, I go by the 'feel'. Does it feel right? Dialogue may be simple but it does take time to create. If you are an author take time creating it. If you are a reader, read dialogue carefully and think of the effort which went into creating it.
Have a great week folks,
Love to you all, Lady M
ps... I only have three copies of Stay in Touch left. If you would like a signed copy, £5 GBP + p&p please leave a message in the comments below.