It’s been a while again, but we’ve been traveling.
I skipped over using profanity, but now I’d like to address that subject in dialogue. If you are a Christian fiction writer, at one time or another you will have to face what to do about anger and how it is expressed. If your character is not a Christian, should he/she be allowed to use swearwords? Do the swear words enhance the bad character? My answer to that is no, not at any time.
Your writing is a reflection of your character more than your protagonist or villain. If you claim Christ and your life is changed by your belief in Him, then you cannot take His name in vain. Some writers resort to “minced oaths” or a derivative of the real words; unfortunately, “Gosh darn” means the same as G– D–m. I won’t name them all, but go online and look up “minced oaths” to see what you come up with. You may be surprised!
Sooo, what words do you use? In contemporary stories, you can say, “He/she swore”; in my Biblical Fiction, I use the words, he swore, or sometimes, he cursed, but the scene needs to be set up to show why he/she cursed. We know what swearing and cursing are and don’t need to spell it out to impress our readers. They understand.
When you are tempted to throw in a swear word or two, stop and think of how you might be able to show your character’s anger by his/her gestures, stance, actions, and leave out the four-letter words. 🙂Read More
As I said before, dialogue moves the story. Your characters should be natural and not appear to be stilted to the reader. Imagine yourself talking to a friend about a new restaurant you’ve just visited. The meal was wonderful and the chocolate dessert just out of this world. Would you stand in front of your friend with your arms at your sides, looking straight at her and speak in a monotone? What would your face look like? What would you do with your hands? If you are like me, you can’t speak without using your hands to gesture. We all do that. In the same way, make your characters animate with their gestures. Here’s a scene from Smoke Before the Wind :
“Carrie! I’m so glad I caught you. Come with me to the Art of Espresso. Dean’s waiting for me and he wants us to meet a friend of his.”
“Tori, I have a class in half an hour. If this is another of your blind date ideas, skip it. I’m not interested”
“Look, Carrie, ever since Dave moved across the country to attend Columbia, you’ve been in a slump. He dumped you and it’s time to move on. Don’t let him have that kind of power over you. He’s history.”
“I will, in my own time. Seriously, I just don’t want to date right now. Besides, Dave didn’t dump me-we just agreed to part ways.”
Tori rolled her eyes. “Right. So that’s why you sat by the phone and haunted your mailbox?’
“Okay. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said it like that. I know it hurts, but you gotta let him go.”
The breeze came up and Carrie brushed a wisp of blond hair back from her face. “I’m just not ready to meet anyone right now.”
“Just because Dave was a jerk doesn’t mean all guys are. In any case, I told Dean I’d bring you along. It’ll just take a few minutes. At least say hello. Please?” The last word was stretched out along with a bright smile.
Carrie stopped and glared at her best friend. “Stop begging. All right. I’ll give it ten minutes, and I’m gone. Okay?” She shook her head and began to walk briskly to keep up with Tori’s pace.
1. How do you picture Carrie? Tori?
2. What makes Carrie change her mind?
3. Can you picture their faces, hand movements?
4. What happened between Carrie and Dave? What picture do you get from Tori’s words?
* Next time: Should a Christian writer use swear words to define a bad character, especially one who is not a believer?Read More
All of us have read novels where we either could not follow who was speaking, or the means used to differentiate between speakers was forced. Dialogue moves your story so that we are not just reading narrative. When our characters are speaking, we need to see them, perceive their emotions at the time (without being told, i.e. telling the reader rather than showing). What is their mood and can we identify with them?
If there are only two characters speaking, you can have a few sentences, one following the other without stating who is speaking. However, you must clearly show who is initiating the conversation.
Let’s take a simple scenario:
John entered the front door and at the sound of the slam, Snap, their terrier, who’d come to greet him, turned tail and jumped into his basket. Mary came from the kitchen and seeing the look on her husband’s face, stopped a few feet away.
“You’re home. Dinner’s almost ready.”
“I’ve been to the bank”
“How can you keep charging these things when we can’t pay for them?” He flung his jacket across a chair and glared at her. “I want the card, Mary, now!”
She felt tears stinging her eyes. “Our neighbor, Beth, is going through a hard time. I thought she’d like some flowers…”
“But red roses? Mary we’re practically living on mac and cheese as it is. ”
She went to her purse, got the card from her wallet and threw it at him. “Here is your precious credit card.”
- 1. What does the scene tell you about the characters?
- 2. How do we feel about John, Mary?
- 3. Can you visualize the scene?
Cont’d next month. JRead More
I’ve neglected my blog site for a while but am encouraged to try blogging again and hope to do a series on dialogue. I think it’s a difficult area for new authors to tackle and is so essential to moving the story. Stay tuned!Read More