Logically Speaking

I think a lot about talking. Specifically dialogue. Logically, dialogue should be logical, make sense and be straight forward. Maybe not so much.

Very rarely do I partake in or hear conversation that is precise to the point and logical. People are emotional creatures and must be written that way. The mood of the character (yes they have moods too) can easily influence a response to a question, request or statement.

This goes hand and hand with trivial talking. Stiff boring conversations, just don’t happen. People interrupt, they are sarcastic, mean, sly, witty and charming to name a few. Someone grumpy is more likely to snap a response or a bored person might miss the question altogether.

“Hi Dale do you have the edit on the Watch layout I sent you this morning?”

Dale sighed heavily and looked pointedly at the clock on the wall. “No Scott I don’t have it done yet. I need at least another thirty minutes to get it right. You said you needed it by three and it’s only quarter after two.”

“Okay that’s fine Dale. Can you print it out and put it on my desk when it’s done?”

Dale huffed and frowned at Scott. “That’s Rachel’s job not mine.”

“Could you do me the favor please? I need the final copy right away and Rachael is  swamped.”

“Yes I can print it out and bring it to you.” Dale nodded and went back to work. “I’ll just work my magic.”

Scott laughed and clapped him on the shoulder. “Thank you bud.”

“No problem pal.” Dale didn’t look up as Scott walked away.

Dale is usually more abrasive and neither are so formal with each other. I’ll take out any trivial talking and the oh so logical responses.

“Hey Dale, is the Watch layout finished?”

Dale sighed heavily and tapped his watch. “It’s only quarter after two, you said three.”

“Just checking, can you print it and drop it on my desk when you’re done?”

Dale looked up and smirked. “You want me to bring you coffee and rub your feet too?”

“That’d be swell.” Scott shook his head smiling. “Rachel’s swamped, do me a solid? I need it before three if you can manage.”

“Sure.” Dale shrugged and turned back to his monitor. “I’ll just pull my magic wand out of my ass.”

“Thanks bud.” Scott laughed and clapped him on the shoulder. “Just wash it before you use it.”

“No promises.” Dale didn’t look up as Scott walked away.

29 words removed(Word count is an obsession it seems and I would be very pleased with that number), a bunch of revamping on the attitude and responses and I think that’s more interesting than a logical conversation that would never happen between the two friends.  To much logical talk can make the conversation feel uneven, imbalanced or just awkward.
My advice about overly logical conversation.
Dialogue is not the place for disinfectant. Make it dirty, gritty and imperfect.


Other interesting posts:

Crazy things

Quirky little quirks

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Don’t talk like me!

So I’m a newbie writer. By that I mean I haven’t been writing seriously for long. I’m bound to make mistakes, everyone is. One that I have to keep my eye on is writing individual dialogue. It is super-duper easy to write individual characters talking all the same… as I talk. For narrative it’s totally fine but characters, need their own voice. Even with the best of intentions I find it easy to forget the little things that keep that character unique.

So what do I do about it? I refer to my character bio’s often, where I keep specific details on each individual. I establish a clear voice in my head of how each person sounds. How they contract certain words, what jargon they use. Do they say yes or yeah. No or na. It doesn’t have to be a lot of differences for every character, but one or two distinct variations.

Here are some ways to make a character speak distinctly from others. (*Extreme suggestions should really be limited to one character)

  • Never contracts words*
  • Uses old-fashioned words such as indubitably, propitious and quiescent *
  • Says um or ah from time to time
  • Uses pauses for dramatic effect
  • Says Yes only or often uses Yeah
  • Uses similes all the time
  • Constantly uses metaphors
  • Never stops with puns(Must be well done and fit the scenario)
  • Jargon junkie
  • Says the word Like, like all the time.
  • Uses nicknames
  • Uses local dialect
  • Never swears (Could be cute about substituting “Holy Christmas that’s loud!”
  • Swears often or has a favorite swear word they use like a noun.
  • Calls everyone dear or hun
  • Geographical slang such as Y’all or Eh.

This list can go on and on. The point is to give each character a vocal quirk to make them unique from my own way of speaking. Now if you use a phrase or a character has a very unique verbal quirk, it’s fun to have someone else pick it up. As long as they or someone else point it out for fun. It needs to be addressed in a humorous way for it to make sense to the reader.

“Listen up everyone.” Terry waited for everyone’s attention. Scott clenched his jaw and forced himself not to groan. Amber bit her lip and looked at her newly fascinating pen. This was going to be a boring meeting.
Terry straightened his tie before continuing. “As you two are abundantly aware we are competing with Laverne and Associates to win the contract for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.”
Dale rolled his eyes to the ceiling. “You can just say RCMP.”
In Dale’s opinion Terry wasn’t the right designer for this high-profile project. Sasha should  be heading up this one or Scott. Dale let Valery know he wasn’t thrilled to be working with Terry.
“No I cannot.”
“Tight-ass Terry will sink this project faster than the titanic.” Dale muttered to Amber and she snickered behind her hand.
“Do you have something to say Dale?”
“Nope.” Dale cracked his neck from side to side. “Go on, dazzle us with your recycled ideas.”
Terry narrowed his eyes and clenched his jaw; this was the worst possible team.

Dale is a ‘Nope’ kind of guy because he’s brash, rude and often insubordinate. He uses it often but not to people he likes. Terry, well he’s the pompous blowhard unaware he has little talent of his own. He’s disrespected, so uses big words and speaks in what he perceives to be smart.

My advice about character dialogue quirks.
It is extremely important for your character to stand out from the others and the narrative. Even if it’s just a little. Put thought into it and if the character is from a region you’re not familiar with do some research to find out if there is a local dialect or saying used. 


Other posts:
Oops! What did I just say?

It’s really very unnecessary

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Squeaky Clean

Writing people is a complicated undertaking. Writing their interactions can be daunting… or oodles of fun if you want it to be. I love conversations that test the limits of a character. That broach the outer regions of their comfort zones. Yes they have to have them. I create each character as completely as I can flaws, quirks, mannerisms and all.

When I read a story and the protagonist and their love interest are too in tune, too perfect and ooy-gooy lovey-dovey constantly it’s gross. Nobody is that perfect, nobody. People have limits to what they will tolerate. Sure when you fall in love those things are often overlooked or tolerated, but they wear off eventually. The little annoying things start to annoy. Conversations should be lively and emotional. Anger, frustration and even dislike need to leak into all relationships.

People argue, they disagree. That doesn’t mean they have to fight outright, but unless they are relinquishing their person in entirety to the other, they should disagree with something at some point. Small or large it doesn’t matter as long as they are individuals in a relationship not a single entity of boring complacency. A strong independent person should not become completely submissive for the love of their partner. A weak and insipid person would not overnight become brazen and forward to please a lover. Change takes time, real change. If they do morph too quickly it’s got to be fake and short lived. The honeymoon wears off, people can’t and don’t change who they basically are for any sudden reason. Sure, they can make one or two modified decisions, but their core must be solid. If they are on a journey of growth and change this should happen slowly.

So every relationship I write I do my very best to make sure someone rubs someone the wrong way. I make sure that they strive to make the other happy, but don’t lose their annoying habits or basic foundation of who they are. A devil simply can’t become an angel overnight, unexplained as if by magic.

Dale spent the morning at his desk thinking and brooding. Lucky for him the workload was light with both Sasha and Clifton missing. The rumors were flying that they had run away together. He had no problem laughing and perpetuating that rumor. It was hilarious to think the glacial Sasha was hitting the creepy useless figurehead idiot boss.

Amber was ignoring him completely, but behaving like her old self otherwise. She ignored all attempts to contact her since the uber incident last night. Every time she laughed or giggled, his mood slipped darker. It took some planning but he knew he could catch her alone. One sneaky email and voila.

Amber tapped her toe waiting for the other staff to show. She glanced down at her watch as the door opened and Dale popped in, turned and closed the door quickly.
“Sit.” He said as she got up to flee the room.
She stopped and remained standing. “Go to hell Dale.”
“Look, you can be mad at me, I deserve it. Just talk to me.”
“Why? So you can call me a slut and suggest everyone other than you.” She stopped and lowered her voiced. “I’ll deal with it, you’re off the hook.”
“What do you mean by deal with it?”
“Not your problem.” She crossed her arms.
“It is half my-” He stopped. “Amber I let Scott put doubt in my mind. I believe you, I’m sorry it’s just a lot to process so quickly.”
She stared at him expressionless.
“What do you mean deal with it?”
She sighed and closed her eyes.
“No, please don’t Amber.”
“Why not? What do you care? Why do you care?”
He stepped closer to her. “I don’t sleep around either.” He put his hand on her arm. “I only have sex with people I like. I hoped you might stop looking at Scott with blinders and see me.”
Her abrupt laugh made him step back and pull his hand away.
“Oh Dale, you’re hilarious. You don’t like me romantically any more than I like you that way. I’ll raise it on my own. I can’t abort you moron. I’m catholic.” She chuckled. “Sort of.”
“Will you let me help? Be the dad I mean?”
She shrugged. “If you want. But if you do, you don’t get to half ass it and quit if you get bored or scared.” She moved past him to the door. “For the record, I only slept with you because Krista and Bria dared me to. They bet me I wouldn’t.”
Dale flinched when the door slammed behind her. She loved her games of betting and daring others. She instigated Scott’s dare to sleep with Sasha. It made sense that she would take a bet or dare from her snotty stuck up no good slutty friends.
“I bet those so called friends dump your ass the second they find out.” Dale spat the words at the closed door. His ego bruised, he did like her, but she only had eyes for Scott. “Fine. Be a bitch.” He opened the door while muttering under his breath. “Two can play that game.”

Stressful moment past, they have had time to adjust. Or so they think. Once the initial shock wore off I needed to have them slip back to their core behaviors. If I’m going to let them change it won’t be overnight. Dale and Amber aren’t nice people, they are bullies by nature. They feel superior, act it, and act on it.

My advice about squeaky-clean interactions.
Nope, nope, nope. People are messy, emotions are messy and people rarely react/act like they are expected to. Perfection is boring, super-duper, bang your head off the wall boring. Make it fun, dirty up the conversation a bit.


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Yes… no… maybe?

The jerk-face warrior

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Conversing is easy…not!

There are some things in writing that irk me. I do my best not to do these things and try very hard not to let them minimize my writing.  There are some well-known authors out there that dabble in the ostentatious style of writing. Whether it’s a little or a lot, it can be tedious and frustrating to read.

I don’t enjoy when a scene is dressed up unrealistically or conversation is flowery and overdone. Writing can be extravagant without browbeating the reader into a puddle of eye rolling. I’ve talked about establishing the scene in Setting the mood and keeping it simple in KISS you’re writing. What about conversation?

Conversing is easy… not! Well it is in the real world. If I don’t write the way I talk and the way others actually respond then it can quickly become garish or even mundane if the conversation is unnecessary or could be easily replaced by a summary like I talked about in What happened yeserday?.

There are words I find in writing, even current books that are used outside narrative and within dialog that, honestly just don’t belong. Words that would never cross a real person’s lips. Sure I love to use “old fashioned” words and I adore the unusual, but too much is garish. It’s all about moderation.

For example:

The comfortable small lounge bar wasn’t crowded since it was a weeknight and not very late in the evening. “Scott, I do really enjoy our time out together. Thank you ever so much for treating me to a drink. After the overly busy and stress filled day I’ve had it is an extraordinarily kind gesture.”

Amber set her empty glass down on the round table, sat back on the soft cushioned couch and gingerly touched her bandaged forehead. It was so very small a cut, but bled so much it seemed a whole lot worse.

“You’re most welcome Amber, it is my utmost pleasure to cheer up your desolate mood. I too had a day that was hard and stressful. It would seem Dale is determined to the utmost to continuously point out that I was defeated by a woman so impervious and unobtainable.”

Scott waived at a server for refills and smiled at his friend. She was very attractive and extremely willing. That was however the entirety of the problem. He wanted a challenge, he wanted ever so much to conquer and win over a woman of moral fortitude. Amber was definitely a woman lacking discriminate taste when the matters of choosing potential suitor.

“Yes indeed, you can say that again Scott. Dale was gloating ever so much today. It seemed it was all he was capable of doing. Normally I would acquiesce and join in such banter, but Sasha is quite possibly the most elusive heartless stick in the mud I’ve ever acquainted with.”

First of all that was uber awkward and so over the top I gagged a couple times writing it. This is an extreme example but I read a lot and I’ve read some super awkward conversations that realistically would never happen. Or at least not in any situation I can think of. Maybe I’m wrong but if it’s awkward to read then it would be super awkward for people to actually say.

Let me tidy it up and modernize it a bit.

The small uncrowded lounge bar was perfect for an early evening drink. Amber downed the last of her martini. “What a super stressful crap-tacular day. I can’t thank you enough for treating me to a drink Scott.” Amber set her empty glass down on the round table, sat back on the soft cushioned couch and gingerly touched her bandaged forehead. The small attention-causing cut had bled profusely, but didn’t hurt then or now.

“No problem Stitches McGee” He teased. “I needed one as much as you. Dale was a dick all day, gloating about winning the bet. I should have known Sasha was a total unobtainable ice bitch.” He shrugged. “But my ego got in the way.”

Scott waved at a server for refills and smiled at his attractive and willing friend. He wanted a challenge, to conquer and win over a decent woman, which was not Amber. Amber was more fly by night, go where the bed sheets are open, not the kind of girl to bring home to mom and dad.

“You can say that again, I got sick of Dales crowing myself. Normally I would join in, but you didn’t deserve to be snubbed so coldly by princess frostbite.”

It is possible to have a character of wealth or education speak properly or with class, without them sounding like a pompous windbag throwback from an 1800’s romance novel. (Well unless it is a story set in the 1800’s then by all means have at it.) I have a character that speaks properly and never contracts words unnecessarily. He still uses jargon and I don’t overdo the filter words and unnecessary additives. The people he converses with speak normally, and are sometimes more flippant around him for contrast.

People speak differently, they have different lingual quirks and in a story, it’s painful to read dialogue that is the same across the board for each character. It makes for stiff conversation that I personally start skipping over or I’ll just put the book down.

My advice about ostentatious conversation.
Um don’t. Make sure each characters voice is as unique as they are. Give them catch phrases or lingual mannerisms that are theirs alone. Sure, you can have someone pick up a slang term from another and make fun with it, but really, just keep it realistic.


Posts related and mentioned in this one

KISS your writing

Setting the mood

Missing body parts

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