Today's going to wrap up our discussion on dialogue, unless you still have something you'd like me to cover. If you do, you can either shoot me an email or leave your question in the comments section.
What People Say versus What They Feel
A writer asked, "You said something about creating conflict through your dialogue by not having the characters say everything that they feel. ... But, I am having trouble in that area because in the first few chapters in my WIP my MC is pretty depressed. She's given up on trying to love, to hope, to feel, because she knows it'll hurt to much. How do I make that evident in my dialogue, without having her say too much and risk over explaining?"
The short answer is, you do that with your character's thoughts, not their dialogue.
In the last dialogue post, I used Save the Date by Jenny B. Jones as an example. Let's go back to that.
In the opening scene, Jenny uses Lucy's internal thoughts to tell us how she's really doing:
She grabbed his hand as he leaned away. "Is it me?" Because wasn't it always her?
Oh, man. That's a character who's been hurt, isn't it?
In this one Matt is speaking to her and Lucy answers:
"It looks like a class reunion invitation. I thought you didn't graduate in Charleston."
Her childhood in South Carolina was the last thing she wanted to discuss tonight. Or ever. "Obviously it's a mistake on someone's part." Or a cruel joke.There's a story lurking in those words, isn't there? Someone isn't being completely honest.
Sprinkling in those internal thoughts build complexity in your character. We don't always say exactly what we're feeling, right? When I'm having a rotten day, if someone says to me, "Hey, how's it going?" my immediate answer is, "Good, how are you?" Even if it's a friend, they'll likely have to dig a bit before I'm honest.
So even though it's important for "story stuff" to be happening in the dialogue, your character doesn't need to be saying to others, "I'm depressed and having a tough time opening myself up to love." Not only do they not need to say that, they shouldn't.
Kristen Heitzmann. Her main character is an emotional wreck on the inside, but she's an extremely talented landscape architect and highly sought after in her field of work. Because we see her strength exhibited in her job, we know - even on a subconscious level - that this character will ultimately have the strength to overcome her emotional issues as well.
That wraps up my thoughts on dialogue. On Friday I'll be sharing some fun exercises for writing dialogue, which I'm really excited about!
Tomorrow the lovely and talented Betsy St. Amant will be here, and she'll be giving away a copy of her first YA novel, Addison Blakely: Confessions of a PK.
Also, Thursday is news day, so if you have news you'd like to share - an article to be published, finishing a first draft, sending out query letters - we'd love to celebrate with you. Send your news to Stephanie(at)GoTeenWriters.com with "News Day" in the subject line.