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Flo Fitzpatrick

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More Dialogue Tips for Writers
3/18/2011 7:36:48 AM

keep it real
“What a Swell Party” Keeping it real.

Want to go play “Spy?” Of course you do! And now you have an excuse. I’m asking you to join in on a time-honored game that encourages you to be sneaky.

Why? Because most of us never take the time to LISTEN. Of course, now, a lot of communication is done through texting - and aside from the weirdness of the non-grammar and trying to decipher what the other person has texted - it's hard to really have an exciting conversation that's worth writing about in your novel. (Quick story on dumb Flo here - when folks first starting using all the initials in emails, then phone texting and signed with LOL I thought for months that meant lots of luck - which seemed odd but rather kind of folks to wish me that!)

Reality talkin'. When two people talk to each other over coffee at the local Starbucks they aren’t thinking, “Now how will this statement look in print?” They just – talk. Which makes it real.

So, for the next day or so I want you to crawl on your bellies, wear your biggest sunglasses and scarves and White Collar fedoras and eavesdrop on conversations. At restaurants, parks, shopping mall dressing rooms, the bus, the train –kids’ Little League games or dance recitals. Throw a tea party for your friends, then serve the goodies and clam up and listen. For more colorful language, hit the local bar, pub or saloon. (Which could get a little TOO real!)

Do NOT listen to one side of a phone conversation. That’s a whole different beast.

Do your Agent 007 routine and write madly from the next booth, bleacher or chair over. Remember to include all the “uh” and “you knows” (I was going to suggest a tape recorder – but I think that’s illegal!) Go home – or stay there if that’s where the good conversations are happening- and make sense of your notes. Notice the rhythm in speech and whether that rhythm stays for the whole conversation.

Notice overused phrases (aside from uh and you know). Notice interesting choices of words or - if you're listening to teenagers - NEW words or phrases. Ex; When exactly did "My bad" come into use? I first heard it on a Psych episode last year or year before - the teens I teach ONLY started using it this past year. I have no theories on how these trickle down to the masses.)

Then choose one of these spying sessions and clean it up as though you were going to use it for a book. Take out most of the ‘Uh’s and “you knows” but remember – to keep things REAL, people do throw those in. (I watched a cable news show the other day and was astonished that the journalist being questioned by the host said “you know” every other sentence.) Work on keeping the rhythm close to the way you heard it.

Include a few tags, such as "she said, he remarked, she shouted, he asked...." Include some action or narrative in between the dialogue.

Just be careful not to quote directly or name names. That's too real. That could be sliding toward libel. : )

Enjoy the hunt!

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More Blogs by Flo Fitzpatrick
• Writers Who Care - Tuesday, December 20, 2011
• A WRiters Work - Monday, December 05, 2011
• Tell Me a Story! - Tuesday, October 25, 2011
• A Gentle Ghost Story - Sunday, October 09, 2011
• I Got a Name - Part Two - Saturday, April 16, 2011
• Self- E and POD versus Trad - Wednesday, March 23, 2011
•  More Dialogue Tips for Writers - Friday, March 18, 2011  

• How I Spent Spring Break (A Cautionary Tale) - Wednesday, March 16, 2011
• I got a Name - Friday, March 11, 2011
• Want to help name a book? - Tuesday, March 08, 2011
• Spring Break - Break! - Saturday, March 05, 2011
• Dialogue Tips for Writers - Wednesday, February 23, 2011
• Writing Tip - Singing -Keep it OFF the Page - Tuesday, February 15, 2011
• Respect - A Writing Nudge - Friday, February 11, 2011
• To Stupid to Live? Ouch - Wednesday, February 09, 2011
• Writer's Tip - Know Thyself - Tuesday, February 08, 2011
• "Risky" Business - Sunday, February 06, 2011

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