The curse of dialogue

“Out of every aspect of writing,” he intoned bitterly, “Dialogue is the most painful part.”

With an understanding yet slightly mocking grin I said, “How do you mean? I find it as easy as speaking to you face to face.”

“Well and good for you then!” he snorted angrily, seeming to focus on the mockery I thought I had concealed in my tone. “I find it hard to step outside of myself and come up with what my characters would actually say to each other.”

“I see what you are saying; you find it as difficult to make your characters speak well as you do,” I was now openly snickering.

His face shot through with red splotches and he took a long moment to formulate a retort, “Easy for you to say. You have always known what to say and at the right moment, often at my expense.” He sighed, visibly drooping, “I have never been a talker, you know that. How can I know what my characters would say if I can’t even figure out how to carry on a basic conversation with anyone?”

Okay, now I felt bad. Not horrible, but enough to be uncomfortable, “Well, instead of feeling sorry for yourself maybe you should practice,” I said with as much love as I could muster and nearly gagged on the next words, “I guess I can help you if you want.”

His reaction would have been precious if I had been paying attention but I was too busy beating myself up. His face lit up and he stood as tall as his diminutive frame would allow as he brought his right hand to his chest in a childish gesture of respect, “I would be honored. You have no idea how much this means to me.”

I fought against the need to groan as my face fell into my hands. What had I gotten myself into?

I would consider myself to be more like the “he” in that back and forth when it comes to dialog. It was painful when I began writing the words that come out of the mouths of characters on paper. Punctuation was shabby and needed heavy editing. Little by little it has gotten easier until I almost feel comfortable when carrying on conversations, on paper at least. Is it a bad thing that the dialog of the bad/evil characters comes more readily to mind?

Here are some links to some great blog posts on dialog that have helped me personally.

Writing Dialog by Justine Larbalestier

Three writers discuss dialogue via threekookaburras