Friday, February 9, 2007

How to Write Dialogue

Quick takes:

Belgian waffles: Hanging on at #1!
Cold weather: Stinks!
Going on a diet: Really stinks!

Many people write to me asking for advice and sometimes I don't think it through very well. I'm terribly sorry about the advice I recently gave to a woman wanting to save her marriage. Here's what you do, I wrote. Get yourself a wig, a bag of adult diapers, a couple of dozen garbage bags, fifty feet of rubber tubing, and a BB gun. Nature will take care of the rest.

Well, we all know how that turned out. Dang. I feel horrible.

Okay, writing stuff. More than anything, I love writing dialogue and I think I'm pretty good at it. Thing is, the dialogue in books is nothing like real life. Take, for example, this bit of typical conversation that happened at the breakfast table some years ago. It features my sons Sean and David, my partner, the Resident Brit, and myself. I was fooling around with a micro recorder that day and captured this:

Sean (singing): Bob the Builder, can we build it, Bob the Builder, yes we can...
David: Are you gonna eat that bagel?
Brit (fighting with Scooter the bull terrier, who's come inside muddy): Get down! You're not going to track mud eveywhere.
Sean: Go Scooter! Beat the British!
Me: Eat your cereal.
David: Are you gonna eat that bagel or not?
Sean: Bob the Builder, can we build it? Bob the Builder, yes we--
Brit: Dammit, Scooter! Quit biting me!
Me: Sean! Eat your cereal.
Sean: I didn't take my medicine until just now.
David: I'm gonna eat this bagel.
Brit: Scooter! Down!
Sean: Can we go to Chicago now?
David: I need to get on the computer to see the Rumble Robots website.
Me: Sean, eat your cereal or something horrible will happen to you.
Brit: Great. I've got mud all over me.
David (singing): Dave Letterman, your TV friend!
Sean: I need some paper to write a story.
Me: It better be about a little boy who eats his cereal.
David: Where's that CD with the Monkees concert on it?

If I wanted to a win a Newbery, that scene would go like this:

Brit: Boys, I have bad news. Your mother is dead.
David: I didn't do it.
Sean: Can we bury her in the back yard?
Brit: Now you'll have to live with your horrible relatives who will beat you and feed you scraps.
Sean: I'm not going to school anymore. I'm going to act out my anguish in antisocial ways.
David: Me, too. Plus, I'll become withdrawn and moody.
Sean: Hey, I said I was going to be antisocial first.
David: Did not.
Sean: Did too.
David: Can we play a Monkees CD at her funeral?
Brit: I suppose the dog will have to be put down. I never liked that dog anyway.
Sean: I just set fire to my Bob the Builder set. Now who's antisocial?
David: Hah! I'm going to eat all the bagels to repress my anger.
Brit: What's burning?
Sean: I threw my cereal against the wall.
David: Big deal. I got my bagel to stick to the ceiling.
Brit: I'm going off to a seedy bar to get drunk.
David (singing): Dave Letterman, your TV friend!

See how that works? Of course you do.

Website of the day: Kitty Goes Potty: Watch These Cats Poop

The name of the website pretty much says it all. I especially like the part where people rank the pictures of cats sitting on toilets doing their business: Oh yes, this is definitely a four-star picture. Much better than that other one.

Remember, I don't make these things, I just report.


1 comment:

Saipan Writer said...

Hi Missy. Great morning dialogue. I want to know what you put in the cereal that made you so insistent it be eaten!

As for kitties on the internet--are you aware there's a website with cats that look like Hitler?

Thought you should have that important bit of info.