“One line of dialogue that rings true reveals character in a way that pages of description can’t.”
Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
Natalie Goldberg recommends that you listen carefully to dialogue and speech when you are in public places. Yes, it’s eavesdropping. But it’s also professional development. You’re not listening to be nosy. You’re listening so that you can be a better writer. Listen carefully to cadences, slang, vocabulary and observe mannerisms, facial expressions and reaction times.
How do people reveal themselves? What are they wearing? What does disappointment look like? What about fear? Joy?
“The very first thing I tell my students on the first day of a workshop is that good writing is about telling the truth.”
Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird
The truth. It’s clear we want the truth, even in fiction. We can spot a lie within a fiction story instantly. That character would never do that! And then we get angry. Have you ever watched your favorite TV series and then someone does something completely out of character and it makes you so angry you quit watching? Ahhhh…for the love of ratings!
Great art is about presenting the truth. It has to come honestly from the heart, not from the desire to shock or manipulate emotions or increase your follower count.
Lamott emphasizes throughout her book the importance of allowing the characters to come to you and to reveal themselves to you. She cautions against inserting dialogue, action and plot that doesn’t emanate naturally from the characters. It will sound forced because it IS forced.
I’m not a painter, sculptor, photographer or actor, but I believe this philosophy pertains to all arts. As a famous sculptor once said,
“…a knot of wood or a block of marble made it seem that a figure was already enclosed there and my work consisted of breaking off all the rough stone that hid it from me”.”\
My husband’s birthday is in November – his 50th birthday, so we partied for TWO weekends. And then there’s Thanksgiving. To say it’s been challenging to write is an understatement, what with work, family, and parties…but it’s SUPER FUN!
I’ve set a goal for myself to write a “novella,” (7,500 to 40,000 words) instead of a novel (60,000 to 100,000 words). I wanted to set myself up for success, afterall! So I targeted 25,000 words and averaged it the number of days in November. Here is my excel sheet to monitor daily progress:
on the road, wrote in word
As you can see, I have to write at least 475 more words tonight. So here I go! I hope you are enjoying the process and making progress. Once in awhile, I have to remind myself to HAVE FUN and not stress about the word count or listen to Monkey Mind!
I’m not quite finished with my children’s book, Esther, Mia and the Stars, but I’m close. I am short just a few illustrations and I have someone translating it into Spanish. I’m going to have my mother translate it into Korean over Thanksgiving. I will ship it! It WILL happen!
I thought I should finish that before I started another project, but… it’s Na-No-Wri-Mo right now. I’ve been doing research in October in anticipation of this. Tomorrow, I commit to the writing. I’ve written several fiction stories, but I’m especially excited about this one.
A fellow teacher/writer asked me three weeks ago, “Why don’t you do Na-no-wri-mo?” My first thought, Yeah, right. A novel in one month. I’m working full-time, I have kids and a husband. There is no time.
And then another voice:
“You MAKE time.”
Yes, you make time. Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Marie Curie…all had the same 24 hours we have.
So, what’s it about? I can’t say.
Advice I’ve always remembered: Do not share or reveal too soon. It invites naysayers and judges at the most critical time. Focus on the content. Focus on the work. Reveal it later.
So, what do you say? Want to join me? I’d love to share our ups and downs!