Monday, January 17, 2011

Dialog: My Archenemy

This morning's writing session was an exercise in frustration. It should have been easy. The entire scene is basically a conversation. But it's one that shifts a few people's perceptions and reveals character growth only hinted at before this. This isn't just characters chatting; this is emotional translation.

The problem seemed to be the mash of personalities. Two of the characters are new, one is still a malleable substance in my head, and the other two are my main characters, who are being put under a different kind of pressure than they've had to face to date in the novel. So there were five heads to balance, five personalities to cycle through.

The scene calls for three of them to be front and center, arguing things out, shoving their emotions and preconceived notions at each other. But everyone in the room has a strong personality, so no one's just going to sit there. Everybody's got to have their say. It was like trying to weave a tapestry with two anvils, a sword, and a few throwing stars.

I ended up writing the scene three or four times, none of them exactly right. In an hour and forty-five minutes, I wrote about 1,200 words, about 300 of those worth keeping. The only thing that kept me going was that I kept finding pieces that I liked. If it'd all been futile, I might have backed away and given the scene some time to simmer, maybe done a writing exercise instead. But I was getting somewhere. Actually, it was a bit like working out: painful and slow and repetitive, but the final results were worth it.

Tomorrow, I dive back into the scene, making every word count, ever comment one that reveals character and advances plot. I can't wait for the next action scene, though. Those write so much faster for me! Conversation is still one of my writing weaknesses. Maybe I should do some writing exercises just to work on dialog. Not a bad thought.

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