"Write with your passionate heart, but edit with your calm brain." Dinty Moore, The Mindful Writer
Brief discussion of Dialogue sheet and two stories by Emma Donoghue, "Onward" and "Last Supper at Brown's" from Astray
note to self: Look at The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Dialogue can give us a place and the people living there, particularly when they share an assumed body of knowledge:
"I kind of thought Henry would marry her one of these days."
"That old woman?"
"Well, Henry ain't no chicken."
"No, but he ain't not buzzard, either."
"He ever been married to anybody?"
"How come? Somebody cut if off?"
"He's just picky."
"He ain't picky. You see anything around here you'd marry?"
Sandy Dorr says:
"Dialogue is our characters in their own words, the closest we get to them. When dialogue flows like poetry, it sounds as if people are speaking in our ears, in their incomplete, jumbled breath. If it's working, you can excerpt even a little piece of it and get the characters, the landscape, and the flavor of the moment.
Dialogue is never purely informational. At its best, it will help advance the plot, but it must do more than one thing at a time. It helps set the scene, develop the character, develop the conflict, stir our senses. The words spoken by characters color the air between them and tell us who they are rather than exactly what they're going to do or have done. Think of dialogue as the shorthand between people who know each other well, a vernacular that's surprising, intimate, new, and often contrapuntal:"
"There is so much fighting and dissatisfaction in the world, lady," the clerk said in his whisper and looking away over the dark landscape of Woolworth's: "and many people thought the advent of television would help, but is hasn't changed anything, so far as I can tell."
"Nobody know what they want to do with each other or with anything," Marietta said.
"Sit down," the clerk whispered.William Goyen, "In a Farther Country"
Dorr says: "Dialogue can cover space and time in a story."
"You don't have to write both voices to create a dialogue."
1) Write dialogue without quotes. See what's necessary. Keep hitting "enter" or return the carriage.
2) Write two people who know each other well, talking. Each is keeping a secret.
3) Two people talking in a closed space -- a car, a room -- for a defined length of time. Each has to reveal something in order to exit. Use few speech tags.
4) Two people who haven't seen each other for quite a while meet (at the P.O, laundry, or more intimate place?. What do they do and say?
5) Write a dialogue between radically different voices. Aim for the marked differences (age, ethnicity, English as a second language) or simpler, subtle shifts in syntax.
Notes taken last night on REVISION:
- It will take a long time to know what is true for you, the writer
- Take out/remove cliche language
- Take out anything that does not add to the story
- Discover, uncover a form where my own voice works for me
- When working with characters, we need a dramatic event, then tells what is happening, what gets changes, what is transformed? I.E., TRANSFORMATION is necessary
- When revising, don't just edit; re-enter the piece, make it new again, Get inside it; Be inside it. Edit with a calm brain.
- "Kill your darlings" famous quote...do not get attached to a piece, sentence, thing you really like, because it may not be all that excellent to someone else. If a story can do without the event, whatever you are writing, then take it out. Each sentence must mean something.
- Again, EACH SENTENCE must have meaning
- Use gestures, i.e., a woman fiddling with her earring, jewelry, a gesture she makes; notice an animal moving through the room and what the animal is mimicking in your writing, perhaps; notice the light in the room
- Shame and guilt are internal; make them transform the object in a way that is discernable