Different Strokes: Dialogue
L.L. McKinney is this week’s guest blogger on Different Strokes. As published poet, a columnist for Writers News Weekly and an active member of First Tuesdays and YA Lit Chat, L.L. is currently working on her YA young adult urban fantasy, SWAYED.
What type of fiction do you write?
Young Adult and Adult. One of my current works in progress has bounced back and forth between the two. I tend to stick to the areas of fantasy with a hint of science fiction for flavor.
How do you stay true to each character’s voice?
By doing what they tell me. My characters know what they want and how they would act under certain circumstances better than I do. It’s my job to listen and record their reactions to the crazy setups I toss them into, not to make up or change said reaction. No matter how much I may want to.
Give an example of a technique you’ve used to distinguish characters in dialogue.
I honestly don’t have a technique. Well, nothing I would recognize as one, anyway. My characters are who they are and they do what they do, I just step back and try to stay out of the way.
What do you do when characters stop talking?
Find out what I did or said to upset them then beg their forgiveness. Though, I often find that they never stop talking, I just stop listening. I don’t even notice when I do it, though it’s usually because they may be saying something I don’t want to hear at that particular time. Again, I just have to stay out of the way. Though there are times when they get tired, and I have to perk them up. I do the same thing I would when I want to get actual people talking, I ask them about themselves and what’s going on in their live.
What things do you try to avoid in writing dialogue?
Being “right”. Grammatically, punctually, all-the-things-they-teach-you-in-English-class-ly. And I try not to censor myself. If my character would say it, then it goes in, regardless of whether I would say it myself or not. A few of my characters have rather colorful language, and while I would be uncomfortable peeling paint from the walls with choice words, they certainly aren’t. So, I put it in.
Do you have a favorite quote about writing dialogue?
About dialogue? No, I’m afraid not. Just bits and pieces I’ve read in books on writing and hear from other writers. Mostly to be true to the character, who might be a hateful, womanizing, murderous, prejudice, scumbag with beliefs entirely different from mine, but a good writer would let him put in his two-cents anyway.
Is there a particular author(s) whose character dialogue you admire?
Cassie Claire. I love watching her characters interact. Yes, watching. Her dialogue is so believable that I can see my mental images of her characters bantering back and forth as clear as if they were in the same room as me.
How can people learn more about you and your writing?
There’s my Facebook page, my Twitter account, and my website. There are links to my blog and other places I can be found under the FOLLOW ME tab on my site as well.
Do you try to listen to your characters or change them to fit your plot? Do you carry on conversations with your characters? Do your character’s use colorful language even though you don’t?