Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Let's Talk About It

Yesterday at the athletic club, as I was sitting outside the pool area waiting for Soph to finish up with her swim lesson, an elderly man came in and sat at the table beside us with a cup of coffee. Pretty soon he was joined by about 6 elderly ladies, some in swimsuit cover-ups. Apparently, several of them were waiting for a lane to open up in the pool so they could go swim. I must say I was glad they came in because they were very entertaining.

In twenty minutes they talked about Ethel, who apparently slipped on the locker room floor. She was fine, assured the grey haired lady in the know, but very embarrassed. That led to the discussion of the slippery floors in the club. Many chimed in with their opinion of where the floor was the worst.

The ringleader, I call her that because she seemed to start and finish each topic of conversation, then asked about one of the woman's husband. The lady told the group her husband was still grumpy, nothing has changed. Chuckles and nodding.

Slowly, the topic changed to Michael Jackson. The ringleader would throw out questions like, "Do you think they'll find drugs in his system?" to "Have you seen his children? They are really cute without their masks." Usually, a few ladies would chime in their comments. All would nod and then they'd move on.

It was fascinating really, the dialogue between this group of women and one man. The elderly gentlemen didn't say much. Not sure if it was because he'd turned down his hearing aide or maybe it was because he didn't have anything to add. Whatever the reason, they all sat there for 20 minutes talked and then all got up to leave. It seemed like a ritual they went through on a daily basis.

This got me to thinking about the dialogue in our stories. First, the dialogue helps us to get to know the characters. I didn't know any of these women, but after 20 minutes I had learned their opinions on several topics. Second, I thought about the topics these 70 plus individuals discussed. Some of the topics I might discuss with my friends, but the answers came with a point of view of someone who has seen much more than I have seen in my lifetime.

I guess it just really made me more aware of how individuals in my book talk. How important it is to find the voice of each character and make sure it rings true to their background, age, and experience. What are some things you do to make sure your character has an authentic voice?


MeganRebekah said...

Dialog is one area I truly love. Even if I change it a hundred times I don't get frustrated because I know I'm just seeking that person's way of thinking and speaking. Dialog tags on the hand can die a fiery death.

Pat's Place said...

Sounds tough to me. I have not tried dialogue because I mostly write memoir, but your description makes me want to try it.

Jody Hedlund said...

You sound like a true-blooded writer! Taking notes in every situation! I'm still learning to be more authentic with my dialogue, but hope some day I can finally hone that part of the writing craft!

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Edit, edit, edit. I try to get others opinions. I'm most horrible with the males. It's a work in progress for me.

Amy said...

I don't think of myself as a writer, but I love people watching and listening. It is so interesting to observe the mannerisms and converstaions of others!

I had to laugh at the thought of the one man turning his hearing aid down. That wouldn't surprise me one bit, would it you? Lol.

Thanks for your comment on the interview at Smockity's. Would have been kind of awkward with NO comments! (at least for me!) :)

Jill Kemerer said...

The Michael Jackson comment made me laugh! Isn't it amazing how often pop culture enters our conversations?

Kara said...

MeganRebekah that is key, don't get frustrated:)
Pat your stories would be fun to add some dialogue when your telling stories about your Mom and Dad and some of the things they used to tell you about.
Thanks Jody, but sometimes I listen a lot better than I write:)
Eileen, me too! Talking with a mans voice can be so tough. I battle between him saying what a woman wants to hear and what a man would really say, LOL.
Amy, I know. I think the gentleman probably turns it down a lot around that group:)
Jill, I know isn't it amazing how some topics can interest people off ages.