I don’t know how many of my blog readers are familiar with Joan Rivers—possibly not that many—but there was a time when the catchphrase Can we talk? was known to just about every adult in America. Joan may be gone, but it seems like people are talking more than ever. All talk, all the time, everywhere you go.

I’ve always been a bit of a talker myself. I get that from my mother. Growing up in our house, Mom sat at the kitchen table with us three guys, my father, my older brother and me. Dad was extremely quiet, and my brother took after him somewhat in that respect.

As the youngest in the family, I sat there at the table listening to my mother’s endless monologues about the cute kids she taught at school. I can’t help thinking there was a moment when I looked from my father to my brother and thought, “Aren’t either of you going to do anything about this?”

And when the answer turned out to be No, I started talking. If I didn’t, she would. So I became the second most talkative member of my immediate family.

 

An Ear For Dialogue

I first learned I had something of an ear for dialogue while still in high school. When my friends responded well to a little short fiction I’d written, I was hooked. Looking back, those first stories were actually pretty terrible, but they were still decent first efforts. What stands out most: the dialogue.

In college and grad school, I learned that I had to take my professors’ praise with a healthy grain of salt. They were impressed with my writing skills, and gave me good grades, but they didn’t have to write for a living. A professional writer-in-residence came along, and this guy was one cool dude. He hung out with us students, we got him high, and all was well with the world, as far as I was concerned. The one thing I remember him saying was that I had an “ear for dialogue.” That stuck with me.

 

Examples From Novels

Looking back now at some of the work I’ve done in my life, I can find examples of dialogue that still pleases me in its economy and how the characters can be easily differentiated from each other. For example:

 

“Now you just shut up and listen to me —”

“What?” His eyes blazed. “What?”

“I said shut up and —”

He seized her arm and she dropped the pan, paralyzed, his grip like some steely claw digging into her soft flesh.

“Nobody, Louise—nobody—tells me to shut up. Okay?” His teeth clenched, sweat trickled down his forehead.

“Let go of my arm, you bastard.”

“Did you hear what I said?”

“Let go, you —” She tried to hit him.

“Nobody!” he screamed, flinging her back. [From Brothers’ Hand.]

 

Another example:

“Of course, in Americar, one meets so many women… but I’ve found almost all of them—the good-looking ones, anyway—are frightfully ordinary. And they’re almost always paired off with some bloody swaggering Cro-Magnon man who’s got all the tact and delicacy of a Mongolian idiot.” [From Miles of Files.]

 

And finally: 

Someone had recently asked how old his kids were and, without thinking, he’d replied, “About three and a half marriages.” [From Miles of Files.]

 

The example from Brothers’ Hand shows unbearable tension and even violence between a parent and child, but above all, the dialogue shows a clear difference between who’s speaking, without a lot of he said/she said attributions. I’m proud of how that came out.

The samples from Miles of Files are much different: they demonstrate a grim humor, and both make their characters (the British Graham and the American Mac, respectively) look pretty bad. A lot of this stuff happens organically for me, and requires little rewrite. It just flows.

So there you have it—a bit about dialogue from an author who’s always found creating it to be one of the least difficult aspects of writing a novel. Can we talk?

metaphysics

Psychology Is Sort of a Hobby of Mine, or Why I’ve Always Been So Interested In Metaphysics

I chose the image above for today's blog post for a couple reasons: first, it's cool, but second, it's also kind of all over the place. And isn't that what metaphysics are all about?A quick Google search shows the definition of metaphysics as "a field of philosophy...
answer

We’re All Looking For The Answer

Today’s post is a bit of a topic combo, if there is such a thing. What’s on my mind? Elements of a February 2019 post called No More For The Road and the March 2019 post I Survived Catholic School. Don’t worry. I won’t repeat what’s in them. You can read them for...
attorney

The Power of an Attorney

Last week I missed the deadline to post my Monday blog, then missed any other opportunity through the rest of the week. The reason? I'm power of attorney for my mother, who took a fall and had to be hospitalized. Hence the headline for this week's post. Being power of...

But I’m Too Busy to Blog!

If you're like me, you're a committed writer: maybe you keep to a rigorous writing schedule, or maybe you have actually written a full-length book or books. Chances are good that if you're reading this, you're also a blogger. Maybe you even have a blog like this one....

Writing Based on Experience

Recently, I’ve been writing more about writing, giving some explanations about why I write what I write…or, in the case of the three novels I’m currently promoting, why I wrote what I wrote. Brothers’ Hand, which takes place in the fictional town of Carverville, NY,...

Indie Authors & Literary Fiction

Back in July, I posted an interview with fellow indie author Jay Lemming.  Jay has a terrific ongoing project simply called “Survey: Indie Writers of Literary Fiction.” In his survey, he asks fellow lit fiction authors about one of their novels, and in particular,...

A Conversation With Literary Author Jay Lemming

Today's blog post is a little different - an interview with fellow literary novelist Jay Lemming, author of Billy Maddox Takes His Shot. I'll let the interview speak for itself, but for more on Jay, visit his website at https://jaylemming-author.com. Thanks for...

Strictly Commercial In SE Asia

Three weeks is not a normal lapse of time between blog posts for me. I try to blog at least once a week, anyway, but from November 9th through November 23rd, I was on my first real vacation since 2015. The destination: my wife's native Thailand. This was my fifth trip...
book-building

Book-Building 101

This week's post is called Book-Building 101 because I want to provide my fellow indie authors a little info on the mechanics of putting out a completed book. And I'm not talking about plot, structure, or basics like editing or proofreading. I'm talking about the...
catholic school

I Survived Catholic School

This post isn’t meant to be provocative, though I understand my readers who also happen to be good Catholics might see it that way. No, it’s something else altogether.Years ago, it wasn’t unusual to hear someone talking about how the nuns hit their knuckles with...