Monday, June 09, 2008

I've taken on a new project, meant to be of value to someone else. It may be but I'm finding it an excellent learning opportunity for me.

I agreed to help a woman living with severe macular degeneration write her life story. I meet with her weekly, set up my tape recorder and try to guide her with talking points and questions. I take basic outline notes while she talks.

Back at the home computer, I play the tape and try to catch the essence of her story in her own words. The process has turned into the most informative lesson on developing a character's dialog possible. A chance to listen and listen again to the language, flow patterns, and traces of dialect as my lead character talks. Then to use what I'm hearing to tell her story in her words without the pauses, fill ins, and repetition we all use in our daily speech. The elements that would distract from her story and cause her embarrassment.

The attention I'm giving her dialog is more intense than I've given the characters in my fiction. It's an exercise that will change my attitude toward dialog in my own writing.