Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Having A Say in the Matter

You've gone through the literary equivalent of a line-up, identifying from a supply of potentials the ensemble who will populate your story. There were some moments of indecision as you looked at the possibilities, scanning the menu of suspects to see which were real characters and which were only real persons you know in real life. You've made your choice and now you have a sense of their alibis, their connective links, their background, their strengths, their weaknesses. You may even have a line into their secrets, those juicy tidbits they withhold from all, possibly even from themselves.

Knowing them as well as you now do, you also know how they sound, how they talk, how even though they may have grown up in the same neighborhood, they sound enough unlike their 'hoodies that they stand out, as identifiable to your readers as they were to you way back there when you were cruising the line-ups, scoping them out.

What they say has nothing to do with conversation because they don't make conversation, they either put up a foreboding wall or a protective wall; they do not engage in small talk but instead are working out some problem or screwing up enough courage to do something, or are trying to convey the sense of being at ease and conversational.

They don't always talk directly to issues, either, fearful of revealing an unpopular or unpolitical attitude.

There is always something else going on when these characters are speaking, some fear that they will betray a guarded emotion, or perhaps give over someone ,a suspicion or wariness hanging over their head. Even among friends, there is a fear that these individuals, these dramatic, involved individuals, will say something that will give them away. You know how it is because of the times your IM comments or a congratulatory sentence left on a friend's blog has been taken completely out of context you know why some individuals are always limiting their comments to LOL or using emoticons to prove they were only kidding or that they meant something as a joke and please, don't take it seriously.

In other words, dialog is in fact in other words, a reflection of some kind of tension within a character and simultaneously between characters. If you stop to deconstruct, people in stories don't talk the way people in real situations talk, one reason being because drama is heightened awareness, another reason being because there is no time for such leisure. Dialog is the petri dish of story; tension, suspense, and subtext thrive in it, breed excruciating surprises and heartbreaking revelation. If it is anything less, it is an albatross.


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Wild Iris said...

I wonder if that owas one of those limited LOL comments. Communication is the hub of story telling, not only because communication is the vehicle by whish it must be driven, but because the human penchant for miscommunication and misunderstanding with themselves and others are what create those moments and events that keep our interest. Whether it is a sarcastic comment made by one character that is remarkably humorous, or a heartrending revelation, dialogue always leaves with the sensation that there is more going on beneath the surface, and like Pandora, we just have to know what's in there.