My turn on the Blog Chain. Man, taking last round off made me feel…so….out of the loop!  Anyways, Kate started this round with the following question:

Do you enjoy writing dialogue? Do you use a lot of dialogue in your writing (for our purposes “a lot” will be defined as more than a smidge and yet not so much that the quotes key on your computer is completely worn out.)? Do you have example(s) of dialogue you especially enjoyed from something you’ve read? Do you have example(s) of dialogue from your own writing? What about these examples makes them special?

WHEW!  That is a serious question. And one that I really struggled with.  

I guess we’ll start with the easy answer…YES! I love dialogue. I think it provides opportunities for characterization without straight narration or extreme action. A characters word choice and manner of speaking allows the reading insight as to the personality of the speakers – all good things

Now, saying I like dialogue does not necessarily mean I am good at writing it. And, truthfully, I am not certain that I am. It is something I have been working on – along with other aspects of characterization, these days.

Okay – on to the samples of dialogue.

This is from Hunger Games. It’s the scene just before Kat leaves for the games – her last conversation with Gale. In it, we see the relationship between them, the reality facing her, and the choices she is going to have to make…all within a tightly written scene.

“Katniss, it’s just hunting. You’re the best hunter I know,” says Gale.

“It’s not just hunting. They’re armed.They think,” I say.

“So do you. And you’ve had more practice. Real practice,” he says. “You know how to kill.”

“Not people,” I say.

“How different can it be, really?” says Gale grimly.

The awful thing is that if I can forget they’re people, it will be no different at all.

The Peacekeepers are back too soon and Gale asks for more time, but they’re taking him away and I start to panic. “Don’t let them starve!” I cry out, clinging to his hand.

“I won’t! You know I won’t! Katniss, remember I -” he says, and they yank us apart and slam the door and I’ll never know what it was he wanted me to remember.

Clean, simple…yet, at least to me, you get the tension of the moment.
Okay – one of my samples now. This was really really hard for me. I am just not certain my dialogue is there yet – you know. Nonetheless, everyone else did a great job with this, so despite my strong desire to just not put up a sample…here you go. his is from a WiP called Broken Wings. It’s a contemp YA piece.  I have mixed dialogue with the characters mental ramblings…so we’ll see what you think:
“Allyson.  Allyson. Are you ready to come back and join the group?”  The question hangs in the air, teasing me.  Of course I’m not ready.  No one ever is.  But we all play their stupid game.  Act like we’re good girls.  Pretend we’re getting better so we can get out. 

And cut again.

“Yeah, sorry.”  I walk back to my chair, unaware of the topics being covered in this round of torture.  Not that I actually care.  I never tell the truth.  Not ever.  I lie about everything.  Tell them anything they want to hear.  There’s no way I’m letting Dr. Whatever and his minions rattle around in my head.

That’s never, ever going to happen.

“Allyson, Nina was just saying that sometimes it’s hard to know who you are without the pain.  What do you think?”  Minion #1’s eyes narrow.  Waiting.

Does she really think I’m going to answer?  I mean, seriously, how many silent hours do I have to spend before she figures that out?  “Um, I guess.” My standard answer.     

Minion #1 seems to buy it and turns away.  “What about you Lacey?”

Lacey is the one reason this place isn’t all bad.  She’s my roomie.  We spend the nights going over our great plans for when we get out.  How we’ll control the pain again.  How we’ll hide the scars, hide the evidence.  We’ll go about our perfect little lives and never let anyone know how deeply we hide our true selves.

Lacey looks at Minion #1, the light dancing in her green eyes.  She placates her with a random answer.  She’s used to the game.  In fact, she is the resident expert.  This is her fourth trip through Destination Hell.  Each time, she leaves in two days.

And on this trip, she has taught me all of her secrets.  The right words.  The right face.

“I think,” Lacey starts. “I think I define myself by my pain.  And when it gets to be too much, I cut – just so I can refocus my world again.  The cycle never stops.”

“Excellent Lacey.  Thank you so much for sharing that.”  Minion #1 smiles her plastic smile.

And I laugh under my breath, unable to share the joke just played.  I look at Lacey and smile.  She stares back and tilts her head.  The black strings of her hair fall into her face,  She smiles. Winks.  And I know, everything she said it total bullshit.  Like always.


Not the best example, as there is not a lot of dialogue – but I guess it IS a true representation of what I tend to do…use dialogue as a characterization tool.
How about you? What does dialogue mean to you? How do you use it?
Want more of what the blog chain had to say? Check out Kat’s post from yesterday, and Sarah’s post tomorrow.




28 thoughts on “Blog Chain: We’re Talking, we’re talking…

  1. Nice post, Christine! I like your use of dialogue. I tend to do something similar, using it as a characterization tool. And I frequently punctuate dialogue with the narrator’s internal thoughts, too.

  2. First, I enjoyed the excerpt–very “Girl Interrupted” I liked the way you used the dialog along with the thoughts of the person speaking. It’s been a long time since I’ve written any fiction in first person. I tend to write a LOT of dialogue. For me, I guess it’s because I get bored with all the exposition and it seems more interesting to have the characters move things along in the story through dialog and of course their actions–but I try to include a lot of talking with the action–kind of like the sword fight scene in “The Princess Bride,” They’re talking and engaging in something very active at the same time.

  3. I like how the spoken words and the character’s thoughts say two different things in your sample. The reader gets a more complete picture of the character that way. Well done!

  4. Great post Christine! Your WiP sounds super heavy! From the dialog you used, I get a feel for your character’s emotional state. Just a few words from a teenager is plenty when they use a “tone”. You did a good job of conveying that tone! 🙂

  5. I like this. But I do see a some ‘telling’ instead of showing. I hope you show the reader the time when they’re in their room together–that’s the conversation that I think would give a good view of their relationship. And if you have that convo, you could refer to it instead of telling the reader about it. I loved it–I think you’ve got a strong concept, but maybe using the rule ‘tell don’t show’ (I hear this all the time from my crit partners) would help you with your dialogue concerns…Sorry, don’t know where this came from, but I hope it helps…

  6. I with you, Christine. I love writing dialogue, and I use it for characterization. I also use it for building conflict and humor. Heck, I use it for everything. 😀

  7. Your dialogue is not nearly as bad as you probably think. I thought you used it very well, in fact. I also enjoyed the dialogue of The Hunger Games. The example you chose from that book is a good one. Nice post.

  8. Great post! Dialogue is funny. When it’s done badly, you know it immediately. (And yours was great, BTW!) I find that reading your own dialogue out loud helps me to see what sounds natural and what sounds forced or unnecessary.

  9. I really loved your dialogue, Christine! Wonderful work. And great example from Hunger Games. Man this is going to be a hard question to answer. I get so shy sharing my WIPs on my blog. 😀

  10. Wow, I think you are too hard on yourself – that dialogue seemed totally spot-on to me! I also think writing in first person is a form of writing dialogue – a constant ongoing stream of internal dialogue – and I thought that worked really well in your example as well.

    Also, loved The Hunger Games example cause well, I just love all things Katniss:)

    1. It is in the outline, less than 5K written stage…but I love the voice of the MC…so one day it’ll get written!!!

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