Dialogue

As I strive for “historical” accuracy, one of the areas in which I must take some liberties is dialogue. Portraying the voice of each character as faithfully as possible presents some challenges.

I have, in The Reader, diary entries from four of my main characters. This has been an excellent foundation for capturing their voices (and sometimes their companions’). I also have several conversations that were preserved by Molly, many years later, as best she could remember them. There were a few encounters she had while younger that were so instructional, she later attempted to write them down, line-by-line. Each of these resources have proved invaluable.

Writing accurate, readable, and entertaining dialogue was one of my greatest fears moving into this project. I’ve heard from lots of people that this is the most difficult thing to do well. Imagine the challenge of doing it well while doing an actual source justice.

I’m not sure if it was the preparation, or if my fears were overblown, but dialogue has turned out to be one of the simplest parts of these narratives to construct. After reading so many first and second-hand accounts of each character, I feel like they are living inside of me. When I get in a zone with the writing, I almost don’t even see the screen… I hardly know what I’m writing. My fingers just try and keep up with the scene that is playing out before me. A scene I already know by heart from my research.

That’s the key with writing about these future events. I study them until I know them. I know the smells, sights, sounds, tastes… and then I try to relate this vision to someone else. The reader. And maybe this is why I wasn’t too bad a choice for this project. Perhaps this is why the Bern Seer chose me (if there was any sort of selection process at all). Maybe anybody could have done this.

Here’s a sample to give you an idea of my process:

Sources:

READER DOC#295,201(Molly’s Journal)
…can’t believe Cole slept through the entire flight to Palan. Infuriating. Had so many things I wanted to talk about… plan for the trip back. He never once asked about Parsona, what she looked like, had planned to describe the entire layout, listen to some music together. I tried everything to wake him, but the guy sleeps like a brick. Like a brick with a cute, little snore. Okay, that part of the trip wasn’t too bad. Lots of stolen glances. Just wish he’d fallen for my little ruse.

READER DOC#1,204,081(Cole’s Audiolog Transcriptions)
After three nights of using the audiolog to record my sleep, I have to assume Molly is trying to get my goat. Get my goat. Now that’s a curious phrase. Sounds weird to say it out-loud when I know it’s being recorded. Great, now I’ll have to edit this part out. So, uh, the snoring. I’m pretty sure this is some kind of running joke with Molly. I’ll try one more night, just to make sure the mic is calibrated, and then this experiment will be concluded. Other observations: One, we spent two years in the simulators together pulling shifts and she never said a thing. Two, the first mention was on our flight to Palan. Three, it’s entirely possible that this is a female thing, that Molly was angry at me for passing out on the starliner, which would also explain the heavy bruising discovered on my right arm upon arrival, and… now I don’t remember which number I was on… uh, let’s just say finally, this motivation on her part also calls into question her story about playing a card game that I have been able to find no mention of since.[END]

Result:

“Where are we?” Cole asked.
“Palan,” she said, as grumpy as everyone else on the ship, but for a different reason.
“Already? Man, that went by fast. Why didn’t you wake me?”
“You seemed pretty out of it. And when you started snoring really loud, I went and sat with some guys back in coach. They taught me this cool card game called Mossfoot. You start off with—“
“I don’t snore that loud,” Cole interrupted.
“Well, I just got back and people were complaining.”
“Hmmm. Record it next time. I don’t believe you.”

I hope this gives you, the eventual reader, a sense of how dialogue is being put together for this first trilogy. For every little line you read, understand that I’m pouring through dozens of disparate sources. This has me wondering if my manuscript submissions would have been cheaper to ship (and more likely to win a favorable reception) if I hadn’t included my extensive footnoting system and bibliography.

COMMENTS (1)

It’s really helpful to know how you are pulling this information together. It’s also so cool that you are sharing some of the original documents with readers. It’s neat to get so close to the original data. Not many authors offer that sort of insider scoop.