Life has been a whirlwind of busy since I got back from the James Scott Bell seminar. I’ve been working, traveling, adjusting to having three teenage boys home for summer vacation. And yes, stealing an hour here and there to write. I’ve finally finished the Turtle Draft of Swimming North, and am brushing it up to go out to readers.
I’ve also been thinking, a lot, about what I learned from James Scott Bell. A lot of this thinking is on the subconscious level. My brain loves to run invisible programming while I’m busy doing other things, and then toss up fragments for my attention whenever I come to rest for a minute or two. Often enough, decisions are reached without any conscious thought from the so called higher centers of reasoning. In these cases, my behavior changes, or I form a resolve, without any effort of will.
This time, while I’ve been consciously mulling over the things I learned, while I’ve been busy working and getting things done, the underground committee has decided that it’s time to work on craft in a more structured and focused kind of a way.
James talked about every writer needing a structured self-designed, self instruction writing improvement program. Apparently, what I’m going to be working on first is dialogue. Not that I write bad dialogue – in fact, in many ways I think I do this pretty well. With the exception that all of my characters tend to sound like white, middle class, educated people. These are the speech patterns I grew up with, they are the ones that run naturally in my head.
So, what am I going to do about it? For starters, begin to pay attention. I am reading a book about writing conversation that I bought long ago, put on the shelf, and never opened. I am going to do as advised in the beginning chapters of this book – buy a small notebook, and begin jotting down rhythms, phrases, word choices, expressions, as I go throughout my day. Hang out at the coffee shop, the tire shop, the car repair shop, the Walmart, and make notes.
That’s for starters. Next step? Not sure yet, but probably actually analyzing how it is done in some of the books I love.
How do the rest of you lovely writer people improve your dialogue writing skills?