As a young writer, I was always reading about how powerful the writer’s voice needed to be. Voice came to mean, as Susan Scott shares in Fierce Conversations, getting out from behind the podium and actually chatting with your reader, making a connection at the gut level (I was going to say visceral but I’m on the lookout since I want to keep my blog readability as low a grade level as possible!).
When my Dad and I would go to the bookstore, he’d always crack open a book and check the dialogue. “I like a book with dialogue in it,” he’d say. In fact, Robert Ludlum books, Louis L’Amour were two of his favorite authors–because of the dialogue.
One of my favorite Ludlum books is The Matarese Circle. Crack the book open, and you see this:
“What do you think?” asked Taleniekov.
“I’m not sure,” said Scofield. “She’s elusive. I can’t find her.”
“Perhaps you’re looking too hard. She’s been through an emotional upheaval; you can’t expect her to act with even the semblance of normalcy. I think she can do the job.”
This dialogue appeals to me, moves me forward through the story quickly. That’s why I always try to put quotes at the start of an article I write…it drops the reader into the piece. Yet, I find crafting dialogue–fiction–so difficult. Dialogue spills from my daughter’s fingertips onto the page like water. It’s unbelievable. On the way to pick up dinner yesterday, we found out that we had a few moments, about 20 minutes. Not enough to do much of anything, but the restaurant was near the library and on the way.
We walked in, only about 5-10 minutes to look and pick out a book to read (I found 5, she found 10), I walked away with C.E. Murphy’s first novel, Urban Shaman. As I read it, the narrative grabbed me and I was quickly deep into the story:
There’s nothing worse than a red-eye flight. Well, all right, that’s wildly untrue. There are lots of things worse than red-eye flights. There are starving children in Africa, hate crimes and Austin Powers’s teeth. That’s just off the top of my head.
But I was crammed into an airplane seat tat wouldn’t comfortably hold a four-year-old child, and had been for so man hours I was no longer certain what species I belonged to. I hadn’t slept in over a day. I was convinced that if someone didn’t stay awake, the airplane would fall out of the sky, and I couldn’t trust anyone else to do the job.
I love the voice of the character in this story. It goes on and on, weaving in new bits. I can’t wait to keep reading. In fact, I’m a bit resentful I’m sitting here writing this blog entry (and checking my son’s long division) when I really want to be reading.
John Berendt (Midnight at the Garden of Good and Evil) who, in a list of 10 suggestions, includes this advice: “Think of writing, even the most serious writing, as a medium of entertainment. I mean entertainment in the broadest sense: engaging the reader’s mind and keeping the reader interested. What good is a piece of writing, however brilliant, if nobody reads it all the way through? Always ask yourself, ‘Are they still paying attention?'”