Using Dialogue to Build Characters

faces in grey concrete wall

On the current crime novel project, I’ve been writing a lot of dialogue lately. A lot of clients working on memoir (or novels based on true stories) actually end up coming to me after trying to write their own book. This is specifically because they have finally realized they can’t write dialogue.

I thought here I’d try to talk a little bit about how I do it. The answer of course, is I just DO it. The characters come alive as they talk. But if I were to break it down into the various components of what goes on, subconsciously, when I bring them alive like that, I’d say the following.

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Writing a Fake True Story

Back to my favorite blog topic: ghostwriting. Now, I take my client confidentiality very seriously, but at the same time, Inquiring Minds Want to Know–what’s it like to be a ghostwriter? I get asked all the time, so let me, without naming names, bring you into the world I currently inhabit.

A couple of years ago I wrote a true-life epic romance novel, and got to really research the romance genre. Then last year, I wrote a southern coming-of-age novel in something close to a linked-short-stories style. It was very Jeannette Walls, if you know what that means. And now, I’m working on a fun crime caper where the story is completely fictional, but the characters and the pasts of the characters are based on real people.

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Humor in Memoir Workshop

I recently conducted a workshop entitled “Humor in Memoir.” Originally, the workshop was actually called “Laugh and the World Laughs with You.”  I gave this workshop at the Association of Personal Historians annual conference in St. Louis, MO, last October.

This was an attempt to try to teach memoirists how to inject humor into their work. If you’ve read my ghostwriting site, you’ll know I use humor a lot in all the work I do, but when people ask me how I do it or what situations call for humor, sometimes I just shrug. It’s intuitive! But I wanted to answer that question once and for all and codify (if you will) writing with humor, so that people who just don’t have a natural knack for it can try to learn to do it.

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Bits of String too Small to Save

hand with pen drawing illustration

Very soon now, I’m going to be able to show you the book cover for my upcoming fantasy novel, Bits of String too Small to Save. It’s being created by a brilliant UK artist named Phillip Harris. My vision for the book is to have it clothbound and peppered with beautiful, detailed pen-and-ink drawings.

This is not a graphic novel at all, but it will be illustrated. I had a version of Alice in Wonderland, as a child, which surprised me every once in a while with a really breathtaking illustration, right in the middle of a chapter, as if the publisher wanted to say, “I know you’ve got your own idea of what the caterpillar smoking a hooka looks like, but I just really, really, really want you to know how I’m picturing that, too.” That’s the kind of real treasure of a book I’d like to create.

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Welcome to the Dollhouse

tiny houses made of clay

Getting excited for the upcoming Santa Fe Speakeasy themed “Welcome to the Dollhouse”–stories about houses, homes, unusual living situations, or anything miniature. I could do the entire show myself, just talking about wierd places I’ve lived, attempts at “co-housing”, attempts at “sustainable living”, attempts at playing house with a boyfriend, attempts at “making it on my own in the big city.”

Seems like life is nothing but one strange dollhouse after another. But I have settled on telling a story about a roommate who literally tried to kill me. Well, seduce me, then kill me. A New York story, of course.

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