Monday, 26 March 2012

Wonderful Witney...

For any author, it's always nice to hear from Readers who take time out from their schedules to let us know how much they enjoyed something we've written. So imagine how heartwarming it felt when I got word from one particular chap, a guy called Neil Grant, who'd decided to take such sentiments one step further.  In fact, not only did  he want to know why I hadn't done any book signing events in his local area, but he also explained that he'd made a point of visiting his nearest Waterstones to ask them the very same question.

Of course, in response the shop manager and I were soon on the phone organising a date; hence, my trip to Witney in Oxfordshire this last Saturday... And what a lovely trip it was too, but for more than one reason.

Firstly, upon my arrival I wasn't just met with a line of gorgeous scooters, but also a set of welcoming smiles from the scooter riders.  Which was lovely considering I'd have thought they'd have had better things to do than to come and see little, old me; especially with it being the start of the rally season. So should you be reading this, guys, I'd just like to say a big 'thank you' for that; you're being there was very much appreciated - even if one or two of you were a little camera shy.

Another reason my visit to Witney Waterstones turned out to be so enjoyable was because of all the other lovely people I got to meet... Tom and his in store staff were just fabulous, as were the many customers I was able to chat to.  And again, I'd like to extend my gratitude to everyone concerned. 

Not least because as a result, Going Underground made the Witney store's best selling Paperback list - coming second to only The Hunger Games, which I have to say feels like something of an achievement.

And if any of you want to come and say hi at my next book signing, I'll be at Northampton Waterstones this coming Saturday, 31st March.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Bad dialogue versus Good Dialogue...

We all know the importance of good dialogue in our writing, but how do we achieve it?

Well for me, good dialogue is all about ensuring our characters speak the way we speak and I don’t know about you, but when I talk I don’t tend to be very grammatically correct; in fact, I very much doubt most of us are.  So why would we make our characters speak the Queen’s English, when the majority of real people don’t?  Unless we’re writing about royalty in the first place, of course!

Take the following example: 

Jane looked out of the window.  “Oh no, it is looking rather cloudy outside,” she said.  “I hope it does not rain.  I have an appointment at the hairdresser’s this morning and this afternoon I am taking Charlie to the park.  If it rains, my hair is going to be ruined.”

What class do you think this character is from?  How do you picture both her and the room she’s standing in?  What’s the view like outside the window?

Now what if I was to tell you Jane is a working class woman, living in a terraced house in the North of England and she’s actually looking out onto a back yard...  The above dialogue doesn’t work, does it?  In this context it feels unnatural, melodramatic even and it most certainly doesn’t fit with the character I’ve just described.  

Here’s the example again:

Jane looked out of the window.  “Oh no... it’s looking a bit cloudy,” she said.  “I hope it doesn’t rain.  I’ve got an appointment at the hairdresser’s this morning and this aft, I’m taking Charlie to the park.  My hair’s gonna be ruined.”

Can you hear/feel the difference?

That’s because in real life we’re a lot more relaxed in the way we speak.  We don’t pronounce each and every single word of what we’re saying, we have a tendency to run words into each other.  So unless we’re really emphasising a point, a lot of the time ‘is not’ becomes ‘isn’t’, ‘I have’ becomes ‘I’ve’ and ‘does not’ becomes ‘doesn’t’... and so on.  And in real life even when it comes to individual words said in full, we don’t always articulate these properly either.  As in ‘going’ becomes ‘gonna’.

Of course, there are other things to consider when it comes to writing good dialogue, such as the need to avoid being too ‘on the nose’.  Our dialogue needs to say a lot, without saying much at all – subtle rather than all out clear.  A bit like when we ask someone if they’re ok only to be told they’re fine.  Naturally, we know they’re not fine at all...  So in other words, they’re showing us they have a problem, rather than telling us.