Thursday, September 5, 2013

Expectations vs. that other thing

It’s funny, how nothing ever matches your expectations. You go somewhere new; the things you expect to love are boring and the things you expect to hate are okay. You start a new job, and realize you like the humdrum bits better than the big exciting projects.

When I first started writing, I had this odd idea that dialogue would be easy—I carry on conversations all the time, how hard could writing them be? Descriptive prose, now that would be hard. 

How could you possibly really and truly convey the jagged, black latticework of bare wintery twigs against a sunset? (As ‘jagged, black latticework,’ apparently.) How could you explain that a character’s face was somehow ugly and beautiful at the same time? 

A picture is worth a thousand words—do I need at least a thousand words to set every scene?

Well, as it turns out, dialogue, even to someone who babbles compulsively, is hard. It comes out wooden, dry, and not remotely like what any real person has ever actually said. Describing the scene is easy. Which is good, because when you decide to set your story on an imaginary world, you do really need to flesh out what it looks like. I can always slash it down to something concise in draft three.

Plus, if I keep rambling on about the color of the ducks (dark brown, with pink wings), I may eventually figure out what the people ought to be saying.


  1. The weird thing is that I suspect much good dialogue would sound kind of bizarre if actually spoken. To a certain extent it's just cleaned up normal speech, but there are some things that I read, that I really like, but then I think, no, no one would ever say that in that way, not really...

    1. You're almost certainly right. Good dialogue is how we would like to think we speak, if we were as awesome as we like to think we are.

      And I'm sorry for the late reply--I never really expect anyone to read this stuff.