Post by Susan Violante
After over 16 years of working on my writing, I have learned that dialogue is the most important tool available when telling a story. We can use the dialogue to describe, inform, show action, establish mood, and even portray characters’ personality. In short, it is the dialogue that brings the story alive for the reader. This is why it is so important to get it right when it comes to creating a balanced amount of dialogue that will move the plot forward, and make the characters real.
Dialogue is also one of the biggest challenges for authors. Just think about it. We don’t always write dialogue for people like ourselves. For example in my book, my main character is a young Italian boy growing up during WWII in Libya. But I am a middle age woman who grew up in South America! Yet, I had to figure it out if I wanted to produce a successful product. So my dialogue research began.
Doing research to develop dialogue was a new concept for me, because as a mainly articles and poetry writer at the time I began writing my fiction novel, I thought research was reserved for setting, plot, and character development, but it had never occurred to me I needed to research before creating dialogue until my critique group made clear that some of my dialogues didn’t sound real.
Five years after I was done with my book, I was reminded of how overwhelmed I was when I found I felt the same way about some dialogue on a wonderful book I was reviewing. I loved everything about the book, but felt disconnected at some points because some female dialogue didn’t click with me as a female. This fact prompted me to share some tips from my own experience on how to use research to create genuine dialogue to make your characters real and thus connect to the reader.
- The first resource we writers have is our personal life. In my case, I had the year I spent on an Italian missionary school in Venezuela during the fourth grade of elementary school. I was 10 years old, just like my main character. So I went through memory lane and pictured the Italian boys’ interaction as I remembered my days there. I focused on their slang, cursing, and especially on their jokes and games.
- No personal memories to fall back on? Look around you. Thanks to globalization we a have pool of characters of all sexes, ages, and ethnicities. Watch your characters come alive on the people around you.
- Once I had a clear picture on how an Italian 10 years old boy speaks, I started exercising by recreating the interactions I remembered on the paper, and getting them critiqued by my fellow writers during our group meetings. Playing on paper with what you saw in real life is crucial but most of all is fun! Creating a dialogue after each critique sounds frustrating but by redoing it a few times we get so used to the character’s personality and slang, that it will come natural when incorporating it in the story.
- Finally, while playing with the dialogue we have to remember it has to also be genuine for the time our story is taking place. The slang changes with time, but also the humor, the way people play with each other, curse at each other. In my case, I was grateful to be able to find old, Italian movies from the WWII era that were close enough. Reading books from the era you are writing also helps, but for me creating the dialogue through a live person I watched or a character in a movie works better for some reason.
In reality every writer when working on their book, will embark on a journey to find their own style, their own tools to do research and put the story down. I hope that these tips will contribute in all of your journeys!
CEO/Managing Editor, Author, Reviewer
Born and raised in Venezuela from Italian immigrants, Susan completed a BA degree in Political Science and Business Administration before moving to the US . Although she built a career as a Business Analyst / Accountant, she also kept herself active as a Freelance writer in the US; publishing articles, poetry, children stories, and illustrations since 1996. She published her first book in 2009, and released her revised edition: Innocent War: Behind An Immigrant's Past- Book 1 in 2011. Her picture book: Tuma, The Tribe's Little Princess will be available in early 2013 under her own label.
When Susan started working for Reader Views, she discovered a passion for helping other authors get their stories and messages out there. Mentored by Irene, her new found passion developed into her I Have Something To Say brand (blog, online radio show and publishing Company). Her websites are www.susanviolante.com and www.ihavesomethingtosaypress.com. She founded the reader Views managed I Have Something To Say Manuscript Contest in 2012, which will announce the first winner in 2013.
Currently, Susan has partnered up with Reader Views to keep Irene's vision alive. She resides in Austin, TX with her husband (Michel), her two daughters( Nicollette and Arianna), and her two dogs (Peggy and Scotty). Susan enjoys cooking, reading, knitting, painting, writing, and any outdoor activity. Her favorite things are scouting for people to interiew in her online radio show with her husband and writing about them.