I - Interlocutors

“Because I belong to neither world,” she replied icily. “Because I am neither fairy nor Catti and am caught between the two worlds, having no particular world of my own and therefore I am the bridge between both sides.” She jerked her arm toward the door. “Now let you leave me alone before I say something I regret.”

Conversation!  Dialogue!  Very difficult when two of your characters are laconic and the third is shy.  I don't consider myself a bad hand at dialogue - I think I'm equal parts strong in narrative and dialogue - but from day one Adamant and I were stuck (both of us of shy turns of nature) between two people who would as lief kill each other as talk to each other, and would, childishly, bait each other into tempers.  And I wasn't always equal parts strong in narrative and dialogue; in the course of my many run-throughs of Adamantine's manuscript, I had some pretty awful dialogue to chop out and spruce up.  Take for instance the occasional but inevitable verbal jabs from one character to the other.  I'm sure you know how easy it is to nitpick and carry on really in the most childish, inane manner.  Both my characters are grown men fueled by racial and personal prejudice; I had to avoid nitpicking and make sure what dialogue there would be was as sensible as two people under such conditions could make.  Of course I didn't always avoid it.  Sometimes I stuck my foot right in it.  But hey, I learned, and after awhile the dialogue began to develop a ring to it.  The ring of weapons against each other, but a decent ring nonetheless.
“Would you two be quiet?” growled Eikin sluggishly.
Rhodri flung his arms suddenly around the back of the couch in a rakish gesture. “Why?” he roared out of some hidden depth of his chest. “Was someone drinking last night?"  His voice twisted in scorn.  "Drinking his heart out, perhaps?"
The framea sliced the horsehair backing on the couch less than an inch from Rhodri’s side. Adamant let out a horrified cry and nearly dropped the cup she was holding.
Coming back to Adamant herself.  She has had it rough, bickered about, disliked, judged, and pestered on all sides.  Thankfully her childhood - which is not so very far behind her - was pleasant and stable, which gave her an underlying strength beneath the worried tempest of her heart.  When Imraldera of Starflower chucked the snarling cat Eanrin at Glomar's face in a fit of exasperation over their bickering, I could laugh and truly appreciate it (no, really, I was in the middle of college presentations and I nearly shrieked out loud).  Unfortunately for Adamant, Eanrin and Glomar were probably only going to pull out some fur: her own companions are primed and ready to kill at a moment's provocation and while there is no time to weigh words, she, caught in between, has to be doubly sure what she says is the right thing to put out any impending volcanic explosions.  Despite being naive, I found her to be pretty sensible, all told.  She often had a high, almost impossible ideal and she was often affronted when people did not match up to it, but she could also be very no-nonsense (the only thing that keeps an idealist from being a fruitcake) and while it took some time for me to develop a good handle on dealing with the interactions between the three of them, that particular trait stood her in good stead.

But it wasn't always difficult.  There were times when the dialogue was really rewarding, almost surprising, when one soul and another actually came together in companionship.
Eikin spun the shaft in his paw and lowered it again. “What do you think about so quietly?” he asked.
Adamant looked round at him. “Things,” she replied vaguely. “And you?”
“The same.”
But then, the warmer the companionship, the easier it is for me to slip into silence. I rather think I am too good at silent dialogue; I don't know if it's entirely looked upon with favour among the reading populace or literary agents or editors.  I get the feeling they all want things done by the book, as it were, and actual dialogue is one of those things.  But then, I had mastered silent dialogue before I hammered out decent conversations, so my perception is skewed and my strengths unbalanced.  I suppose that is fitting, considering my character...
“How did you get away?” The question tumbled out of her mouth at Rhodri, and she was unaware of how woollen it sounded in her tired mouth. If it were not for the yellowness of the fire, he might have looked pale as a ghost, and he was wet and ragged and worn out; she was still not sure he was really there. “I thought I would never see you again.”
Easing forward, he picked up a larger branch and placed it crosswise on the fire. The buds at the ends glowed scarlet and burst into flame. “Would you have minded if you hadn’t?"
Very difficult when two of your characters are laconic and the third is shy.  It makes jokes sparse - save for a sense of dramatic irony on the part of the reader, I suppose - and conversations are often left hanging (as in the case of the above) really as if they have been suddenly dropped at the end of a rope and had their neck snapped.  Plenilune is not this way (and is even more full of silent dialogue than Adamantine) but the characters are all different and drive each a different kind of conversation which has been both entertaining, enlightening, and nerve-wracking to create.  To take those odd shapeless creatures of metaphysics and spirituality (which word has had its spine cut out, I fear, but what can you do?) and crush them into words and feed them through the mind of the main character Adamant so that the reader hears the whole conversation going on around her and with her throughout the book has been a huge challenge.

Thankfully the challenge was divided over, I don't know, five years or some such, so I'm not actually dead or insane and I can still accomplish the words-putting-into-sentence doing myself...

7 ripostes:

  1. I'm not exactly sure what you mean by 'silent dialogue'...If it makes a difference, I thought "The Shadow Things" had magnificent dialogue. But this is a cool post! I love the quotes! I am very very eagerly awaiting its publication. :)

  2. Then permaybehaps I'll write a post on silent dialogue! And The Shadow Things has a different type of dialogue than Adamantine; of the characters, I think only Eikin really comes close to the style of language used in The Shadow Things. That is, of course, another thing to take into account: of course not every character, but also not every book, will have the same "voice." At the time I was used to the voice of The Shadow Things, but I was still learning the slightly more modern style of Adamantine.

    I say "slightly more modern" in that I have brought it forward a handful of centuries from the late 400s to the Victorian era...

  3. Dialogue can be quite amusing, I find. When reading over some of my own old dialogue awhile back I found hilarious errors and outright ridiculous conversations. The only benefit I could find was that Lizzy and I have had marvelous good laughs over it. ;D

    I only hope I've gotten better now...one never can quite tell, you know. :)

    Merry Christmas!

  4. These past few weeks have been so busy that I haven't had time to be reading or commenting, but I just caught up on all the posts I'd missed and this is one of my favorites!! I love exploiting the differences in characters' dialogue; those who are shy, bold, angry, languid, snippity, and so forth. It's what gives life to stories, and you do it with a deft hand.

  5. The dialogue you posted I enjoyed. I liked the one involving the couch especially. I can easily imagine the characteristics in that one.

  6. Yes. Please post about silent dialog. Your *outer* dialog is great. Really. I love fiery words and laconic people. :D

  7. Jenny, dialogue being one of my weakest points in writing, I found this post very helpful! My biggest problem with it is usually falling into digression with dialogue and winding off to unimportant topics I had no plan on talking about at the start and is leading away from the focus of the story etc...
    Thank you very much though for sharing these thoughts. I salute you, Madam Penslayer! ^.^