Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#24) -- Best Quality

What do you think is your best quality as a writer? --- John Morgan Neal

Wow. Appeal to my vanity, why don't ya? *grins*

That's actually a tough question. I'd like to say it's something professional like my ability to hit deadlines early (I tend to push them to the last minute, and love to write by the stress of the pending deadline -- I think it prompts my creativity) or my ability to sell thousands of copies with my amazing grass-roots promotion (I know I still have a lot to learn on this, but I'm learning). 

I really wish I could answer this in the practical. But I can't.

So, to answer this honestly, I'm going to have answer in the esoteric. 

I think my best quality as a writer is my ability to write dialog. I really do. I remember when I was taking a fiction writing class in college, I was told by my professor that I really, REALLY needed to work on my dialog. So I did. I read books about writing dialog. I took notes of things that I heard people say. I watched for unique facial ticks that people make while they speak. I wrote and rewrote dialog exchanges between characters, and then I rewrote them again until I felt it resonated with "fake truth."

In other words, until it started to sound like real speech without actually sounding EXACTLY like real speech. 

The most important lesson about writing dialog came from reading Hemmingway and Raymond Carver. It is this: People tend to not talk about the thing that is actually on their minds. The tend to talk around it.

And I owe it all to the professor who told me my dialog writing was crap. (Well, he didn't actually say "crap." He was nicer than that, but he was just serious about it being bad.)