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#FirstDraft120 Day 61: THORsday & Some Thoughts on Dialogue Constipation in First Drafts #amwriting

Thursday, December 1, 2016

fd120-thorsdaySorry for the spotty posting this week—it’s always hard to get back into the swing of things after being gone (from home and from work) for more than a week. But let’s take today as the opportunity to ease ourselves back into a good daily writing schedule with our regularly scheduled THORsday writing challenge. For a reminder/clarification of what THORsday is all about, click here.

Assignment: Leave a comment with your THORsday goal—when, where, and for how long do you plan to do your handwritten challenge today?

Some Thoughts on Dialogue Constipation in First Drafts

So, I saw this commercial the other day. (No, this is not a sponsored post, nor do I support/recommend this product—this is just used as an example.)

And it started me thinking about how horribly stiff and unnatural the dialogue is in it. That, naturally, led me to think about everything I’ve ever read/heard/written/taught about writing dialogue in fiction. (And believe me, there’s a lot.) One of my primary go-to quotes about dialogue is this, from Sol Stein in How to Grow a Novel, in the chapter “Our Native Language Is Not Dialogue”:

Dialogue is a language that is foreign to most writers of nonfiction and many newcomers to fiction. Totally different from whatever language a writer grows up using, dialogue is also a triumphant language. It can make people unknown to the author cry, laugh, and believe lies in seconds. It is succinct, but can carry a great weight of meaning. In a theater, dialogue can draw thunderous applause from people who have paid heavily for the privilege of listening to it. At its best, as in Shakespeare’s best, dialogue provides us with memorable—and beautiful—guides for understanding the behavior of the human race.

(p. 90)

However, trying to write good dialogue—dialogue that isn’t didactic or overly expository or telling stuff that we should be showing or meandering or, simply put, “bad”—isn’t something that we need to focus on when writing a first draft. Crafting meaningful, colorful, quippy, witty, scintillating dialogue that pops and moves the story forward is the work of revision and rewriting (and revision and rewriting, and revision and rewriting).

So if you have developed a “constipated” feeling when you’re writing, and it’s because you feel like the dialogue you’re writing stinks, take this post as your “laxative” and let the words flow as they will. You can always flush them/clean them up later. (Ick, I know.) 😉

Works cited:

Stein, Sol. How to Grow a Novel: The Most Common Mistakes Writers Make and How to Overcome Them. New York: St. Martin’s, 1999.

One Comment
  1. Sarah Madelin permalink
    Saturday, December 3, 2016 9:29 pm

    This is super encouraging, Kaye. I have had that bleh feeling often during this first draft, especially after time away. This is a great reminder to relax the perfectionism and let the words plop out however they do (bathroom humor unintentional, but oddly appropriate!).


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