Reading Like a Writer, Continued; The Dialogue 

Over the week, I’ve been going over this idea I had about what I notice in other people’s writings, what I skim over unless I make an effort to pay attention, and what I’m automatically drawn to reading.

As I started to review some of the books that I’ve read over the years, there’s a couple of items that I tend to skim over, such as extended descriptions of movements, like the setup of a battle or a location, and the physical description of some characters if they are extended. The one thing that always catches my interest, however, the thing that always inspires me as a writer, is dialogue.

The minute I start reading about people verbally interacting with each other, it starts to spark my imagination. This interplay between people tells me about who they are, how they relate to others, and the world they live in. Reading dialogue in a story immediately tells me whether the characters are going to be people I want to get to know.

As you might figure, I immediately find myself attracted to writers who do well with dialogue. Doug Adams and Stephen King did pretty well at the art of having their characters speak. I also remember reading On Writing by King and him saying that some guys had talent writing dialogue (Elmore Leonard) and some didn’t (Lovecraft). I mean, read this:

‘You wear your shades at night,’ Chili said, ‘so I’ll think you’re cool, but I can’t tell if you’re looking at me.’
Raji put his glasses down on his nose, down and up. ‘See? I’m looking the fuck right at you, man. You have something to say to me fuckin say it so we be done here.’

  • Be Cool, Elmore Leonard

I’ve also come to be impressed with Cormac McCarthy’s dialogue, as well.

As I wrote different works of fiction, I was surprised that one of the positives that people pointed out about my writing was how I handled dialogue. Now, however, maybe it might not be much of a surprise.

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