Saturday, May 14, 2005

Access Your Writing Voice

I continue reading solicited and unsolicited fiction manuscripts for my part-time work at Howard Publishing. I’m constantly amazed at the number of beginning novelists who have almost no dialogue in the opening of their story or they have poorly written dialogue.  A number of things have to be working together for excellent fiction but one of the key elements is dialogue.

One of my long-time friends, Gloria Kempton, is a Writer’s Digest instructor and has coached many writers in their fiction.  Gloria and I met at a writer’s conference and she was an editor at Aglow magazine (which doesn’t exist any longer—one of the hazards of the magazine business.)  I was just beginning to write magazine articles. While Gloria has written nonfiction, she has written a number of novels.

Recently Writer’s Digest Books released her how-to book called, Dialogue, Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Effective Dialogue. It’s excellent and a recommended resource. I love what she wrote in the early pages of her book, “I'm here to tell you there is no "right" way--I don't care what you've heard from other writing instructors and read in other writing books. There is only your way. Yours is the "right" way. And your job as writer is to learn to access the voice inside of yourself that you need for a particular piece of dialogue, no matter who's speaking it. Sure, you can do research, read books like this one, watch movies, and listen to how folks on the street talk. But ultimately, our characters come from somewhere inside of us, and if we want to be true to ourselves and our characters, whether fictional or real, we have to start giving them a voice.”

I’ve pulled together a longer excerpt from this book about Writing Natural Dialogue.

As writers we need to access our writing voice then live that voice through our characters—or breathe it into fascinating nonfiction. It’s possible—but demands a lot of work, which too few people seem to want to do in order to produce great writing.

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