Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Transferring Live Speech To The Page

Many of us have been told we’re great speakers.  When we talk about our work or the stories we create, we get animated.  Further, we can convey ideas and meanings so much better when we speak face to face.  So how do we transfer that to our work?

It’s made all that much tougher in writing by the dreaded rules of grammar.  How we speak is often the way our intelligence is judged, and since writing is simply speaking in a different form, if we write poorly, people will assume we’re stupid.  But how closely are we to follow the rules?

I think that’s a question each of us has to answer for ourselves, and that’s influenced by the audience we want to address.  We’re often told not to end a sentence with a preposition, but don’t we often end our sentences when talking like that?  How does grammar tell us to slow down the reader so they can get the sense of time that we intend(I do so through the use of…ellipses).  Should your dialogue be more formal?  I like fast paced dialogue that’s much more casual, so I’m not exactly proper.  Further, although we should try to eliminate extraneous words, don’t we often talk with extraneous words?  I think that using them in specific instances helps the reader relate better to the writer.

Then there’s body language and tone of voice.  This is exceptionally challenging to convey, so we often have to add it at the end of a bit of individual dialogue.  We may say that a person sighed, or that they smirked, or some other body cue intended to convey the tone the character is speaking in.  It can get tedious at times, but you have to ask yourself how important that stuff is as opposed to what’s being said at the moment.

One of the things that has always helped me is to go back through a page or two and read it out loud.  If I can do that and maintain the tone I wrote it in, then I’ve at least gotten close.  However, if I stumble over my words or they don’t come out the way I envisioned, then I know it’s time to go back in and re-write them.

All of this requires practice, as well as a willingness to both experiment and change when things don’t work.  It’s going to be frustrating, but being able for people to read your work and think that you’re merely having a conversation with them is the distinction between an okay writer and someone with the potential to be great.

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