Talking about writing, procrastinating, research (it’s way easier to gather the information than to figure out how I want to turn it into fictional stories, a lot of the time. It’s also easier to gather the information than to to turn it into a non-fictional argument, sometimes, though), getting emotionally overwhelmed and taking naps — pretty much all of the stuff that doesn’t involve actual writing.
But for me, the part of Actual Writing that’s easiest is probably dialogue — which is a misleading statement, because writing good dialogue is actually very difficult, and there’s always a struggle in trying to find a good balance between dialogue with a naturalistic flow and dialogue that isn’t redundant or boring to read. Like, one of the go-to examples in How To Writer Good books about doing the dialogue thing is that, when you write a phone call, most readers don’t want to hear all of the, “Hi, this is Character A” stuff or all of the small talk.
Unless it’s somehow important — like showing how comfortable two chars are with each other by showing us that they greet each other on the phone with, “Hey, fuck-face” or like how I used the Scott-Stiles phone call in this one S*cerek fic of mine to show how Scott’s not doing so hot on an emotional level, how he’s lying to Stiles to get out of spending time with him, Allison, Lydia, and Isaac on his (Scott’s) birthday, and how Derek is so wrapped up in his own desires that he’s at the point of, “not being actively helpful” that he’s starting to just be outright UNhelpful — then most stuff about a phone call’s script can be inferred by the readers, so you don’t have to bog people down with all of it.
But finding the right balance in any given section of dialogue is hard and it doesn’t even take practice, because… Yeah, sure, the more you do it, the easier it gets to find strategies that work? But every scene is different, and even writing things with the same characters, you often can’t just copy and paste techniques or plans that worked for one scene onto another.
Like, usually, I have to map most of the dialogue in any given scene (if not all of it) before anything else. Partly, this is to figure out how the scene itself will go — and I generally go into that with at least an idea of what Point A and Point B are for the scene, or what Big Deal Things need to happen in this scene regardless of how I get there — and partly, it’s to figure out which are the most important parts of the scene so I can try to build up to them and showcase them (unless there’s a point in not drawing the reader’s attention to them — like in mystery stories where you plant the clues there but don’t want to give the end away so you want to make them seem totally natural and not special at all).
Then, there’s all the fine-tuning, like revising stretches so that they don’t restate things that have already been in other scenes unless there’s a new perspective on them or new information — a good example of this idea in action is all the times in the HP series when JKR has Harry be screwing around on his own and learn something, then the transition is like, “Harry found Ron and Hermione and told them all of the things, wow” and then jumping right into Ron and Hermione being all, “omg, I can’t believe that Professor Lupin has trashy gay bodice-rippers about vampires in his desk and marginalia about factual inaccuracies scribbled all over a copy of Gilderoy Lockhart’s Wandering With Werewolves, wow, what do you think Voldemort wants with that”
Then, there’s building up the rest of the scene around the dialogue outline (which is often the hardest part for me, because a lot of my dialogue-only outlines are like Shakespeare plays in that the stage directions are minimal at best — like, I note entrances and exits [give or take being pursued by a bear], and important things like, “fyi, Character B is riding a unicycle in this scene” or, “Character C is leaning his chair back on its hind legs like he’s fucking twelve,” or, “Character D tries to drink his water and spits it out the pub window because there’s something wrong with it holy crap,” but that’s usually about it)
Then, there’s rewriting and revising the fully written scene — especially to cut down on how often my characters sigh and roll their eyes at each other, because… they end up doing that a LOT — and trying to make sure that everything makes sense, both on the individual scenes and in terms of the bigger picture stuff…
Still, even though it’s so difficult on a technical level and it takes
so much revision, dialogue is one of the easiest parts for me because
it’s one of the parts that I love the most. It’s one of my favorite ways to characterize all of these fictional weirdos — like, unless it’s a character choice that you are doing for a reason, you can’t just have them announce how they feel (that makes the Robot Devil feel ANGRY), and you have to have them do shit other than just sit around and talk about things to the exclusion of all else (unless this is an actual character choice that you’re doing for a reason)
But with dialogue, you can show them playing off each other in all kinds of fun ways, and figure out their unique voices better, and you can get a lot of potential insight into how them that can be useful for more action-oriented scenes
e.g., there’s a difference in behaviors and approaches between a character who is aggressively sarcastic, snippy at most people, and very direct about telling other characters to fuck off or that their ideas are ridiculous, and a character who is a more subdued kind of deadpan snarker, tries to be softer and more ostensibly respectful when talking to other characters even when they’re angling for something in particular, and bites their tongue a lot — and this is easier for me to translate into action than more abstract statements about the ideas of the characters like, “Pete is done with your shit and a stale cinnamon roll, been in this world too long, too cynical, too hard” and, “Josie is a total cinnamon roll and too cute for the shit they go through.”
Also, dialogue is one of the best places in a story to be witty and that’s always fun for me to write, even when it’s hard (but the hardest part with my witty characters isn’t even getting it right — though that IS hard — but having to cut out lines that I love)
*casually transplants my own thoughts about icarus onto one of my original characters partly because, in that shiny new context, they’re a convenient way for me to explore said oc’s feelings of self-loathing because it doesn’t even take a psych 101 class to listen to him talk about icarus and get that he’s actually talking about himself — and partly because basically all of the most popular readings of icarus from about the romantics forward annoy the shit out of me*
(like yes, the original icarus story was blatantly an attempt at going, “listen to your parents all the time without any room for error or else you will literally die” — but man, that doesn’t change how icarus legit did something totally asinine. i mean, the story can easily be used to cow kids into behaving however their parents want, just like the pro-conformity fairy tales that guillermo del toro points out in his one quote about how you can have repressive fairy tales or anarchic fairy tales. but solely within the context of the story, icarus is just told not to do something dangerous because it will get him killed.
he comes from privilege, given how respected and well-off daedalus was until he and icarus got tossed in prison because theseus made off with ariadne and couldn’t be punished for killing asterion. still, icarus has no GOOD reason to think that the basic rules of reality — i.e., “these wings are held together with wax; heat melts wax; the sun is hot. therefore, if you fly too close to the sun, the wax will melt and the wings will fall apart and you will crash into the ocean and die” — do not apply to him. but that would imply that icarus is even thinking, which he isn’t.
there is no actual rebellion in any of his actions because he doesn’t think about anything he does or do any of it with a purpose. he gets a thrill, he chases the thrill past the point of potentially lethal danger, and he dies. that’s it, that’s the grand story of icarus. a good modern analogy for him, a good way to explain him and his story without painting it too nicely, would be a guy who gets himself killed by base-jumping without taking all the proper safety precautions because he’s like, “ugh, fuck, that’s so boring, what even is the point of listening to all of that boring safety shit, i have a trust fund, it doesn’t apply to me.”
which is so close to how this particular oc views himself that…… hey, why would i even pass up the chance to dig into his characterization and also vent my ongoing annoyance with nearly two centuries of people treating icarus like some big tragic rebel just because his father was usually a fuckbishop and some assholes have spent an even longer amount of time telling the story as a way to terrify children into toeing lines that are not usually as legitimate as, “do not do this blatantly dangerous thing, you will literally die.”)