How do you make your dialogue sound like real people talking while still managing to avoid bogging down the plot?
In my first draft, I write terrible, on the nose dialog. Characters say exactly what they are thinking and the purpose of the conversation is incredibly clear. In real life, of course, it never happens that way, but if I don’t start out there, especially with high stakes conversations (i.e. fights over the tops of Volvos), I write myself around in circles trying to figure out what I actually need out of the conversation.
So instead I begin with what I need from the conversation, and when I circle back around on the next round of edits, I use observed speech patterns to fragment and color it. I often write down interesting or specific turns of the phrase when I hear them, and I always read my dialog out loud in the final rounds.
When she started torturing you, something snapped in a way I couldn’t explain, only that seeing you bleeding and screaming undid me. It broke me at last. And I knew as I picked up that knife to kill her … I knew right then what you were. I knew that you were my mate, and you were in love with another male, and had destroyed yourself to save him, and that … that I didn’t care. If you were going to die, I was going to die with you. I couldn’t stop thinking it over and over as you screamed, as I tried to kill her: you were my mate, my mate, my mate. “But then she snapped your neck.”Tears rolled down his face. “And I felt you die,” he whispered. Tears were sliding down my own cheeks.
“Ethereal and pale, Laurent DeVere was laid on the hospital bed, propped up by several pillows and if it weren’t for the numerous tubes and lines running in and out of his body, he could be a prince awaiting a kiss to rouse him from eternal sleep.“
Gay people are often asked whether they think their children are more likely to be gay than the children of straight people. And gay people often answer that most gay people have straight parents. That usually stumps the questioner, but it doesn’t really answer the question.
I didn’t know, when I was six years old, that there were women who marry women. At the age of thirteen, the idea of my being gay was just unavailable to me. I accepted my lack of enthusiasm for the prospect of dating boys as another sign of being immature and a hopeless nerd. If my mother had been a lesbian, I would have known I had that option, too—that even a working class Italian could be a Dyke.
So, when people ask me whether I think my lesbianism makes it more likely that my daughter will be gay, I just say—“Yes, thank the Goddess.”
[…] To her, being a lesbian means being strong, being smart, running fast, climbing over fences, and riding a bike with no hands.
Rose Romano, “La Famiglia—Straight or Gay” from We Are Everywhere: Writings By & About Lesbian Parents (1988).