Welcome to Following the Whispers blog
Thank you so much for taking the time to visit. Hope you enjoy your stay. I blog here whenever I feel the need. This blog was created at the time my memoir came out, in February, 2009. Its motto was: creating a life of inner peace and self-acceptance from the depths of despair. Now, my focus is sharing this journey we call life.
“Only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth, and that is not speaking it.” Naomi Wolf
“We are called human beings, not human doings.” Wes Nisker, Buddhist teacher
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs…(And) if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” Theodore Roosevelt
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
A Powerful Way to Add Zip to Your Stories
By Sharon Lippincott
“What is the single most effective thing you can do to add zip to your stories?”
This question recently came up in a lifestory writing class I teach. My answer was simple.
“Dialogue!” I firmly declared. “It’s a powerful way to show your characters instead of telling about them. It adds variety and zest, and gets readers involved in the action.”
Many writers avoid dialogue altogether or tiptoe around it, using it sparingly and with great caution. Some believe the myth that you have to be born with a gift or ear for it. Others are uncertain about the technicalities. I have good news. The myth is false. While it is true that richly colorful dialogue does come more easily to some than others, it is a skill. With a little research on technique and lots of practice it can be learned like other skills.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle for memoir writers is the fear of a memory slip that puts the wrong words in someone else’s mouth.
“How on earth can I possibly remember what Aunt Jessie actually said on a specific day when I was seven? That was fifty-eight years ago.” one woman asked. “Nobody would believe me.”
In four words: don’t worry about it. Make it up. Write what you think she probably said. The reasoning behind this advice is three-fold:
1. If you don’t recall the exact words, nobody else will either.
2. If you write dialogue with confidence and conviction, expressing the truth of the occasion to the best of your recollection, the power of your personal truth will overshadow reader doubts.
3. Memoir is about what you remember, and your memories are what shape your life and who you are far more than “what really happened.” Things like dates and places can be verified, but the literal transcript of a conversation is not one of them. Research shows that within hours, memory begins to fade.
4. This is your story. Claim it and defend it. If others disagree with what you’ve written, gently suggest they write their own versions.
So much for the Truth in Memoir objections. Now, grab your favorite pen or keyboard and get those fingers moving. Write a story that involves some interaction and fill it with dialogue. Use slang, colloquialisms, and all the other things we generally edit out of narrative, but do skip the uhms and ers. Write it real, write it true to the characters as you remember them, and immortalize them on the page. If you want to continue to polish your skills, Google around. Answers abound. Join a writing group, in your hometown or on the web. And closely study the way your favorite authors use dialogue. Your stories will soon be bursting at the seams with zip and vitality.
Sharon Lippincott is passionate about all forms of life writing, especially memoir and journaling. She has been teaching lifestory writing in southwestern Pennsylvania for ten years and teaches a series of teleclasses on Description, Dialogue, and Wordcraft through the National Association of Memoir (NAMW) writers. Her book, THE HEART AND CRAFT OF LIFESTORY WRITING has helped thousands create a written legacy of their lives.
Sharon will be teaching a class on writing dialogue for NAMW: "How to Write Dynamic Dialogue": Wednesday, August 26. Sign-up link: http://snurl.com/qm5s9
You can also find Sharon at her website: http://heartandcraft.blogspot.com/