I think I’m probably the only person in my writing group who doesn’t write fiction. It’s beginning to stress me out a little. Not a lot, just a skosh.
I’ve done some experimenting with dialogue. It might not sound natural to people who read it, but I have earnestly begun paying more attention to conversations, not just the ones I overhear but the ones I’m a part of too, just to pick up those little nuances, pauses, and fillers.
Well actually, I’m probably not going to include many fillers. Who wants to read “uh” and “you know” all the way through a passage? Should the words between people actually mean something? But then again, maybe a conversation filled with “uh” does really mean something. Maybe the person is inarticulate, anxious, or biding time until she knows what to say.
Plus, the fiction writers in my group frequently remind us to “show, don’t tell.” Even with dialogue, we’re not supposed to say “she shrieked” or “he muttered.” Just stick to “he said” and let your other words do the talking for you. Let the scene show just how angry she was or how disconsolate he was. I can’t do that…yet. I’m going to read about how other people do it and then practice, practice, practice.
Beginning with Crossing the Bridge, I’ve been experimenting with creative nonfiction. Instead of page after page after page of some didactic diatribe about college success, I interspersed the instructional data with actual scenes and dialogue. It might not sound natural to some people who read it, but I can attest that it’s pretty much word for word. Hmm. Well, there is that one little area where a student used what I refer to as the “a word,” and I told him I’d have to clean up his lingo a little bit before including it. He still gives me a hard time about it.
When discussing my desire to write fiction and my anxiety and lack of confidence about it, two of my writing friends pointed out the dialogue writing in Crossing the Bridge and said that if I could do that, then I could write fiction. First, I have to think of a story. Does it have to be a “made-up” one, or can I use something from my own life? I have a lot of little vignettes I’ve been thinking about, but how to get them in story form?
For you fiction writers out there, what did you do? Do you use stories from your own life? Do you get your ideas from the newspaper, the internet, or your imagination? Do you piece together snippets that you’ve already written until voilà, there’s a story?