The Voices in my Head

I love writing dialog. The first draft of a story is heavy on conversation and light on description, inner dialog, and thematic material. After I get the dialog down, I use successive edits to fill in the sketch of my first draft, describing settings, sharpening metaphors and similes, honing the voices of my characters. Early drafts grow with successive layers; I am a potter adding successive coats of glaze on a pot. Later edits involve scraping away the excess.

I’m not terribly talkative in most social situations. Like many shy people, my sharpest retorts arrive in the solitude of my study, long after I might actually use them in conversation. Oh, but they fly fast and furious in my head, particularly in the early morning hours when dawn has just begun to brighten the east window of my bedroom, my limbs are warm and heavy, and inhibition has not yet taken up his post between head and tongue.

Dialog is an opportunity to contrast thought or emotion, and speech. Everyone has an agenda. Every character wants something. Jersey wants a sexual relationship with Frank, but he’s afraid that accepting any help from Frank will make him a catamite. Frank wants to protect and help his friend, but he mistrusts his sexual impulses for fear that they are God’s punishment for past crimes. Their conversations are freighted with unexpressed thoughts and feelings and characterized by misdirection and avoidance. Can you think of anything more fun?

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