Friday, July 10, 2009

Talking to myself

Charles here, posting a tad late today but that’s only because I wanted to build the suspense.

Interesting stuff being posted on dialog. I’ve always considered dialog to be one of my strengths, and if the critics are to be believed, dialog may be the best part of my books. Part of that comes from years of eavesdropping, but more comes from my near-constant need to create dialog in my head. I’m not kidding here – and I may need professional help – but I spend way too much time creating imaginary conversations, most of which I’m not even in.

Just ask Rose. She’ll tell you that one of my favorite things to do on long rides is to hold Kiwanis Club meetings as I drive. Out loud. Now I’m not a member of the Kiwanis or any other similar organization, and other than a few speaking engagements over the years, I’ve never been at that kind of meeting, but that doesn’t stop me from holding a meeting anyway. If you were to be sitting in the back seat, you’d hear something like this:

“Gentlemen, if you’ll take a seat…guys?...Jerry, if you’d help get folks movin’ in. Thanks. Good to see you Bill. How’s your son doing? Glad to hear it. Tell him I said hi….Okay, almost set here? Good. Howard, if you’d call the meeting to order…”
“The July tenth meeting of Kiwanis Club number 467 will come to order. All rise for the pledge…”
[Here I’d recite the US Pledge of Allegiance. If we’re driving in Canada, I’d sing O Canada]
“Thank you, Howard. Alright then, lets start with a reading of the minutes. Steve, you ready.”
“Ready and willing. The last meeting we had was on June twenty-third. Now, we were supposed to meet last week, but as Dave will be telling us later tonight there was a bit of a, uh, water situation in the building.”
“A bit? Try a flood.”
“Okay, Noah…by the way, thanks for loaning us that generator.”

Now is this good stuff? Hell, no. Is it painfully annoying to sit and listen to? You bet! But just doing it – making it all up as I go for no reason or purpose, keeping it going until Rose finally cracks (usually about the eight minute mark, although once she waited out a whole meeting, just to show off her superhuman powers) – has helped me hone my dialog skills and ‘voices’ I need to tell a story.

I know this sounds/is crazy, but it’s a technique I honestly use. And this weekend, as we drive down to a B&B in the Finger Lakes, I’ll be hosting another meeting. Unless there is a motion from the floor to bring a quick end on account of the fact that Rose will kill me in my sleep if I don’t.

Thoughts? (Not on my sanity, on the technique.)

2 comments:

Vicki Delany said...

I wonder that Rose has remained married to you all these years. I live alone and I wouldn't do that - my dog would kill me in my sleep. But... It certainly works for Charles. Hum, I'm driving to Chicago Sunday for the ALA convention, perhaps I'll call the meeting to order somewhere around Sarnia.

Charles benoit said...

I've heard from two writers who use somewhat similar techniques. The first - a pal who should step up and post this himself, ya wimp - says when he travels he likes to create character profiles for others on the plane, giving them names and extensive backstories, then trying to find some subtle and obscure way to link a few together, just like the 7 Degrees factor in real life.

The other writer has a different idea. You know how people talk way too loud when making a cell call in public? Well she likes to imagine what the other person is saying when they're hearing these mundane/shocking details. I'd try this but I'm too busy wishing a brick would fall from the sky and end the conversation.