All my life, I’ve talked aloud to myself (when I’m alone). Whenever I realize I’m doing it–usually practicing what I’m going to say when I call someone with a specific reason for the call, or talking to someone specific, saying what I’d LOVE to say, but know I never will. I’ve always wondered why I feel the need to do this, and now I know why.
It’s dialogue. And I’m practicing writing dialogue, just as though I were writing it on a piece of paper or my computer screen. All that jabbering aloud when I’m driving or sitting on the back porch, reading (I often realize I’ve started reading aloud, simply because the writing is so good I want to hear it aloud as well as in my mind), or working in my garden is simply my mind writing dialogue. Most of it, I’ll never use in a book, of course, but it’s still practice for writing dialogue between two characters.
When I write, I use this same technique, but in a slightly different way. I see everything I’m writing about in my mind, like a movie, and I write down what I hear and see, layer by layer. Dialogue is almost always the first layer, with descriptions, action, foreshadowing of future events and such being added in other layers. But dialogue is the heart of the story because people are the heart of the story.
I once had an idea for a novel where a man witnessed the death of his friend, then had to tell his friend’s wife about his death. But he couldn’t bring himself to tell her, so he said nothing. My goal was for him to remain silent for the first 100 pages of the book. What a challenge that would be! I would have to convey his thoughts, feelings, and expressions without using dialogue at all. There would be inner dialogue, of course–his thoughts expressed as he would’ve said them aloud (introspection), but what he needed to tell her could not be said straight out. But she’d know why he was there and what he couldn’t tell her, just from his expressions, the way his eyes filled with tears whenever she mentioned her husband’s name, and how, she sensed, that he, too loved her. I’ll definitely have to think about writing that book someday–Miranda’s Tears.
I was sitting outside, reading, when I started talking aloud to the character in the book. That’s when I realized I was practicing dialogue again. And it made me very happy. Because it’s behavior I suspect all writers exhibit from time to time. 🙂