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Writing Dialogue: The Battle of Conversation by Liz Lawlor

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Liz Lawler

Liz Lawlor

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Happy Talkie, Talkie, Happy Talk. . . This is what I’m singing in my head as I begin to write about dialogue and dialogue, I do believe, is something that can drive you crazy, when you’re characters are talking inside your head, and you’re trying to hear not only the words, but the tone of their voices, it is enough to make you start singing out loud and drown them out. So, once again, Happy Talkie, Talkie, Happy Talk. . .

To write in the first or third person, that is the question to which I have no answer. I instinctively write in the third person, probably because right from the start I see and hear the characters clearly in my head. While they’re hanging around writing for me to write their story their images and the sound of their voices are pretty clear. Though I have to say, they never let me see their faces fully, just quick sketches of an eyebrow tilt, or turn of a head, colour of their hair and eyes, their lips, the way they laugh or cry. If I try to see them too hard, they blur a little.  I suppose that is to be expected . . .

So as I said, dialogue can drive you crazy and to make matters worse, it can also make others think you’re crazy. When I’m writing dialogue, I mumble their conversations under my breath if it’s just and easy conversation. If it involves a heated argument I tend to shout their words at the screen of my laptop. My family, at this point, tend to walk out of the room.  I have acted out the parts of my characters, saying out loud their lines, trying to imitate their voices, their moods and it is not a pleasant sight to wander into my kitchen while I’m in mid flow and hear me being vitriolic as I’m on my knees with a bread knife in my hands. I will never win an Olivier Award, that’s for sure. On occasion when I’m desperate to drown out not only my characters voices, but my own as well, I have asked a member of my family to read a particular conversation so that I can hear the dialogue in a different voice.  Not something they’re fond of doing as they feel like they’re taking part in an audition for a part in a play and they don’t want to be in, particularly if they have to play the part of the ‘baddie’.

If I were to write in the first person I would have to have a very powerful voice and be alone with all the struggles and fights to take place – a long arduous journey. Writing in the third person allows me to become intimate with my characters, to get to really know them in all their strengths and frailties. I am not alone. I am with them. We each have a part to play. My job is to write what they say and if I get it wrong and make them sound too wooden; it is down to me. I have not listened hard enough, or else, only managed to give a cheap imitation of their voices. Sorry, I will try to do better, I promise.

So back to dialogue and hearing voices. How do I write thee? Let me count the ways. I write thee to the depth and breadth of my body, until you have emptied my head of your noise. Happy Talkie, Talkie, Happy Talk . . .

(c) Liz Lawlor

About Don’t Wake Up:

Alex Taylor wakes up tied to an operating table.

The man who stands over her isn’t a doctor.

The offer he makes her is utterly unspeakable.

But when Alex re-awakens, she’s unharmed – and no one believes her horrifying story. Ostracised by her colleagues, her family and her partner, she begins to wonder if she really is losing her mind.

And then she meets the next victim.

So compulsive you can’t stop reading.

So chilling you won’t stop talking about it.

A pitch-black and devastatingly original psychological thriller.

Order your copy online here.

About the author

Born in Chatham and partly raised in Dublin, Liz Lawler is one of fourteen children and grew up sharing socks, pants, stuffed bras and a table space to eat at. Liz spent over twenty years working as a nurse, and has since worked as a flight attendant and as the general manager of a five-star hotel. She now lives in Bath with her husband. Don’t Wake Up is her first novel.

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