Talking out loud
eBook - ePub

Talking out loud

A guide to writing sparkling dialogue for your characters

Mo Fanning

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eBook - ePub

Talking out loud

A guide to writing sparkling dialogue for your characters

Mo Fanning

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Información del libro

Readers love to hear your characters talk. They might know nothing about the art of creating a believable plot. They may not care about whether your settings are factually correct. But they do know how real people talk. They hear it every day. Most of them like to talk too.

This informative book guides you through the pitfalls of creating dialogue, and suggests ways to tighten the words you put into the mouths of those who live on your pages.

It isn't weighed down with theory. It won't bore you with examples drawn from dusty old books or make you feel as if you're in a creative writing class. What it will do - I hope - is entertain, as you learn how to turn good stuff into diamonds.

There are chapters on dialogue tags, exposition, repetition for effect, personality, and how to get humour right (and wrong).

It ends with useful advice to help format dialogue and give your finished work a professional edge.

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The Armchair Bride

I thought you might like a sneak peep at my first novel, published way back in 2008 and recently updated to mark ten years since I took my first steps into writing. It’s available from bookstores and booksites everywhere.

Ten, nine, eight…
Does anyone love New Year’s Eve? If I had my way, I’d be in bed with a good book and an enormous glass of wine. Not stuck to a threadbare carpet in a Manchester theatre function room and forced to pretend I want to spend the dying hours of the year with people I see every working day.
Seven, six…
A guy from the tech team grabs my hand and drags me to the dance-floor. He laughs in my face and tells me to cheer up. It might never happen and I play along, faking the most cheesy grin.
Might never happen? It already has.
Five, four, three…
We link arms, and anticipation grows. A new year, new hopes, new dreams. On the stroke of midnight, lives will change. All the bits about us we didn’t like will vanish. We’ll lose weight, stop smoking, stop drinking, join a gym, hug trees and life will be good.
Two… one…
The room erupts as Big Ben chimes and bagpipes quail. Streamers pop and party people hug, kiss and stumble.
Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind…
I mouth the first few words, air-kiss colleagues and do my absolute best to act like someone having oodles of fun. Across the room, my flatmate mine-sweeps abandoned glasses and necks leftover wine. My boss does his compulsory tour of duty to shake hands and exchange rousing words.
I’ve worked with Brian for nine years, and although it’s never come up, I’m sure we’re about the same age. Our cultural references tally and we share looks of dread when younger people use words like totes, bear or sick. He’s good looking in a greying-at-the-temples football-dad way and keeps himself in shape. Brian dresses well and happens to have perfect teeth. Mam would call him a decent catch. My sisters would love him. The stumbler being, he’s my boss. And married. To Audrey. Who everyone at the Empire Theatre fears.
Because she is terrifying.
‘Am I getting a kiss?’ I say when my turn comes. ‘Or is this a handshake only deal?’
Brian looks around before leaning in to land the slightest peck.
‘Happy new year, Lisa. Are you here with Andy?’
I nod and reheat my best fake smile. Obviously, I’m with Andy. I’m always with Andy. People tell running jokes about how we come as a pair.
Brian beams. ‘Someone said you had a boyfriend, and I told them I’m sure you’re still single.’
He means nothing by this, and would be mortified to know how much a throwaway comment hurts. Especially the word still.
I throw back my head and laugh.
‘You know me, Brian. Young, free and unattached. Only not so much of the young. I’m all about girl power.’
I do the v-sign thing and pout like a perimenopausal Spice Girl.
‘Right… so… that’s good,’ he says and takes a subtle step backwards. ‘I best get back to Audrey.’
Ten minutes after midnight on New Year’s Eve is the worst time ever to give yourself a ‘where did things go wrong?’ pep talk. With my left foot jammed against a graffitied toilet door, I wish myself away. Twelve months ago - to the night - I was sure the upcoming twelve months would be my year. My lifestyle shopping list was small but perfectly formed: boyfriend, promotion, fit into (what I’m sure are wrongly labelled) jeans.
I’m still single, still doing the same job and, on Christmas Eve, found the inner strength to stuff those jeans in a bin bag of cast-offs and dump everything in the doorway of a cat rescue shop.
That’s not to say I’m unhappy. Why would I be? Who needs a boyfriend when I share my life with Andy? We’ve been best mates for close on 20 years and long ago pledged to never become sad normals. Like anyone who’s been around the block and feared for a lonely old age, we’ve drunk too much gin and agreed on a marriage pact. If single 40 ever rolls over to solo 60, we’ll wave white flags and do what every other loser does. Fake a happy union to save on food costs and pool our winter fuel allowance. Until then, we’re fine single.
People still talk about us as a pair.
Invite Andy and Lisa.
Will Andy and Lisa join us?
The flat-share thing renders us socially acceptable and allows us a taste of coupledom. Without the need to find reasons not to bother with sex. I still get to watch what I want on Netflix and don’t have to pretend to like his boring mates or weird hobbies. Best of all, I get to inhale a Dairy Milk without guilt.
I date. Though treat it more like an extreme sport than something that might lead to wedded bliss. My brief encounters with suitable men come courtesy of blind dates engineered by well-meaning friends. I tried Tinder once. The evening ended with me seeking legal advice to slap a restraining order on a man called Tom who sent me daily tokens of his love. Locks of his ex-wife’s hair, shards of her wedding dress, a photo of them together with my face superglued on hers.
And he proved to be one of my more successful dates.
New Year’s Eve is when the nagging doubts grow loud. What if the sad normals are right?
Mam insists an old shoe exists for every old sock, and a quick search online throws up photos of the much better times that everyone from school looks to be having. Dinner parties in Farrow & Ball homes, designer-frocked cocktail receptions in chi-chi bars. The girls I assumed would end up in prison pose with a Subaru, labradoodle, and scrubbed-up children.
And here’s me, in the staff loo, alone.
Mam is right to worry. I’m the middle child and each time I find myself ditched, she says the same thing:
‘What did you do to scare this one off, Lisa? We were all convinced he’d be the one.’
By all, she means my two sisters, and their lovely husbands. She also means all of her neighbours, our priest, sixteen of her closest friends and anyone with time to listen in the post office. Mrs Gupta, who handles the QVC returns, considers it an absolute scandal I’m not yet spoken for. She suggested burning herbs and lighting special candles to turn everything around.
I’ve become a stranger’s pet project.
‘Lisa. Don’t take this the wrong way, but if you want to come out of the cupboard, that’s fine with all of us,’ Mam said when I called to check she’d got my Christmas cards.
‘I have no idea what you’re talking about.’
‘Your father loved Virginia Wade and that Claire Balding is always well turned out. I considered buying myself a pair of jodhpurs.’
The penny landed with a crash.
‘I’m not gay, Mam.’
‘You’re in denial.’