How I rit me storee. Part Two: Writing Dialogue

In part one of this blog I spoke about how some writers have specific writing rules which they follow and I spoke about the fact that until I had actually finished my first book I wasn’t aware that they existed. I have done a little research into this too and I’ve come across a lot of other writers who are similar to me in the way that their books are structured. Some say that they have everything planned out in immaculate detail before they start and others say that they just go with the flow. That’s what I tend to do; go with the flow.

I do find that this happens a lot when I’m writing dialogue. I really enjoy writing dialogue. Especially for a group of three. I find that three is the perfect number to write a conversation for. I can have loads of fun. There are loads of great combinations within a conversation of three that you can have. There are the three individuals but there are also the different combinations of two against one. The two against one scenario is great to write especially when the characters are less than clever, or to put it another way, when one of them is downright dumb. And even more fun is when the three of them are as thick as two short planks but think that they are actually very clever as in the three goons, as I like to call them, in Minology. Ollie, Stony and Curley. I think they are my favourite characters in the novel and I always looked forward to writing passages for them.

I tend to write all of the dialogue as it pops into my head and not worry about the incidental prose in-between. That is something that I go back to later and add it in afterwards. I think that the most important thing is to let the conversation flow onto the page as that is what the reader identifies with more. Which particular part of the room that the character is in isn’t as important to me at the outset. They could be in a field, a house or anywhere on the planet for that matter and I think that the dialogue would still be pretty similar wherever they are.

For instance I could write something like:

‘What the hell did you wanna go and do that for, Curley?’ said Stony.
‘Do what for?’ replied Curley.
‘Stand on my bleedin’ toe, that’s what!’ said Stony.
‘I never stood on your bleedin’ toe, did I? It was him!’
‘No it wasn’t, Curley!’ said Ollie. ‘I wasn’t anywhere near Stony’s bleedin’ toe!’
‘Well it wasn’t bleedin’ till you bleedin’ stood on it was it?’ said Stony. ‘It’s bleedin’ pouring with blood now though, isn’t it? I think you’ve torn a nail off!’
‘It wasn’t me; it was him, wasn’t it? With his big bloomin’ size twenty-fives or whatever they are,’ said Curley. ‘He could stand on your bleedin’ toe from six feet away, the size of him. Big bloody oaf.’
‘Now that’s not fair you two picking on me all the time because of my size, is it?’ said Ollie. ‘I’m a growing lad me and it’s not my fault that I eat a lot, I get hungry a lot, don’t I? So I have to eat a lot to stop me being hungry a lot. Stands to reason, don’t it?’
‘Growing lad? If you grow any more, Ollie, you won’t be able to fit through the bloomin’ door!’ said Stony.

Then I would go back and edit in the incidentals afterwards. Perhaps something like this:

The three friends from the Luglands were making their way across the Oesophagus Forest. Stony Pickles, Ollie Gimble and Raymond Curley were on their way to see Mr Yanich at his hideaway. Anyone observing them at this particular moment in time would get the distinct impression that they were up to no good. And they would, of course, be right.
‘Ouch! What the hell did you wanna go and do that for, Curley?’ said Stony, as he stopped in front of his friends. He had wandered across the path of the other two in the gloom.
‘Do what for?’ replied Curley, oblivious to what had happened.
‘Stand on my bleedin’ toe, that’s what!’ said Stony. He was hopping up and down while holding his right foot in his hands.
‘I never stood on your bleedin’ toe, did I? It must have been him!’ Curley pointed to the third member of the trio, Ollie Gimble.
‘No it wasn’t, Curley!’ said Ollie. ‘I wasn’t anywhere near Stony’s bleedin’ toe!’ He was always getting blamed for things which he didn’t do. He was also always getting blamed for things which he did do, however, and sometimes he wasn’t sure whether he was guilty or not. He decided to play the innocent, just in case.
‘Well it wasn’t bleedin’ till you bleedin’ stood on it was it?’ said Stony. ‘It’s bleedin’ pouring with blood now though, isn’t it? I think you’ve torn a nail off!’ He stopped to sit down on the wet grass at the foot of a nearby tree. ‘Aaaghh, now my arse is all soggy, an’ all! That’s all I bloomin’ need, innit? A broken toe and a bloody soggy arse!’ he added.
‘It wasn’t me; it was him, wasn’t it? With his big bloomin’ size twenty-fives or whatever they are,’ said Curley. ‘He could stand on your bleedin’ toe from six feet away, the size of him. Big bloody oaf.’ Curley rather regretted calling Ollie a big bloody oaf as soon as he’d said it. After all, Ollie was big, he was very big and he also had a very big fist which could whack people in the face from six feet away too and a whack in the face from Ollie Gimble was something which he wasn’t too keen on receiving right now.
‘Now that’s not fair you two picking on me all the time because of my size, is it?’ said Ollie. ‘I’m a growing lad me and it’s not my fault that I eat a lot, I get hungry a lot, don’t I? So I have to eat a lot to stop me being hungry a lot. Stands to reason, don’t it?’
‘Growing lad? If you grow any more, Ollie, you won’t be able to fit through the bloomin’ door!’ said Stony, still examining his wound.
‘Ha, yeah, Stony. He’ll never be able to fit through the door, ha, ha!’ said Curley, agreeing with his friend. He always felt comfortable picking on Ollie as it meant that for the time being nobody would be picking on him.

After a few days or so, I would then go back to the conversation again and add more to it if I think I needed to. That’s when I would add in things about the plot lines in and around the dialogue. I generally like to have at least three threads going at the same time and bring them all together towards the end. And that is how I write. I’m constantly going back and editing the odd word or putting in an extra few lines of dialogue here and there.

I do feel that the characters are always dictating which the way the story should go for me. I think that when a particular character says something then there would be a determinable response from another character and the reply from character number two would then predict the next response from the first character and so on and so forth. It’s more fun for me that way even though I do tend to wander and sometimes where I end up isn’t where I envisaged being, but I suppose that’s what makes it fun!

When I first wrote in the three goon characters I didn’t know if they would become good or bad. I was still a little unsure. But when they started to speak to me then I instantly knew which type of people they were. Loveable rogues. And I am planning on bringing them back in the third novel of the series with important parts to play. Hopefully it will be easier for me to write the next one because I genuinely do know these three very well now. I know how they think and I know how they each would react to certain situations and that is a wonderful thing for me to have. It’s strange but a year ago they never existed anywhere and now they are very real to me.

That is the most brilliant thing that I have found about writing. All of the characters that I have created across the two books which I’ve written so far are very real to me. (Well, it is actually one book and one manuscript as the second one isn’t a book yet but I have everything crossed!)I know them personally and could quite easily hold conversations with them. Does that make me a bit mad? Well maybe it does but that’s the type of madness which is ok by me!

I am learning new things all the time and hopefully I will get better each time I try. Writing is a wonderful way of getting yourself lost and right now I don’t really want to be found.

So there you go, just a very brief insight as to how I do my thing. I hope I’ve answered some of the questions that people have asked me over the last few months. It might not work for some but it does work for me. In the words of the wonderful Neil Buchanan, ‘Try it yourself!’

Mark Murphy 7th September 2014.