What I'm reading: Dead Even, by Brad Meltzer
SleuthFest preparations continue. For one, I'm reading a book by one of the featured speakers. Next, I sent my panelists the outline for their session and received the information from the moderators of the panels I'm on. They're taking different approaches, so it should be fun.
But a mild digression to those "Things One Can't Control." On Saturday, I got a letter from a collection agency telling me I was a very naughty person and owed a substantial sum of money. Trying to decipher the references, the best I could surmise was that it was for MasterCard charges. Only thing is, I don't have a MasterCard. And they got my name backward. Why do these sorts of things always show up when you can't get in touch with anyone? All you get is two days of knots-in-the-stomach frustration. At best, it's a simple error. At worst, it's some sort of identity theft. We'll see what happens. But back to SleuthFest:
The moderator of the romance-oriented panel (cleverly titled "Kiss the Detective") wants a discussion format. She's got about 15 topics suggested. It'll be interesting to see how many we cover, and to what extent. Also, since SleuthFest is a mystery writers conference, there will undoubtedly be some talk about where the line between a mystery book and a romantic suspense book should be drawn. Readers go to specific areas of bookstores and libraries with expectations of what the books will be like.
My other panel is Writing Great Dialogue. It's definitely geared toward the how-to side of writing. The moderator for this one sent her list of questions, and has earmarked them for each panelist, although we're only the starting point. She's also suggesting we use passages from our own books as illustrations. The ones she's highlighted for me:
1. Do you eavesdrop on people around you?
(That's a no-brainer. Duh, yes, next question please)
2. What about dialect? How much is too much? How do you determine the 'correct' spelling of dialect?
This one is more interesting. I've gone through When Danger Calls, where I've got a Texan as a secondary character and picked a few passages where I make his speech distinctive. I'm a minimalist. I definitely don't want to get into any clever phonetic spellings -- that just slows the reader down. I don't get beyond the occasional dropping of the final 'g' (darlin') I rely on the reader to 'hear' it when I simply mention his 'easy drawl.'
I'd rather show dialect in speech patterns and vocabulary choices. There are also a couple other 'non-English' speakers in the book. I might throw in a word in their language if it's easily recognized. Otherwise, if it's necessary, I'll find a way to translate it on the page.
3. How is dialogue misused?
I don't think I'm going to use any passages from my books as examples of this one!
4. How do you use dialogue to move the story along?
I've got several examples for this one to show how pace can be controlled with the style of dialogue.
Also, I prepared a 6 page handout covering some of the basics. If there's any interest, I can make it available here and/or on my website.
Meanwhile, come back tomorrow for my guest, Maris Soule, who's been writing since 1979 and is going to share some of the changes she's seen.