Take it away, Dee!
When Crazy People Write Books...
Hi, I'm Dee and a few people might whisper to you that I'm a little off my nut. Just a tad. I like to think of it as "Jauntily Askew". (The only downside to that are the few people who don't know what Jaunty or Askew mean, but I digress.) I'm happy a little off. I find it gives me a unique perspective. No one really is surprised when I talk to myself, lose the train of the conversation or they catch me with my hands in some bizarre positions midair. Because all these things happen, pretty regularly actually. But I will say it's the talking most folks have learned to forgive. The strangers I don't worry about so much, they'll forget me soon enough, but my family hardly notices anymore. Because I'm crazy, but I'm a writer. That makes it all okay. :)
I don't actually mean to talk to myself, if that helps. Sometimes dialogue doesn't work until someone says it. This is especially important when your characters are being sarcastic smart alecks like mine tend to be. Like in my current release, "The Virgin's Revenge", most of the characters are deliciously sarcastic. (I blame my husband, by the way. He inspires me.)
It can be pretty hard to convey dry humor unless you can figure out exactly how to get the words out. I mean, a writer has to work out the kinks as she writes, right? How irritated must a character be to get that good and snarky? Even more so when you have those silent types who don't say much at all? You've got to have the tension and the body pose and the right volume so you can really get his actions and words across. See below:
“What happened? Why didn’t you call us?” Locke immediately took hold of his sister’s chin, tipping it up as he inspected her for any damage, revealing more smudges on her neck. She swatted his hand away, a scowl forming on her face. Locke was determined to make sure she was all right, though, so the swatting took a few attempts before he was satisfied she would live.
It was like watching a lion inspect a kitten—utterly careless, the kitten all but fighting for her life while the lion clubbed it half to death. Cole hid his smile, since neither of them would appreciate his amusement.
“I had a flat,” Amanda explained, her soft voice always such a welcome difference from Locke’s sometimes eardrum-splitting boom.
“You have a cell phone. Wasn’t it charged?”
Amanda rolled her eyes, her exasperation starting to pull the corners of her mouth down. “I can take care of myself, Locke. It was a flat, not an assassination attempt.”
His eyes narrowed, but Locke kept his comments to himself. He slid a glance to Cole, but Cole couldn’t tell if it was to see if he was taking offense to Amanda’s independence or if it was Locke’s way of saying, “You see what I have to put up with?”
Whatever it was, Amanda didn’t appreciate it.
Then there's the fast paced dialogue that you won't get right if you don't say it at the right speed. You figure out which pesky works will just throw the rhythm off and gotta find a way to get rid of them. And, hoping this doesn't sound immodest, but my books have a LOT of fast talking scenes. Let's continue this scene a bit later and you'll see what I mean.
No way to immediately present the truth to Amanda. She’d explode and they’d kill him. Or she’d explode and kill him herself. Jackman tempers were not to be trifled with.
“Do you have any plans for tomorrow night?” he asked, reaching under the hood to release the hook and at least give the car the look he’d promised.
“Why?” she asked, sounding vaguely suspicious.
“I thought we could…hang out.” That sounded reasonable. Not like a date at all. His conscience wouldn’t let him ask her out on a date only to later slam her with the fact that he’d only meant to get her alone to tell her what was happening.
“We’ve never hung out alone before,” she reminded, making him wince.
“Sure we have. You’re the only one capable of putting up a fight in the house when we play Risk or Trivial Pursuit. You beat the crap out of me in every fighting game we dig up, and I’ve lost count of all the sci-fi marathons we’ve watched together.”
“You were visiting my brothers. I was just there.”
She wasn’t going to make this easy, was she? Another quick glance over to the house showed the Jackmans hadn’t moved an inch. Better to look in the car’s engine.
“I didn’t know you knew anything about cars.”
He didn’t. He had a motorcycle and he liked it that way. “Not much,” he admitted. It was all the same, wasn’t it? Just bigger…and arranged differently, apparently. What the hell kind of engine was this?
“Still trying to save me from my brother?” She dipped her head, a soft grin tilting the corners of her mouth again.
He didn’t twang like before, but he had to clamp his lips tight not to lick them in response. “You have no idea.”
Sure, back and forth discussions sound a bit strange when coming out of the same person, but there's sanity beneath the method. Mostly.
And don't even get me started on the multiple party conversations! Those are FUN. You have to know exactly who's doing what while they're talking—especially if they're talking on top of each other. Then you also have to work in the things from before, with the sarcasm and the jokes and speed and the not-talkers and the cranky talkers. Like this:
“You never said if you were going with me tomorrow,” he called after her.
She froze midstep, her shoulders up near her ears for a whole second before she turned around, all playfulness gone, leaving her looking somewhat pale. “What?”
“Tomorrow. I was thinking we could talk.”
“This is a joke, right? Which one of them put you up to this? Dean? Andrew?”
All of them? “Why would any of them make me ask you to hang out?” It’d be interesting to see if she guessed.
“Because they’re morons,” she answered, her eyes narrowing.
Hey, look at that, she guessed!
“They’d do anything if they thought it was funny enough. No thanks, don’t feel like being a joke this week.” She stomped past him and opened the car door.
A joke? Damn it, he never thought she’d see the invitation that way. God, didn’t her brothers notice what they’d been doing to her self-esteem with all their overprotection? Given the way Locke was already striding onto the porch, Cole guessed not.
“If you say you’ll go with me, I’ll save you from Locke again.” He crossed his arms over his chest, leaning down to the window when she slammed the door between them.
She was mad now, he could tell by the roses in her cheeks. She rolled down her window with a few jerks of her shoulder and hand. “Oh yeah, how’s that?”
“My car’s just fine, Cole. Thanks for looking.”
“Mandy?” Locke was on the other side of the car, but his frigid eyes were on Cole, promising sure death for screwing this up. “Aren’t you staying for dinner?”
“Yes,” Locke corrected.
Amanda was glaring now.
Cole tried again. “You can’t drive it this way—”
“I told you it’s fine. It’s just loud.”
Cole’s temper tingled. If she’d just let him finish a sentence. “I’m only looking out for you.”
“I’ve got enough people looking out for me. I don’t need you doing it too. I told you, I can take care of myself.”
“So you’re determined to leave?”
“Yes,” she snapped.
“Okay,” he said calmly, took a step closer to the front tire and with a solid whack of his boot, sent the spare tire off the unnutted bolts to the ground, where the weight of the car ka-chunking to the pavement flattened the metal corner with a loud pop.
“I’ll just let you take care of that, then.” He nodded at Locke and stalked back into the house.
Dinner sounded pretty damn good all of a sudden.
See, it makes sense when it's on the page! I admit, the guy next to me at the Coco's when I was writing love scene dialogue might have gotten a tad confused (What? "I want you so bad..." wasn't misleading!), but in the end, it all comes together in a nice fun package that keeps me from getting saddled with a huggy white jacket and placed in a really cushiony room.
So, lesson for the day is if you're nuts, find a creative way to prove it's not the dangerous kind of nuts. And, if you're so inclined, I'll be happy to show you how to put "Guns, Ammo & Serial Killer Research" into a perspective that doesn't make people nervous. :) (Much)
So readers, are there any things you do that make friends, family - and strangers - think you might be just a bit "jauntily askew?" Don't be shy! We won't tell anyone. ;-)