Readers of fiction tend to have their favourite genres -- mystery, thriller, romance, fantasy, crime, etc. Me? I'm crazy for historical fiction. It's my way of travelling to other places and other times. Not only is it entertaining, but I learn a lot too. Of course I read other genres as well, but more often than not, I'm in some Medieval castle in Germany or roaming London streets with Jack the Ripper. At the moment I'm with William Thornhill in 1806 New South Wales. (The Secret River/Kate Grenville -- Booker Prize shortlist/2006).
As a writer, I also have preferences. I don't mean about the types of books I write; I'm talking about the writing process itself.
It takes three basic tools to tell a good story: narration, description, and dialogue. Moving from one to another not only changes the pace and tone of the story, but it keeps readers from falling asleep and having to read page 63 over and over and over.
Though there are different ways of accomplishing it, the job of narration is to tell the story. Something happened and then something else happened. Description paints pictures. It taps the readers' senses in an effort to bring the narrative to life. And dialogue provides an intimacy that draws readers into the story. Using all three of these tools at once is dramatization, and that's about as good as it gets if you're a writer.
The point is -- though I use all three techniques in my writing, I have a favourite. Dialogue. Writing it is so much fun. I simply allow my characters to take over my brain and start talking. Some people might see this as a mental health issue, but I highly recommend it for writing conversation.
The thing is I usually only have a vague idea where these conversations are going. One character speaks and another reacts and away we go. It's all I can do to keep up, jumping back and forth into the minds of my characters.
Needless to say, there is always lots of dialogue in my novels. Oh, I still do the narration, and I work really hard at the description (that's not my strength), but I'm always hurrying to get to the next conversation.
Here is a tiny snippet from one in The Bridge of Whispers that was especially fun to write.
“Welcome, my dear,” Queen Ailsa said. “Maeve, is it not?”
Maeve straightened her shoulders and lifted her chin. “You know well it is.”
The queen's voice hardened. “Yes.”
The quartz around Maeve's throat pulsed and quelled the anger growing in her. “I am surprised to see you at Castle Carrick, Lady,” she remarked. “I would have thought this would be the first place King Redmond would search for you.”
The queen shook her head. “When he imprisoned my brother, he relieved him of his title and lands. Since then the castle has been locked tight, awaiting a new King of Meath. A cockroach would be hard-pressed to find a way in.”
“And yet you have managed it,” Maeve said.
The queen didn't notice or didn't acknowledge the insult.
(Oh, Maeve -- you're playing with fire, girl.)