Writing Dialogue: The Oops Factor.

two albatrossDoes your character say the right thing – but it’s understood the wrong way? Or takes something well-meaning in the wrong spirit?

I was given a great lesson in writing dialogue recently. It all started with me being upset by some responses I received to a piece of news I shared with family and friends.

The news was that my husband had been diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer. It may sound strange that this should be an occasion to gain insights into writing dialogue but, hey, sometimes you have to find small comforts wherever you can.

“Oh, that’s the one that doesn’t amount to much, isn’t it?”

“What a nuisance.”

“But it’s a given that people don’t die of it.”

“Oh yes, I’ve dozens of friends who’ve had it. That was years ago and they’re all fine.”

I got very upset. I felt they were brushing this nasty, threatening disease off as a simple inconvenience, like a sore throat or a headache or the flu. No, my husband said, they’re just trying to be comforting.

Words – those slippery things! One person can use words to mean one thing while another person might understand them in quite another way. Continue reading