Category Archives: Dialogue

The Uncle Peej Story

Back in the headphone wearin’ groove tonight.

As promised, here’s the headphone rule: Since my writing desk is now down in a room with my wife’s desk and my daughter’s desk, and since this room opens into the TV room on one side and the dining room on another, I devised a system to let my family know I’m writing. If I’m at the computer wearing headphones, one should think twice about interrupting me. Notice I said think twice, not don’t interrupt. I never wanted to be the kind of husband/father who shut my family out just so I could write my books. Maybe it’s cost me in the book department, but I’ve made up for it in the wife & kids department.

Tonight there was a certain point I wanted to reach. This is still the chapter that is dialogue based, and I want the confrontation to reach a fevered pitch before bringing in another character. I really wanted to get through the fever pitch part tonight, but I kept adding stuff as I went along, and it was taking me longer to get there than I thought. But that’s okay, it shows that everything is flowing and growing organically. So I didn’t quite make it to fever pitch tonight, but I’m thinking tomorrow I will.

Earlier this evening, while trying to waste an hour waiting for one-hour photos, I went into a Waldenbooks looking for something to read. I wanted something funny and almost settled on a Nick Hornby novel, but discovered that The CEO of the Sofa by P.J. O’Rourke was available in a trade edition. Since O’Rourke is (IMO) the funniest man alive, this book was my choice. I also have a P.J. O’Rourke story: I have talked with his wife. When Bantam was putting out the Pembroke Hall novels, they asked me who I thought should get copies for blurbs, and he was on my short list. They got the query to him, but he was in the middle of running off to write a piece on a hot spot somewhere. So he had his wife call me to apologize and explain the situation. I thought that was nice of him to do that – I mean, he could have blown me off by simply ignoring me, like some of the other names on the list – but didn’t. I wonder if this means he owes me one…

Today’s Scorecard:

Chapter: 8
Page: 238 (+6)
Words: 56111 (+1461)

NP – Moby, 18

Flexibility

It doesn’t hurt to be flexible.

Example: I knew the handwriting was on the wall today. After work I was going to end up being Mr. Concrete, mixing and patching the rest of the holes in the floor of the barn where my daughter’s goats will live. I knew I would be dead tired after that, but I wanted to get some writing in. It’s a little too easy to play guitar and call it good, and I have a book to finish.

So I wrote six pages at work during lunch hour.

It worked out quite well, actually. I was at the beginning of a chapter, I knew what the opening line of the chapter was, and where things were to go. It also helped that I envisioned this chapter as largely a dialogue between the protagonist and a person who has information that he refuses to divulge. I want it to be a who-is-going-to-crack-first kind of thing, and for the kind of psychological maneuvering that goes on between the two, I think doing it largely as dialogue will be quite effective.

The fact that I got six pages done in an hour is because dialogue is one of my three writing strengths. I think I have an ear for dialogue, and when I write it, I can work quickly – perhaps even faster than when I write action scenes. When I started writing long projects in high school, they were plays, and I think that playwright’s ear for dialog has stayed with me.

Interestingly enough, I didn’t always think my dialogue was a strength. When I turned in ADOH, I was worried about some sections because they consisted largely of dialogue, and I wasn’t sure that I was supposed to be doing that. My very first fan letter ever showed me that what I had was actually a strength.

My first fan letter ever came from David Mattingly, the artist who would end up doing the covers for my five Del Rey books. He liked ADOH so much that he was moved to send me a letter before the book even came out. One of the things he said was, “and I really liked the way you handed over the plot to long stretches of dialogue.”

So I quit worrying about it, and it has served me well ever since.

Thanks, David!

I guess that means there are two lessons for tonight. First, be resourceful when it comes to seeking out writing time. Second, don’t sell yourself short. What you think is a weakness could be a strength.

Today’s Scorecard:

Chapter: 8
Page: 231 (+6)
Words: 54412 (+1510)

NP – Peter Gabriel, Up