Saturday, May 31, 2008

Dialogue and Introspection

In my book, Loving Ways, readers meet Annie and Ken. Their characterization grows through dialogue when Ken notices a water color hanging on Annie’s living room wall and realizes she is the artist . Read the dialogue below. I’ve removed the action beats and introspection to illustrate what you can learn from dialogue through the characters’ words alone. Pay particular attention to Ken’s comment.

"Annie, they’re beautiful. I had no idea you were an artist."

"I wouldn’t call me an artist."

"I would," he said.

"Thank you."

"You’re welcome. Have you painted others?"

"A whole attic full."

"Seriously?"

"Seriously. Sailboats. Sunsets. More flowers."

"You should sell them."

"You mean I should rent space at a gas station like the people who sell those black-velvet paintings?"

"Not quite. Look. I’m practical. Don’t forget this is a tourist town. People spend money
like water when they’re on vacation, and paintings like these could sell. Once you have a reputation, who knows what they would bring in?"

"I don’t think so," she said. "Look at them. They’re flawed."

"Life’s flawed. That’s what makes them real."

The dialogue shows us some things about both Annie and Ken. First Annie doubts her talent. Next we notice that Annie has a difficult time accepting compliments. Instead she makes a joke to deal with her discomfort–"You mean rent space at a gas station..." Although you might chuckle, she’s obviously putting down her work. She also makes it clear that she sees her work as flawed, just as she sees herself flawed.

But here’s where we learn something significant about Ken. He tells us that life is flawed and that’s what makes her artistic efforts real. Obviously Ken sees monetary value in Annie’s paintings and if you’d read the story, you’d know that she does need money.
Sometimes action and introspection gives us a clearer picture than the dialogue can do alone.

When Ken comments on Annie’s artistic ability, she shakes her head. "I wouldn’t call me an artist," and when Ken says he would, Annie gives a one-shoulder shrug. "Thank you." He says her voice was soft. Notice the humility we hear from Ken’s comment and Annie’s gesture. Read the complete excerpt.

Leaning closer to the painting, he saw the artist’s marking. So simple: Annie, written in a delicate flourish.

He spun around. "Annie?" He pointed to her.

A soft flush rose up her neck in the lamp light, and she nodded.

"Annie, they’re beautiful. I had no idea you were an artist."

She shook her head. "I wouldn’t call me an artist."

"I would," he said.

She gave a one-shoulder shrug. "Thank you." Her voice was soft.

"You’re welcome," he said, pivoting to view the walls around the room. "Have you painted others?"

She gestured toward the ceiling. "A whole attic full."

"Seriously?" His pulse tripped, witnessing a side of her he’d never considered.

"Seriously. Sailboats. Sunsets. More flowers."

He couldn’t imagine works like these gathering dust in a loft. The talent could give her an outlet and contact with people. "You should sell them."

"You mean I should rent space at a gas station like the people who sell those black-velvet paintings?" She eyed him with an uneasy grin.

"Not quite." He returned to his seat, but paused before he sat. "Look. I’m practical. Don’t forget this is a tourist town. People spend money like water when they’re on vacation, and paintings like these could sell. Once you have a reputation, who knows what they would bring in?"
Purpose charged through him. Not money, but something more. A goal for Annie.

"I don’t think so." She rose, ambled to the three paintings, then crossed her arms. "Look at them. They’re flawed."

"Life’s flawed. That’s what makes them real." Ken’s words punched his heart.

Ken’s eagerness when he learn Annie has more paintings and his suggestions she sell them could come across as meddling, especially when he mentions the money she would earn, but when we hear the dialogue along with seeing the body movements and internal monologue, we better understand Ken’s purpose. Selling them seems to be an afterthought in the light of his introspection. Ken’s concern is Annie’s lack of social contact and her loneliness.

Ken’s comment, "Life’s flawed. That’s what makes them real," punched his heart. This line is a clue to Ken’s own conflict. He feels flawed, and though he finds Annie interesting, the reader sees Ken must deal with his own issues before he can fall in love. This set of dialogue illustrates how dialogue can stand alone but often it can be enhanced and say even more by the other two components of introspection and action.

2 comments:

Shelley said...

A great post. Thanks for the hint/tip. Your story sounds like it is great - especially since I'm interested in watercolour painting myself. I want to take lessons some day (took a few for awhile but stopped when I quite my job to go back to school), but it will probably only be in another couple of years when I'm out of school again.

Anyway, I've bookmarked your site and will be back again.

Gail Gaymer Martin said...

Thanks, Shelley. Glad you're finding the articles helpful. My mom was a watercolor artist. Most of the paintings in my home were done by my mom. She did oils first and then found she loved the watercolors. I'm so glad I have them. She died five years ago, but I have a little piece of her here in her art.

Blessings,
Gail