PIER 33: The Dialogue
Writing is liberating in many ways. It's a chance to let your mind wander while also leaving something behind. Think of it like the thoughts you have during your morning commute or while in the shower, except now you actually have a record of what those thoughts were. You can go back and recall what you were thinking, what you were doing and how you were feeling.
Like anything else in life, though, the freedom of writing has its limits. If it's for an audience of one, then sure – you can type gibberish. But adding other readers into the mix requires a certain level of order. Now, these aren't rigid rules like some fancy-schmancy algebra equation; they're guidelines that help digest those all-over-the-place thoughts, helping them make sense to others who aren't, well . . . you.
Syntax, spelling, grammar, punctuation – whatever. The list goes on. Everyone should respect these rules and realize that proper usage will clearly get a point across to any audience, whether that person wants to hear what you're saying or not.
I spent countless hours – complete read-throughs – looking for ways to make my writing more 'digestible' within PIER 33. While this was (and is) important to me, I made several decisions to break those rules. I made these changes with the reader in mind, but I also did so for myself. If I was to spend 45,000 minutes writing a novel in my free time, why not have some fun with it?
Here's one form of rebellion, sticking my middle finger up at English professors across the country:
It doesn't matter if they were beta-readers involved from the beginning or rather people who are currently reading PIER 33; I've received numerous questions regarding my approach to dialogue throughout the novel. Whoever's asking those questions, know this: it was very much intentional.
I read every word of dialogue in PIER 33 aloud, combing through each word numerous times to determine how a person – how a specific character – would say it. Take the word 'to' for example. If I were to say "What are you going to do, Nick?" and pronounce each of those words as written, wouldn't I sound like a robot? It reads well, but I just couldn't feel any character saying that.
So, I added my own twist to it:
"What are you about t'do, Nick?" Think about it – when you say that sentence aloud, the 'to' sort of just sticks to the proceeding word. We don't pronounce 'to' properly in most cases as it doesn't sound natural.
"What're you about t'do, Nick?" I did the same thing here that I did with 'to' above, merging 'what' and 'are' to form a contraction. We speak quickly and jumble our words together – I reflected that in writing.
"What're you about t'do Nick?" Oh, no! The comma is gone. It looks weird in writing, but do we really pause like that when speaking to each other? Maybe if you're giving a speech or for dramatic effect, but the whole sentence just kind of rolls out without a pause.
"What're ya about t'do Nick?" This is where I can add some character flavor, intentionally changing the way a word sounds coming out to reflect a certain attitude, tone or level of intellect.
Again, while it may take some more thought while reading – or even require a reread – my hope is that you'll see (over the course of reading PIER 33) that this decision was intentional.
The next thing I'll cover as it relates to breaking some rules (or rather making my readers feel uncomfortable) is my approach to narration in the novel. Some chapters just don't feel natural, right? Good.
That's all I have right now. Rules are cool, but you know what they say about them.
I feel that way about the Oxford comma, too. It can go straight to hell.