Dialog is a great way to move scenes along without explaining. Writing good dialog involves increasing activity in the brain areas involved with listening and speaking. If you practice using these areas critically and intentionally—as opposed to your normal habits of listening and speaking—you can stimulate your dialog imagination.
Critical Listening Skills
During the holidays, we get to hear a lot more different voices, some from family, some just in the environment. Therefore, eavesdrop:
Listen for what distinguishes one speaker from another in an overheard conversation:
Intention, what does each want from the other?
How do the talkers agree? (most conversation in daily life is a negotiation seeking agreement)
If you’re lucky enough to overhear a fight, listen for irrationality, for assumptions— what does each combatant believe s/he deserves?
Critical Conversation Skills: The Seduction, The Belief Event
Plan ahead to try out these conversational gambits.
1. The Seduction:
Decide ahead of time that you want to lead the conversation in a slightly risky way. Get someone to disclose religious experience, some childish bad deed, a secret. To do this, you will need to have your own “disclosure” in mind. You can prime the pump by telling your own real or made up experience.
2. Extract the Belief Event:
Listen for an opportunity to draw out your Uncle Henry or Auntie May on Obama (women’s rights, Texas football, police and traffic tickets), and drill down on his/her beliefs by following up on key words s/he mentions:
“Obama and his socialist agenda...” “Really? He’s a socialist?” ... then see if you can get him/her to relate a lived experience about socialism: an exact moment in life when something happened. Your object is to get the story, in the distant past, when a current belief originated.