# of pages written: 5.5 (mostly dialogue)
# of times I’ve checked email/facebook: 5
# of days left to write 1st draft: 150
A few days ago, I was tutoring my newest student, an adorably polite fifteen-year-old who needs help with Algebra. It had been raining earlier, so as we finished up the session, I asked him if it looked like it was still raining.
“I don’t think so,” he said, glancing out the window.
But as we headed out the library door, it was raining, quite steadily. I gasped and turned to him. “You lied to me! It is raining!”
“Oh!” He looked stricken. “I’m sorry, I didn’t…”
“I’m just kidding,” I told him. “I’m a wimp about the rain.” I reminded myself to be careful what I say to him from now on.
When I got home, Nikki, Nate, and I ate dinner, and Nikki started telling me about a time that she and Nate were on a plane. “It was so loud, and his ears were stopped up,” she said. “I turned on the light for him and said, ‘can you see better?’ and he was like, ‘what? Sea beaver?’ Really loud. It was hilarious.”
We all laughed, and I got up to start washing the dishes.
“Let me do that,” Nikki told me. “You cleaned up everything last night.”
“I don’t mind,” I started to say when Nate yelled, “out of the kitchen!”
“Oh! OK!” I scurried away. It was only when I reached the living room that I realized he had been talking to the dog.
Sometimes, I realize, it’s very easy to misinterpret what someone says.
It made me think about writing dialogue for my novel and short stories. I enjoy writing dialogue, and that’s often how I get to know my characters best is by seeing how they talk to each other. I think it’s good to remember that people don’t always understand or even hear each other perfectly. They misunderstand the tone or don’t get the reference. They don’t always interpret what’s being said in the right way. Sometimes I worry that I don’t have enough conflict in my stories – I don’t have an evil antagonist or a journey to another universe. But just a simple conversation can be the perfect place to find conflict. It can be the perfect place to reveal character. I wonder what my characters will say to each other tomorrow…