Thursday, December 17, 2009
My Editing Journey: Dialogue in Discovery
I'd said one of the things I needed to do was change Ann's way of speaking. Let's explore that today.
Dialogue is a great way to show your character: their education, their interests, their thought processes. Sometimes, as the character develops in your mind, her way of speaking changes. That happened to Sister Ann. An orphan rescued and raised by the Sisters, she has an unusual background and a mind like a sponge. She can absorb and process technical manuals like a child's game. She does the same for other writings, but philosophy and psychology are harder for her to understand. Her experience with the outside world is limited to living at the convent and rescuing spacers. Her faith is strong and at times, visionary, but she's never thought much about it being unique.
As the ship and its crew get into deeper danger, she is receiving Divine Guidance through the help of prophets and saints. This was such fun to play with, but since I didn’t set her up as a mystic and a little odd, it looks like she's gone mad. Also, I needed her to be more odd to begin with to justify the crew's reaction to her, particularly Dr. Thoren's, who considers her a threat to their mission.
The best way to show this is in her speech (and later in her interior monologues). Here's one of the first conversations she has. She's just quoted Brother Jubal about his life as a hermit on the moon.
"Yet God called him to go minister to the Drake Lunar station. He left the life he loved and as a result, came to love life more. But could he have done it if he hadn't had that revelation of God's love? Then, there's St. Gillian: she loved the grandeur and beauty of Earth. She grew up on a ranch and used to go riding in the mountains--on an animal!"
"A horse. Lots of people ride horses on earth."
"A horse! Yes! But her husband got injured when the gravity generator he was developing blew up, and could never return to a heavy gravity world, and she came out into space to minister to him. For love, she could do it, but it was love for her husband."
Rita wondered if the change of subject was to ease her own fears; if so, she welcomed it. "But her faith in God and her hope that He would bring something good from her sacrifice gave her the strength to live on L5. And of course, with her help, R Charles perfected his gravity generator."
"Her nagging, you mean!" Ann laughed. "Have you ever read his dairies? They're very funny." Her voice deepened as she quoted, "'I finally just went to work so she wouldn't keep telling me about the martyrs. Martyrs! Torture! A shrew for a wife--that's torture!' She knew he needed to work to take his mind off his pain, and she loved him enough to risk his wrath and make him do what he wouldn't do for himself. Despite his grumbling, he understood that, and he loved her all the more. Human love is a powerful force, too, isn't it?"
See how she's very straightforward in her expression? It also feels too much like telling. I have to admit, the conversation bothered me from the beginning, but only until I knew Ann better did I understand why. Here's the second draft:
"Yet God called him to go minister to the Drake Lunar station. He left the life he loved and as a result, came to love life more. But could he have done it if he hadn't had that revelation of God's love? Then, there's St. Gillian: Nowhere do I feel closer to God than watching the sunrise across the mountains. God made this world to suit us; and us, uniquely suited for it. She rode animals."
"Horses. Lots of people ride horses."
"And shrews ride people."
Ann's voice deepened as she mimicked a man's snarl. "'Research! Work! Give your pain to God!' Vaccing shrew rides me like one of her horses. R. Charles Hawkins was very cranky after his accident. He wanted to give up work on the gravity generator and die, and Gillian left earth to be with him full time at L5. I guess it's easier to ride someone in zero g."
Rita had long broken the habit of smacking her own forehead, but times like these brought back the urge. "I think he's speaking figuratively."
This is more "Ann": making some leaps of logic that no one else understands (R. Charles called his wife "shrew" + she rides him = shrews ride people), shows her literal thinking, and isn't as straightforward as the first conversation. It's also 100 words shorter, an advantage.