Writing Dialogue · 12 August 2017

Dialogue is one of the toughest things to write. And one of the most fun.

I have not been writing fiction for too long, but so far, dialogue is by far the toughest part of the story. I would personally write with no dialogue at all, except it is one of the best parts of a story. At least when it is done correctly.

They (whoever they are) say that the best way to write dialogue is to listen. Eavesdropping is one of the best methods to learn how to write dialogue experts say. I do that all the time during the school year. I hear students talk. And talk. And talk. But that is not necessarily the best eavesdropping since I set some of the ground rules. At least about some of the words they cannot use. And dialogue in an academic setting is not always the best anyway.

“Hey, what’d you get for the second problem?”
“None of your bee’s wax, Bozo.”
“That’s twenty-five pushups for putting people down.”
“But Bozo’s his name.”
“Oh yeah.”

I also like to listen in on conversations by other adults. Unfortunately, that eavesdropping is usually listening on other educators. Acronyms and jargon abound. And I hear talk like you might hear when parents speak about their own kids. Mushy and gushy and sometimes chastising.

So for the most part, I do not hear dialogue I would put into a book or story. It is all too juvenile or academic in nature.

Besides, you cannot really listen to see how dialogue is done when you are part of the dialogue. It is like observing yourself. Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle says that you can either know a particle’s speed or know its location, but not both at the same instant in time. While it is mainly a quantum mechanics truism, it also holds true for people. You cannot observe yourself or others without altering your own (or their) behavior. At least if they know you are observing. Since you are yourself, you cannot observe yourself without altering your own behavior because you always observe yourself whether you know you are observing or not.

I heard it explained this way. Think about which shoe you put on first. The left or the right or whichever shoe you grab first. If you do not know, you cannot really find out by observing yourself because as soon as you start observing yourself, you change your own behavior. You might even talk to yourself.

“I don’t want to be a left foot first person. So I’ll grab my right shoe first and put it on.”
“Oh darn! I put my left shoe on first.”
“But if I see myself put my left shoe on first, does that mean I saw myself or changed my behavior by observing myself?”
“Quit watching! You’ll change my behavior.”
“Who said that?”

And so it could go on and on and on and on until you finally could not put on any shoe, and you miss work because you caught yourself observing yourself putting on the wrong shoe first. Which just goes to show that you cannot really observe yourself in conversation because you might start using correct grammar and pronounce words correctly and enunciate precisely and actually wait for the other person to finish a thought before interjecting your own opinions on the matter at hand. In short, if you observe yourself, you will change your own behavior. Even in conversation. Of course, you could just listen and never talk, but people would get annoyed that you never said anything.

“That’s just because I’m trying to learn dialogue,” you might think but never say. After all, you do not want to change your own dialogue by observing your own dialogue. Or by letting others know you are observing theirs.

Which is why dialogue is so difficult. Even if you just like to hang out where people are hanging out and listen to their conversations. Just be careful about who you eavesdrop on. They might not like you eavesdropping and possibly changing their behavior.

“So like I said, writing dialogue is tough.”
“Hey! Is that guy eavesdropping in on us?”
“Yeah! He is.”
“Why I ought to…”
“Not with a preposition.”
“You ought to do something, but not end a sentence with a preposition.”
“Yeah right.” Pause. “Oh no.”
“What’s wrong.”
“He changed my dialogue by eavesdropping.”
“Oh. That’s too bad. See, I told you writing dialogue was tough. But he really did not change your dialogue directly. He changed your dialogue because you know he was eavesdropping which changed your behavior.”
“Yeah. That Heisenberg dude again.”
“Yeah. Even though it’s not rocket science or quantum mechanics.”
“You’re right. Dialogue’s tough.”
“Real tough.”
“He’s still listening to us!”

© 2017 Michael T. Miyoshi

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Just Keep Writing · 5 August 2017

Finding Dory

There are times when a writer just needs to write. Not that it will be some outstanding piece of prose or fiction. Nor that it will ever see the light of day. But I just need to keep writing.

We watched Finding Dory the other night. It was not the greatest show ever. (How many sequels or prequels or at-the-same-time-quels, which by the way are called paraquels, or circumquels or interquels ever are?) But it was enjoyable. And if you know anything about Dory in either Finding Nemo or Finding Dory, one of the most profound things she says is, “Just keep swimming.”

I know. Somebody is perturbed or baffled or indignant that anybody could or would say, “Just keep swimming,” is profound. But it is. Think about it. When all else fails, you just keep swimming. When you do not know what to do, you just keep swimming. When there are sharks all around you, you just keep swimming. What else can you do? You just gotta keep on keepin’ on.

Think about it, “just keep swimming” works on so many different levels. Sure. The “swimming” in could be lots of different things. Walking, riding, eating, talking (okay, maybe not eating or talking), going, working, or maybe even writing. That is why it is so profound.

For me, I just need to keep writing. Whether I have a story to tell or not, I just keep writing. Whether I am full of words that need to come out or not, I just keep writing. Whether I am just babbling or I have a perfect piece of prose, I just keep writing.

I just keep writing. No matter what.

I may never win an award for my writing. (Most likely.) I may not ever sell any more books. (Sold a couple, so who knows?) I may never get any more fans to read my drivel. (I probably should stop calling it drivel.) But it does not matter. I just keep writing. And writing. And writing. Who know? Something might stick sometime. Even a thousand chimpanzees typing away on a thousand computers for a thousand years might come up with something comprehensible. After all, I do it, why is it so hard to think that they never could?

Ah well. I have come to this conclusion to just keep writing, not so much because Dory said I should, but because I have nothing else to write. I have completed a bunch of stories, and there is not much else to write about right now, still I must continue my rite of writing. (How many homophones are there for write anyway?)

So I have written. I have taken a day when I have little to write about and written. Not that I am so much a task-check-er-off-er, but I am a creature of habit. And like Dory, I have a small brain. So like her, I need to just keep swimming. Oops, writing. Just keep writing.

© 2017 Michael T. Miyoshi

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Two Weeks of Scruffiness · 29 July 2017

My friend said I looked 17. My sister commented that I could actually grow facial hair. She did not need to add, “barely.” Needless to say, they were both making fun of my two weeks of scruffiness.

For some reason, I decided to not shave for a couple weeks. Actually, there were two reasons. One was that we were out of town for a couple days and even though I took my electric razor, I pretended that I did not have it. After all, I also knew we were going camping in a week and a half, and I was definitely not taking my shaver camping. That would be going against the man rules. And since you are supposed to go camping and come back with a face full of facial hair, I figured I ought to get a head start (reason number two). After all, three nights camping would just barely put a little stubble on my face.

Well to make a short story a little longer, I decided that I ought to put my picture out there on social media. I took a couple pictures and put them on Instagram, which goes to both my Twitter and Facebook feeds. That was when I got the comments from my friend and my sister.

There were actually a few more comments than just the two. Most were that I keep going or that I should make sure my students actually got a chance to see the little bit of beard and mustache (if you could actually call them such). One asked me to show him how to do it, which just made me smile at his smooth baby face. One friend suggested I was Grizzly Mike, and another suggested I should not give up (of course, he actually looks like Grizzly Adams). I appreciated all the comments and was glad I could add a little humor into other people’s lives.

My friend and faithful reader, Marc, and my sister were my favorite commenters though.

My sister’s thought was really that now I actually have proof that I can grow facial hair. Barely. It was funny because it was what I was thinking when I took the selfies. (They are not the very first selfies, but they are close.) That and the fact that I could hear the lilt in her voice in my head as I read the comment, made me chuckle.

Marc’s comment about me looking like I am 17 only appears to be a compliment. After all what fifty-something year old man would not want to be 17 again? (Without the angst and worry and acne. Okay. Maybe not.) But the white hair on top and both above and below the lips are a dead giveaway that I am not 17. And since I know that if Marc did not shave for two weeks, he would look like Grizzly Adams, I knew he was commenting on how sickly and wimpy my facial hair was. Like his might have been when he was 17. (His probably would have been thicker back then than mine was the last couple weeks.)

Well, like I said, I appreciated the comments on the selfies of my facial hair (or lack thereof). It was actually nice not shaving, but it was nicer to not have the sparse but longer (both time and length)-than-I-have-ever-had hair on my face anymore. (It was not fun shaving it off. But that is another story.)

Thanks again for the comments on my two weeks of scruffiness. I now have proof that I can actually grow facial hair even if it barely looks like it. And even though he did not mean it that way, I would be happy to look 17 again.

© 2017 Michael T. Miyoshi

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