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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Talk to Me by Sidney Bristol

There are a lot of times when I’m writing a book and it feels like all I’m doing is dialogue. I have these two characters who are just talking heads, flapping their jaws, getting nowhere. Then I step back and look at what it is they’re saying—and I see the story they are telling, not just what they say—but how they say it. And that’s where the magic is, how there’s one story going on with words, and another with the heart.

A few years ago I took the Strengths Finder 2.0 exam to determine my top five strengths. The exam is the culmination of years of study to develop this test and catalogue the basic core strengths. One of my top five was Communication, so it doesn’t surprise me at all that one of the things I enjoy dissecting the most is the dialogue of a story.

As humans, we don’t always say what we mean, and we can’t always say what we want for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s just plain not appropriate, and other times we don’t know how to ask what we want. One of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do was find the words to ask for a raise. I’ve been in more life threatening situations, but I’m not sure that I’ve ever been so scared and nervous as when I broached the topic to a former boss. ((I got the raise, btw)) I am also one of the most awkward and verbally impaired people when it comes to talking about my feelings, but yet I can write them out just fine. On the flip side, stick me in front of five thousand people and I’m just fine. ((True story))

Recently I was going through edits for my next romantic suspense book, Hot Tango (Good Guys Wear Black #1) and as we were going over the excerpt for the book, I found myself stopping to reread the scene from beginning to end. The story is about a married couple who has lost the spark, not because they aren’t attracted to each other or have fallen out of love. They’ve lost the ability to communicate their desires. The scene in question is how the wife, Tanya, attempts and fails to have a conversation about their love life with her husband, Cole. I love the scene because it touches on their desire and pushes them to be openly frank with each other in a way they’ve never been. The book is erotic in nature, so you can imagine what they discussed. ((You can read the full excerpt here))

There’s something sexy about the way heroes and heroines talk to each other. Sure, most of the dialogue in the books we love would never happen off the page, but isn’t it fun to imagine it playing out in your head? The well timed jibe, the off-the-cuff remarks, the sultry things they say to each other—it weaves a spell around not just the characters, but us as the reader.

Is there a bit of dialogue you love?

Okay—so how many of us can almost recite the proposal scene from Pride and Prejudice? I can.

Those words stick with us, they spin dreams in the readers they touch and inspire the mind to wander—usually when I’m doing something important where I should be paying attention, and yet I think about those moments captured in my mind of a hero and what he said. Or is that just me being a chronic day dreamer?

Words have power, it’s not a new idea, but it’s one I think gets lost in the hustle and bustle sometimes. Even for us writers, we forget that it’s not just the story, it’s what the characters say that’s important. Case in point? I was looking for a dedication quote to use for my upcoming release from Loveswept, an imprint of Random House, and I just couldn’t find anything that fit. Nothing clicked with the story.

And then…I found it.

The perfect quote.

“It's not until you lose everything that you can truly appreciate everything.” – Belle in Beauty and the Beast
It can never be said that Sidney Bristol has had a ‘normal’ life.  She is a recovering roller derby queen, former missionary, and tattoo addict. She grew up in a motor-home on the US highways (with an occasional jaunt into Canada and Mexico), traveling the rodeo circuit with her parents. Sidney has lived abroad in both Russia and Thailand, working with children and teenagers. She now lives in Texas where she splits her time between a job she loves, writing, reading and belly dancing.


  1. Hi, Sidney!
    Thanks so much for joining us today. Great blog topic. Dialogue is my favorite part of writing, and I often have to go back and fill in visual details because I get so carried away with what my characters have to say. In truth, I don't really care much about what color dresses the characters are wearing. Although I do care what kind of car a hero drives. If they are going somewhere in a car, I want to know the character drives. Maybe because I make assumptions about a person based on what they choose to drive. But I'm totally off topic. Back to favorite dialogue/lines...

    As cheesy and overused as it has become, I still like "You had me at hello" from Jerry Maguire. It's simple, but it says more than the actual words. "I forgive you." "I still love you." "We can start over." "I'm steadfast. You can trust in my feelings." And I love how it contrasts with his long speech.

  2. Oh my god, "You had me at hello," is such a great line!! Like--I so wish I would have written it.

  3. If you are talking about movie quotes, how about "I'll have what she's having." ? That is a classic. Not a romantic classic, but you do get a visual. LOL!

    1. LOL! I love that one, Sharlene. That IS a classic!

  4. I am one of those people who can recite Simpsons dialogue for almost any occasion. Humor usually sticks with me.

  5. Great post! I love sharp, snappy dialogue that captures the essence of the character. JR Ward does that so well with her BDB guys: over-the-top voices that fit the big characters. And, hey, I can quote big chunks of "Gone with the Wind:" ("Yankees in Georgia! How did they ever get in?"--Aunt Pittypat..."This is war, woman, not a garden party."--Dr. Mead...Well, you get the idea.)