Thursday, October 29, 2009

Banter

I was bantering back and forth with a friend of mine, and we were getting quite snarky (go figure) with our emails. It was a game of one up-manship, and - please hold your applause - I won! Woo-hoo.

The whole banter back/forth thingy made my brain cells do the funky synapse dance that they like to do when I'm, well, thinking!

And, the result of the funky synapse dance (similar to the funky chicken, but with out the arm flapping thingy) is this question: do your characters banter?

I've written about character dynamics before, and other character things as well. For me, characters often become alive - i'm a real boy, i'm a real boy - for me when the characters banter. They seem more real.

So, are your characters alive? Do they banter back and forth, do their ears hang low, do they wobble to and . . . dratted Walmart commercial!!! Arrrgghhh! Or, are your characters just listlessly immersed in the pages of your brilliance? Do they need a little bang for their buck? Do they need a little salt with their pepper?? Is the cool missing from their whip?

If you answered yes to any of those questions . . . please join me in the loony bin!! Kidding.

I know the whole point of dialogue is to propel things forward, a natural progression, and all that jazz, but I firmly believe that the quirkiness of your characters, their inner snark so to speak, must shine forth as well. People have hum-drum conversations everyday. I don't bother to eavesdrop on those conversations. No fun, no fun at all. I love to eavesdrop on snarky conversations. I often find myself laughing at something that the people I'm eavesdropping on say.

I laugh at conversations between characters in Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. LOL! ROTFLOL!!!

I laughed a few times today with the snarky email banter between a friend and I. I've forwarded that email home so I can include the banter in some future novel. Why? Because, if I do say so myself, there's a vibrancy that shines forth in the back/forth emails. There's a sense of me, and my friend, in the back/forth banter. There's a sense of, well, character.

So, my challenge to you . . . go read the conversations between your characters. Do you sense the characters in those conversations? Do the conversations give you a sense of the characters? Do the conversations seem alive and vibrant or dull and listless? If you were a fly on the wall . . . would you eavesdrop on said conversations, or fly off to irritate somebody else?

As for me, if I input said email banter/conversation into say, Margarita Nights, and was reading said banter/conversation . . . I'd LOL. No, I'm not tooting - okay, maybe I am - my own horn, because I only wrote 1/2 the conversation. Said snarky friend also wrote 1/2 of the conversation. Still, 1/2 + 1/2 = 1 Funny Email Exchange . . . at least in my opinion.

S

p.s. no, i'm not going to post the conversation on the blog . . . well, at least not today.

p.p.s - since I'm all about linking this week. Go and check out Nathan Bransford's post about themes schmemes!

p.p.p.s - check out Janet Reid's post about notes from the effective query class at SCWW

7 comments:

Jennifer Shirk said...

I LOVE witty and sparkly dialogue. It's my favorite to read and to write. Jenny Crusie and Bob Mayer can really have some great banter in real life and in their books.

Robyn Campbell said...

Scott, WOOT! You made me laugh with your Pinocchio reference and then the Walmart thing. Now that darn song is stuck in my head! Gee! Thanks a whole lot!

You got me to thinking. I'm going in today to examine my new WIP to make sure I have clever back and forth between my characters. In my story that I'm querying, it is two 13 year old girls and they have dialogue for their age. Which isn't to say it isn't sharp--for their age.

What a great post. I love all of your posts. I love coming into your brain(scary place, btw :)) and stealing them too. Whenever you get a slight tingling in the head, or a headache, you know I'm trying to get an idea of what to post for the next day. Bwa ha ha ha ha! I'll-be-back!

Tess said...

'I'm a real boy'

too funny

and, I try. I mean, I really try to have a little sas and snark in my characters conversations. It makes for good character development and fun reading (I hope!)

Lady Glamis said...

Scott, this is excellent:

I know the whole point of dialogue is to propel things forward, a natural progression, and all that jazz, but I firmly believe that the quirkiness of your characters, their inner snark so to speak, must shine forth as well. People have hum-drum conversations everyday. I don't bother to eavesdrop on those conversations. No fun, no fun at all. I love to eavesdrop on snarky conversations. I often find myself laughing at something that the people I'm eavesdropping on say.

Why? Because I recently discovered that my characters are a bit flat and need more life, and that the whole banter thing is just what they need. It introduces quirks and personality like nothing else! Thank you for this post. :)

Rebecca Knight said...

Great post, Scott--I totally agree :). Witty banter never gets old!

Scott said...

Jennifer - I'll have to check out Cruise and Mayer. I'll be googling in just a minute. : )

Robyn - laughter is the best medicine, after all. Oh, and please stay out of my brain. I went to the store and got some aluminum foil. Perhaps if I wrap it around my head, you won't be able to get in any more!

Tess - the more real the dialogue, the greater connection I have to the characters.

Lady Glamis - you're welcome. I think we (well, me) sometimes become so intent on telling our story, showing not telling, nix the adverbs, and everything else, that we (well, me again) sometimes create stilted conversations between our characters that have a tendency to drag the story down. I really think in - here, now, present day stories - that the dialogue needs to be quirky, hip, snarky, or whatever . . . at times to bring the reader in more deeply and connect them to the characters. : )

Rebecca - witty banter, like spice in Dune, is the source of life. Well, not totally, but it sure as heck makes things interesting!

S

ElanaJ said...

Banter is an awesome way to characterize. I love having my characters banter. And most of the time I'm arguing with them too!