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Monday, March 30, 2009

Lunch with a friend

Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, I had lunch with a different friend. The experience gave me an opportunity not only to connect with friends, but also to study dialogue and how each person had unique patterns in her speech. One prattled on in a long monologue about her life, her experiences, her challenges, her hopes, and her plans. One sat quietly and asked questions of me, and I found myself the one prattling for much of the lunch. One had a give-and-take conversational style. She said something about her experiences and then asked about mine. I spoke of mine and then brought up something that reminded her of another subject for discussion. Three friends, all grown women, and all with unique conversational styles.

Do we think of the conversation style of our characters when we write? Do we consider that some of them might sound self-involved, while others appear selfless? Do we ensure that each character chooses unique wording and sentence structure that differs from the other characters? Probably not. In most of the manuscripts I edit, the characters sound (not so surprisingly) like the narrator, who also sounds a great deal like the author, naturally, yet dialogue is an area that should set characters apart and show their differences.

As writers we must stretch and search for new styles of speech so that each of our characters has unique traits, not only physically and mentally, but also conversationally.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Scorching Summer Down Under

Many of my readers know my sister, also a writer, lives in Australia, thirteen time zones away, where their seasons are the opposite of ours. With the wonder of the Internet she and I stay in close contact, and several readers have asked if she’s been okay during the horrendous bushfires going on now. She and her husband live in Canberra, the capital, whereas the fires have been ravaging the state of Victoria, farther to the south, far enough away that she’s safe, this time. A few years back, however, Canberra had fires, and she and her house narrowly escaped harm.

Several of you have asked how you can help the many displaced and grieving Australians, and the Salvation Army in Australia (Salvo) has been the most helpful and fiscally responsible, so here’s the Salvo Web site link, where you can donate online: I hope you will contribute.

Jean’s latest report is sad, hopeful, interesting, and written with her Australian sense of humor and British spelling, so here goes:

“It was so sweet of you to pass on the Salvo address to friends. I told my Salvo friend, and she just got goose bumps to think people so far away are thinking of us. The death toll is 209, but there will be a few more to be discovered. The fires are still burning, and I heard that the fire fighters are working to manage the 1,100 km front before the winds shift for the worse on Friday. Can you imagine a fire over 1,000 km across? They have evacuated one more town, but that seems to be contained now. It’s still wait and see. We had the funeral yesterday of a Canberra fire fighter that died – a tree fell on him. So far he’s the only fire fighter, which is amazing. The people in the three towns that have totally disappeared are still camped at evacuation centres while they wait to get back to their properties or get accommodation elsewhere. It’s summer, so they’re all camped out on the football oval with lots of support. We had a national day of mourning Sunday, and all the churches held memorial services. It was really big everywhere. Lots of politicians and tears, not that they go together. On Monday, the Parliament member from the devastated areas stood up to make a speech in Parliament and just wept. Out of the 209 deaths, 198 were in her electorate. The PM (who’s in the opposite party) held her and promised to work personally with her to get people back on their feet. She has presented a list of ideas, such as helping some of the traders set up Internet stores until they can have a brick one back so there’s some income coming in, and his office is working on it. It’s nice to see the parties playing together when it’s important.”

You may know that Australia is one of the world’s driest continents, and bushfires are common and even normal there. Some seeds in Australia cannot germinate until they have been exposed to fire, but all that knowledge doesn’t make it any less devastating when the fires hit populated areas.

I want to thank all your folks who inquired about my sister and especially thank those who donated money to help displaced Australians. The world truly is one.

Yours in writing,
Bobbie Christmas ( or )
Author of triple-award-winning _Write In Style_ (Union Square Publishing), owner of Zebra Communications, and director of The Writers Network