Writing Dialog

Photo of a lonely woman sitting in front of a pond.
© Can Stock Photo / Escander81
and experiencing my character’s emotions

One of my cousins was a soap opera actress. She once told me how she experienced her characters’ emotions as she portrayed them. She said performing emotionally charged scenes often left her feeling drained.

I’ve found the same is true for me as a novel writer. With nearly every character I create, I experience their emotions as I write. Writing the dialog is what drives those emotions.

I’m currently working on my next contemporary romance novel, The Letter. Danny, a lead character, has a serious problem. Martha, a woman from his past, refuses to let him go. I’ve been building up to a major confrontation between the two for sometime. This past week I finally wrote the chapter where their conflict reaches its crescendo. I expected this scene to be fun to write. Martha has caused Danny a great deal of grief, so I wanted him to feel vindicated. However, as I wrote the dialog, I started feeling emotions I didn’t expect to feel.

Danny begins the conversation in a civil tone. He tells Martha he wants no further contact, but an obsessed Martha refuses to listen. As the scene plays out, Danny becomes increasingly frustrated. His tone becomes more harsh as he tries to get through to her. As his words became more harsh, I started feeling anxious myself. Harsh words, even when justified, can hurt like a fist. Some of the verbiage brought back bad memories of arguments I’ve had in my own past. By the time I finished writing the scene I felt as if I’d been sucker punched.

I planned on writing Martha out of the story after this scene, but now I think I’ll keep her around. She has a real knack for pissing people off, and talent like hers shouldn’t go to waste. While another antagonist will become the main focus for the remainder of the story, Martha will seek revenge on those who she thinks turned Danny against her.


Marina Martindale

Update: The Letter is now available on Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com.

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