I’m in that falling-in-love stage with my new book–where the sense of discovery is exhilarating, and I’m sort of gobsmacked at a new character who really came to life, all with one move. I tried to dress him very nicely. I wanted to give him an expensive suit, shoes so fine, they’d cost most people’s monthly salary. Instead, he ended up wearing wrinkled khakis and a stained and horrifically ugly plaid shirt. He chose this on purpose, and his sardonic voice is crystal clear. Particularly since he’s setting out to purposefully annoy the hell out of my heroine.
He’s got his own phrasing, and I’m not entirely sure where he came from. I didn’t set out to consciously create him the way he showed up, but he’s so much more fun this way. Bobbie Faye almost immediately refers to him as a walking pile of laundry, and I hope you just imagined a very disheveled man, hair standing on end.
But maybe it was his own phrasing that did it, that made him suddenly breathe and move for me. With his first bit of dialog, I realized who he was. And I love that aspect of reading others’ work–seeing a particularly adept way of building an image with a colorful, evocative phrase.
"…eyeing real estate in the neighborhood of My, These Kids Today…"
— Heather, on Go Fug Yourself
I love to eavesdrop and read blogs and jot notes from family and friends and my God, the notes I have from so many favorite books. They all inspire. (Okay, I have so many from books, it’s insane.) It’s sometimes a really stunning description, or sometimes it’s one phrase or a sentence or two that encapsulates the character, like:
"And some days, you just get your blues on."
— clerk at copy center
"My foot [hurt so much, it] started developing its own gravitational pull."
"I was praying he’d shoot me so I wouldn’t have to burn to death. Instead, he looked at me and said, ‘None of this would have happened if you’d just agreed to have kids’."
— J. D. Rhoades, Safe and Sound
"Just because I’m yelling louder doesn’t mean I know what I’m talking about… wait…"
— clearly confused man arguing with his date at the Circle K
Now, I could go through every book by every writer on this site and quite a few others from our list of links on here and post examples, but I’m going to ask you all to contribute. If you’re a writer, please post at least one of your own phrases / sentences that is evocative, and then post an example from any other writer (or two! mentors! favorites!). It doesn’t have to be dialog — it can be a description, metaphor — whatever worked for you. For all the readers out there, please grab one of your favorites and give us some examples. I know you’ll inspire us!
By the way, a whole bunch of mystery/suspense/caper/romance writers are all going to be at Mystery Lovers Bookshop for a fantastic signing event this week — on Thursday, April 17th. It’s going to rock, this event, and I hope if you’re in the area, you’ll come by and say hello.