Why writers need to read “Conversation” by Theodore Zeldin

Conversation by Theodore ZeldinWhat if dialogue was more than just a vehicle to move your story forward? What if your dialogue was a genuine conversation between your characters –  something that changed them, something that made them think, something that woke them up or broke them down, opened their horizons or led to their demise. 

Theodore Zeldin’s Conversations is a little book that explores the power of  a good conversation. It includes conversations of love, family and where we work. It also considers what technology is doing to our conversations and what happens when conversations cause the meeting of minds. The book was first published in 1998 so doesn’t include our current conversation tools like social media (have to wonder what Mr. Zeldin will make of that).

So when you’re writing dialogue think conversation instead.

If it helps, think about the people you relish meeting over an extended cappuccino. What kind of conversations do you have with these people? How do they make you think? What about you, do they change? Do they force you to open your mind or do they make you want to stand up and fight? Do you feel comfortable because you’re covering old, easy and familiar ground or do you feel your reality shift before your coffee is half way cooled? What bits of you freak out a little when they make their point?

Now think about the people you might like, but the thought of an extended train journey with them fills you with dread because you know exactly what the conversation is going to be about. These conversations are often one-sided. The people you have them with don’t listen, they don’t think, they’re repetitive, they’re dull, they’re predictable. You know that the conversation you have with them today will be the same one you’ll have with them next year.

So what kind of conversations do your characters have? Do they move you? Will they move your reader? Or is dialogue in your book just that… words exchanged to more a story forward, but not actually change hearts and minds.

Just a thought really. Have a look at Zeldin’s book and take a minute to consider conversations.

Happy writing today
Tina