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Let the Blogs Speak

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“It’s quite a respectable death, being torn to pieces by women.” Black Friday at Walmart? Mitt after his “binders” comment? Bieber on any given day?

Lord, Help Us

No, it’s actually just my luck of the draw for today’s WordPress Daily Prompt, which suggests that we open the nearest book to page 82 and use the third sentence in a post. I don’t usually do the Daily Prompt because life is short and there’s so much other stuff to write about. But how could I not, with a sentence like that?

Daily Prompt: Connect the Dots.

The Nearest Book

Talk is Good

Perhaps I’ve just been in the Hopkins Writing Program for too long, but where I’m headed with that quote is to the importance of dialogue. Author Storm Jameson could have spent a lot of ink describing “eyes as black as ebony” or “hair as fine as dandelion fuzz,” but instead she gives us this:

After noting the respectable death aspect, above, our hero continues,

“But I’m an ordinary reasonable man and I should prefer an ordinary death.”

“Unfortunately, I can’t tear out your brain and read it,” she said drily.

“Dear Marie. I’m sure you would if you could.”

I have no idea what this book is about or who these people are, but in just those few words, we learn so much about the characters!

Why? Because that’s how humans relate. With words. Body language, facial expressions, thoughts behind the eyes – these are mostly absorbed at the subconscious level. But conversation is the leading edge of a character, be it fiction or narrative nonfiction or real life. In the blogosphere, it’s basically *all* words.

That’s why it’s odd that bloggers often do not make use of dialogue. I wish they did.

Dialogue breaks up a page and provides white space – breathing space, an open door for the reader to actually enter into the story. Unbroken blocs of text are uninviting. One feels lectured and excluded.

If you can’t find quotes or conversations to use, make it up. As in:

My readers are probably thinking, “She’s got a lot of nerve, telling us how to write a blog. She’s only been blogging a few months!”

 How to Make Up Real Conversations

  • Read writers who do dialogue well. I hear that Elmore Leonard is a king, though I haven’t read much of him. I’ll bet some of your favorite writers are good at it, or they wouldn’t be your faves.
  • Read your dialogue out loud. Better yet, ask someone to read a scene with you.
  • Tell stories in different voices for practice. Use your imagination to give voice to natural objects. Ask a rock to tell you its story. Interview a leaf about its life story. It will have a different “voice” than the rock. A feather?
  • Recall a painful scene from your life. Or a joyful one. Write the dialogue just as you remember it. Deep feelings burn words into us. Recollection helps us process, and it also facilitates writing with real emotion. Tapping into memory and emotion allows us to enter our characters with insight and compassion. Even the most vile person can’t be all bad.
  • Read, read, read! All different kinds of books. I tend towards old, musty novels, but if I only wrote dialogue like Anthony Trollope or Henry James, I wouldn’t have such a huge following. (Oh, wait – never mind.)

    English: Anthony Trollope

    English: Anthony Trollope (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Photograph of Henry James.

English: Photograph of Henry James. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How to Remember Really Real Conversations

Nonfiction dialogue is harder than fictional because you don’t get to create your characters. They are real. You can still add depth to your dialogue by adding some actions to flesh out their personalities, thusly:

“Well, screw them!” she said, sipping her mint tea. To me, that says she’s complex. Feisty, but savoring a gentle tea.

Do the best you can to remember dialogue as it happened, but don’t sweat it. Your readers know you can’t be quoting exactly; just don’t make stuff up. And you have to expect that your sister’s going to remember it differently. That’s life.

I find that spending time in meditation or taking a walk – with a notepad, of course – can free up my mind to recall dialogue.

Read a Book

Well, that’s more than enough. Following a Daily Prompt should not eat up half the day. But apparently, I had a lot to say. I hope that the people in your blogs do, too!

Now please go read a book. A real one, with pages. And for more on that, visit this great post that was Freshly Pressed this week:

A single page.

But before you settle in, take a minute to share your hints about crafting realistic dialogue. Here’s a spot for your words of wisdom:

Camera Captures Weird America

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There’s one thing we can all agree on this election eve – thank GOD it’s just about over. Abigail’s wail covers the land…

In New Hampshire, where political signage is as thick as maple syrup, one of my neighbors shared his thoughts:

Tired of the Crap

But fear not – if somebody does put their political crap on your property, you can always clean it up with these attractive presidential candidate poop bags. Seriously.

That’s Just Wrong

Yes, friends, I think we can safely say that election years no longer bring out the best in America. Wrapped in red state and blue state labels and bathed in the green light of corporate-funded television ads, few are shining with selfless patriotism; not politicians, institutions, or individuals. I, myself, can get angry, anxious, self-righteous, sarcastic, and super-cynical.

Several cases in point:

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2012/08/31/heal-the-planet-absurd/

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/conventional-wisdom/

We all get weird every four years.

Weird America

Weird Sushi

I plan on spending the evening of November 6th with friends,

and I hope to be quaffing celebratory champagne.

Since I *AM* concerned about healing the planet and slowing the rise of the oceans, I guess you know who I’m voting for. There — my last jab of the political season. I’ll be nice now. Please vote.

Hey! You Guys with the Microphones — Fire!

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President Obama and Mitt Romney continue to fiddle while Rome – and the rest of the planet – burns. I worked in politics long enough to understand: we mustn’t upset THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. But seriously, I think the people know.

As usual, there’s a gap between what the politicians are talking about and what the people are talking about.

Most everyone I know is talking about the weather, and not in vague some-weather-we’re-having terms. “This is the weirdest weather…this is getting spooky…what is UP with no winter?” and so on. Granted, many of my friends are environmentally inclined, but I’m not talking about them.

I’m talking about regular old neighbors in Maryland. I’m talking about my conservative friends in New Hampshire, whose roads just washed out (again), and who first can’t hay because of rain, and later lose their crops to drought. They had only one real snow last year.

I’m talking about people whose nearby forests have either been devastated by wildfires or devoured by pests that did not exist there a few decades ago.

http://blog.aarp.org/2012/08/21/the-trees-are-screaming-why-arent-we/

I’m talking about my friends who farm having to change their planting and harvest seasons.

http://thelettuceedge.wordpress.com/2012/10/09/weather-drama/

It’s happening folks, and we all know it.

A new Pew Research poll finds that 67 percent of Americans believe there’s solid evidence the Earth’s average temperature has been getting warmer over the past few decades, up 4% since last year and 10% in the past three years. Another poll by Yale and George Mason University shows that 84 percent of Democrats, 68 percent of independents and 52 percent of Republicans think global warming should be a priority.

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/09/17/168510/as-climate-change-crisis-looms.html

Leadership Vacuum

So why aren’t the political candidates talking about this?

I think it’s the job of our nation’s leaders to connect the dots for the public. Hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, severe storms & power outages, spreading insect-borne exotic diseases: all exactly what the scientists predicted.

After one debate, Esquire’s political blogger noted, “…we have not had one extended conversation about the most pressing environmental catastrophe since the meteor wiped out the dinosaurs. On Tuesday night, we had two guys arguing about who’s a bigger friend to coal, about who will allow the most oil drilling on federal land, and about who will best extract the most carbon-based fuels out from under the country over the next four years.” Climate Change in 2012 Election – 2012’s Incredible Disappearing Issue: Climate Change – Esquire.

Romney thinks that turning it into a joke will play to his base. Obama, at least, managed to respond at the Democratic convention that “Climate change is not a hoax.” This remark brought the crowd to its feet.

Let’s Admit it and Move On

I suppose part of the problem is the American psyche. As a nation, we don’t like to admit to imperfection. “Oops” is not in our vocabulary.

See more thoughts on this:https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/what-color-is-shame/

A recent New York Times analysis concludes that it’s impossible for candidates, or presidents, to tell the truth because, “Americans demand constant reassurance that their country, their achievements and their values are extraordinary.” According to presidential historian Robert Dallek, “People in this country want the president to be a cheerleader, an optimist, the herald of better times ahead. It’s almost built into our DNA.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/21/sunday-review/candidates-and-the-truth-about-america.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0

Given this genetic predisposition towards exceptionalism, I doubt America will ever express official regret over our overwhelming contribution to greenhouse gases. For a long while, we didn’t know. It would be OK, if we just said “oops,” changed our behavior, and stepped into global leadership with our dignity restored.

In this regard, Obama deserves huge credit for finally, finally, raising the miles-per-gallon standards for automobiles and for investing in renewable energy technologies. Perhaps too little and too late, but it’s something.  He had to use executive authority, of course, because God forbid the Congress should act.

Why isn’t Obama on his soapbox talking about this?

It’s Called Denial. Let’s Get Over It.

Please, please, you people with the microphones — mind the gap. We know our streets are flooded; we know people in Texas are dying from West Nile; we know we have tornadoes where they’ve never been before. We see the Katrinas and the tsunamis.

Talk to us, for God’s sake!

Why didn’t the debate moderators at least ask the candidates why they’re not talking about it?

Part of leadership is talking about hard truths. Bombs and terrorists, yes, those are terrible threats. Outside threats. This is an inside job.

It’s called denial. Let’s get over it.

President Obama, maybe you don’t want to talk about this during the election because some voters, duped by corporate ad campaigns and extremist anti-science campaigns, think there’s no such thing. I get that.

Newsflash: They aren’t going to vote for you anyway.

Mr. President, I urge you, I beg you: if you win on November sixth, start talking about climate change again on November seventh. It’s your job to mind the gap.

Heal the Planet? Absurd.

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Why, oh why, did I watch Romney’s speech? I guess if I’m going to write with spirit, I might as well write in anger once in a while. Anger is usually a defense for me, a denial of deep sadness. And sadness seems an appropriate reaction to that convention. Oh there were the lighter moments, such as watching Clint Eastwood do whatever the heck it was he thought he was doing with that chair. Offensive, yes, disrespectful and juvenile, but kind of a giggle because it was so nonsensical. I just hope he made it out of the building OK. And then there was the over-the-top pandering to women, Latinos, and African-Americans – that was so blatant, it was kind of funny.

But the underlying message of the whole shebang seemed to be, “Americans love money.” The notion that America is all about who gets the most stuff is now, apparently, something to be proud of. Oh yeah, we love our kids, but mostly for their earning potential. They must make more money than their parents, or they are failures. I kept telling myself to calm down, I was over-reacting; it was just politics. Until the end of the speech, when Romney dropped what has to be one of the most ignorant, terrifying statements ever made at a convention. And that’s saying a lot.

“President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans,” said Romney, and then paused dramatically while his followers figured out that they were supposed to scoff at climate change. Then he finished his sentence, “and heal the planet.” Oh my God, you’re kidding! What kind of a nutcase would want to take care of the planet we live on?? Oh no, Romney has much bigger aspirations. “MY promise is to help you and your family.” Like curbing climate change won’t help people? Yes, it’s true (and highly unfair, IMHO) that the effects of global warming won’t be as lethal for North America as they will be for less developed nations, which have contributed relatively little to carbon emissions. But still, don’t the drought, heat waves, wildfires, West Nile, and more frequent and severe hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes cause Romney to at least raise a well-groomed eyebrow? Is he so out of touch?

Yes he is, and he’s not the only one. I think the reason I was so bent out of shape by his willful denial of reality is that earlier in the evening, I had inadvertently ended up in a debate with a “friend of a friend” on Facebook. He had started on health care reform, trashing “Obamacare.” I don’t know why, but I piped up that I had just received an $800 check from my insurance company because they had not met the new standards and spent too much on admin. I also said that I was glad my brother with a pre-existing condition would be able to get care. Well, then this guy smelled liberal, so he moved on to abortion, which I happen to think that reasonable people can disagree on. We did. Then I said that I thought climate change was a more important issue in the scheme of things. “Climate change isn’t climate change,” he wrote. “It’s caused by solar flares.” OMG. I ended the discussion and turned on the convention. So I was primed to erupt.

No more politics for a while. Bad for blood pressure. I said in my last post that I couldn’t seem to get worked up about it anymore. Guess I was wrong. Not too long ago, a friend suggested that my “overreaction” to anti-environmentalists was a deep-seated issue within me. I did some inner healing work on it, following the agitation and anger back to childhood memories of escaping from my dysfunctional alcoholic family to the safety of the outdoors. Catching guppies and frogs in a nearby pond had restored my sanity. Nature was my refuge, and it saved my life. So today when I deem nature threatened, I fear I might not survive. Deep-seated inner angst, indeed. But in the case of climate change, I’m afraid it’s not displaced.

Noted Climate “skeptic” changes his tune in new scientific study:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/30/opinion/the-conversion-of-a-climate-change-skeptic.html?pagewanted=all

Some of the latest:

http://ncronline.org/blogs/making-difference/climate-change-its-real-and-its-dangerous

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