Internal and External Dialog
I’ve written here before about the power of dialog to reveal character, advance plot, foreshadow events, make the back story more interesting and engage the reader. For me, one kind of dialog that is particularly daunting is internal dialog.
With permission of the author I would like to quote extensively from Susan G. Ferguson’s “Pearls” from her remarkable collection of short stories, Gaze. http://www.ninthmonthpublishing.com/books.html
I wanted so much to be a part of something that afternoon that the words, jarred loose by a glass of wine, tumbled from my lips like pearls from a bag. Round, shiny and hard, they bounced on the hardwood floor and around and over everywhere in the room where the bunch of us sat.
“What we ought to do is have a retreat at the farm,” I proposed to my new writer friends. “The kids — my adult children — have inherited the place.”
The farmhouse where I had once lived with their father and with them when they were babies had stood forlorn and empty for two years. I was taking care of it now, driving the ninety miles to check on things while the kids led their busy lives.
Everyone’s eyes were on me as I chattered.
“What do you think? It would be primitive. It would be cold and there won’t be enough water. And flies — this time of year there will be hundreds of dead flies. And no furniture. Well, some furniture, but no beds. Not beds like you’d expect. Sofas. And there’s no phone. But we should do this. It will be fun.”
Had I listened for one minute to what I was saying, I would have stopped and asked for a broom and a dustpan to sweep everything up. I should have listened to all the noise I was making, but I didn’t. I wanted to be part — and at that moment felt like I was, like I was close enough to these men and women that I could extend such an offer — that I just kept babbling.
As effective as the dialog is by itself, it is reinforced by the internal dialog the writer presents. The imagery is almost poetic. As a reader I ache with her need to belong and the words evoke memories of times where I tried ,and failed, to force myself to fit into a group that had no interest in accepting me.
I am struck by the vulnerability and courage of Ms. Ferguson in presenting her narrator and by extension herself in her neediness and lack of sophistication. One quality I find in excellent writers is their courage.
What qualities do you find in exceptional writing?