Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Monday, September 13, 2010

Fear of Heights

I used to have a terrible fear of heights. Whether standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon or looking out a window on a skyscraper, I’d get a queasy feeling deep in my gut and a lightheaded sensation between my ears. Don’t even talk to me about airliner takeoffs and landings. But I finally overcame it.

You see, I volunteered for airborne training in the U.S. Army. Jumping out of perfectly good airplanes and all that.

As writers, we all have aspects of our craft that are stronger and weaker than others. Writing dialogue was a real problem for me when I first tried my hand at fiction. Terribly stilted and everybody sounded the same. My critique group pointed this out. Their suggestions: study good dialogue writers and practice a lot.

So I read a lot of Elmore “Dutch” Leonard, Robert B. Parker, Walter Mosley, Carl Hiaasen, Max Barry and Richard Price. Also, I took my faithful yellow pad out to coffee in the morning, and wouldn’t leave the coffee house until I’d written at least a couple pages of dialogue. No narrative. No attributions. Just pure dialogue.

Gradually, I improved Maybe I’m wrong, but now I feel that dialogue has become one of my strengths.

Because I worked at it.

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