All writers have a process that allows them to create. However, the art of "Writing" is often mistaken for that "Process." Hopefully this blog explains the difference, and inspires people to develop their crafts, become writers, or just keep on writing.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Owning Your Dialogue

"Preem chrome, choom!"

I am sure that line makes little sense to you, and that's fine. A little grammatical forensics might tell you that by its position and the punctuation, "choom" is probably some kind of nickname, but otherwise, you are probably in the dark about the rest of it. That's okay for now - the writer should know this going in, and quuickly own it. What the reader should get out of such a line is that the world they are stepping into is significantly different than what they are used to, and that they should open themselves up to a new world. As a writer, it is your responsibility to give them that world. 

This sci-fi world courtesy of CyberPunk 2077
The line is some jargon from CyberPunk 2077, and translates as complimenting a friend's cybernetic equipment. In the sci-fi literature surrounding this world, words like preem, choom, scop, corpo and klep are commonplace, though initially make no sense to the reader. They do, however, serve as excellent tools into creating the technological dystopia of the future. The real secret is understanding how to incorporate such words into a story where the reader is very much in the year 2021. 

The first part is context. Remember back in school when we were taught a word and given a sentence that offered a good framework to understand it? Example: Excoriate: "He stood in front of the corporation's headquarters, loudly excoriating the evils of their economic tyranny." This tells us first and foremost that excoriate is what you do to regarding evil things. Furthermore, you do it verbally. We might not know its exact definition, but we know enough to relate it to what we do know, like denounce or trash-talk. Close enough to get the meaning of the sentence.

My opening line in this piece means very little on its own, so it is important to weave meaning and context all around it. This makes the grammatical forensics a little easier - particularly if this is early in the writing and the reader isn't quite sold yet. This is not always easy to do, and it is often best done gradually. If there is a lot of world to take in, a traditional route is to throw a jargon-heavy line out to set the stage for the reader, offer some context, then gradually drip-feed more dialogue throughout the work. Let's look at our first line and see how context might flesh it out for the reader.

"Preem chrome, choom!" I said excitedly to my best friend, examining the silver sheen on his brand-new, top-of-the-line cybernetic arm. "Really preem!"

Now we have a better understanding about the words - preem is a complimentary modifier, chrome is about something metallic like a cybernetic arm, and choom is likely a friend. A lot to take in, but when the context is tied to it, it becomes part of the reader's vocabulary as well.

I have referred to A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess as an excellent example of creating a world through dialogue. If you read the last chapter first, before understanding the different terms, it is all but illegible. If you walk in with an open mind and prepare for an adventure, well, you are treated to a full, rich, alternate world.

It's worth trying, choom.

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