Saturday, June 8, 2013

Maggie Sefton on Dialogue and Character

Please welcome our weekend guest Maggie Sefton!

The 11th in Maggie Sefton’s New York Times Bestselling Kelly Flynn Mystery series, CLOSE KNIT KILLER, was released  June 4th.


Writing dialogue has always come easily for me.  I think it’s because I talk a lot.  J  Anyone who knows me would probably snicker, then agree.  I do enjoying talking with people.  Hey. . .I’m part Irish, so I come by that Gift of the Gab naturally. Gift or curse, I do enjoy conversation.  However, one of the things fiction writers quickly learn is that conversation is NOT dialogue.  Not in fiction.  Dialogue has to move the story along.

But Dialogue can also be used to help describe a character, so that person comes alive for the reader. Everyone has a way of speaking, a speech pattern of sorts, a rhythm.  Some speak in short staccato sentences.  Even one-word sentences.  Others use longer sentences, clauses, and phrases. . .and on and on.  Once characters  “walk onstage” in my head, then I can picture them.  But I don’t really know them until they open their mouths and start talking. 

After you’ve been with the character for a while, you can hear their voice in your head just like you see them in your mind. And that’s when you can transfer the character’s voice onto the page when you write.  Do they make jokes when they talk with others?  Are they excitable?  Are they bossy? Do they get mad easily?  Are they worriers by nature?  Are they calm and thoughtful?  Or, have a take charge personality?

There are characters with all those traits in my Kelly Flynn Mystery series set in the Rocky Mountains of Northern Colorado and involving the lively regulars at the  trendy knitting shop, Lambspun and other friends.  Last year’s hardcover release,  CAST ON, KILL OFF,  is now out in paperback, and I’ve used all of the above character traits to help the characters come alive for the readers:

“How could she do that so close to the wedding?” Megan shook the bag again, clearly indignant.  “Now she can’t fit into the dress!”  --Kelly’s friend, bride-to-be Megan, talking about her bridesmaid sister who just learned she’s pregnant. 

“Whooooooeeeeee, that sounds pretty bad.”  --Colorado cowgirl Jayleen Swinson, alpaca rancher, young 60, and fifteen years sober.

“Sounds like one bad hombre.” --Curt Stackhouse, silver-haired, barrel-chested Colorado cattle rancher.  (Both are talking about one of the murder suspects).

Back off, Blondie!”  --Kelly Flynn, in the Sunset Saloon, a cowboy bar, where the groomsmen were partying, upon finding a tipsy girl hitting on her boyfriend Steve

Greg sneered.  “Feisty, huh?  Kelly eats feisty for breakfast.”  He dug out his wallet and dropped money into the hat.  “Twenty on the brunette.”  --Greg Carruthers, one of Kelly’s friends and a groomsman, betting on the action at the bar 

“Darlin’. . .you had me at ‘Back off!’” –Tall Cowboy in the saloon, on one knee, Stetson over his heart, trying to tempt Kelly away from Steve. 

As you can see, my motto with dialogue is “Go with the flow.”  By that, I mean the characters’ flow.  When they’re talking, my job is to write it down and keep MY mouth shut.  I do my best.  And. . .I know no shame.    You can read more about CAST ON, KILL OFF and the new release CLOSE KNIT KILLER at my website 

Maggie Sefton is the author of the New York Times and Barnes & Noble Bestselling Kelly Flynn Knitting Mysteries.  The first in her new Washington, DC-based suspense trilogy, DEADLY POLITICS, was released in August 2012.  POISONED POLITICS will be out this August.

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