Consider this a cover reveal, and consider me a VERY HAPPY AUTHOR!!!!
Meet Colt Stafford... A Lower Manhattan hedge fund manager, an Ivy League graduate of the esteemed Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, a man who has proven himself by gaining riches and prominence...
A man who's lost the cowboy within.
But I help him find that lost soul, that gentleman of the west, a man with a code of honor...
But this post isn't about the story of "Back in the Saddle". (Although it's a very good story, and you will love it in about 4 months!!!)
It's about writin' cowboy and sometimes not talkin' cowboy, and keeping characters in proper format for their part, and switching back and forth.
Hi, I'm Ruthy and getting dialogue right is huge to me.
Every author has their idiosyncrasy. Mine is to make characters sound distinct, reflecting their age, stage, ethnicity, character arc, education or lack thereof and what region they might be representing. Because to me, that's what makes a book S-I-N-G with reality, grab hold of hearts, mind and souls, because it's not just the written word... it's the way they "speak" the written word. For today's exercise, I'm going to do a comparison of spoken lines, and why they're different, and how that reflects the character involved.
Here's my take on the Snowflake Method of dialogue, not to be confused with other Snowflake Methods of anything, that would give me agita. This is the dialogue snowflake simile:
CHARACTERS ARE LIKE SNOWFLAKES. NO TWO ARE ALIKE.
Subtle differences matter. Colt is just back home to help his sick father, and he's licking his wounds from a market crash and wide-reaching Ponzi scheme in Lower Manhattan that tied up a bulk of his funds. As you read the following, these are examples of how "set-up" and not just spoken words are part of what set characters apart in a well-crafted book. Characters are all answering the question, "How do you expect to make it through the day?"
Colt, age 35, raised on a ranch, undergrad at University of Oregon, double Masters from Wharton Business School: "What I expect is that I'm going to be dog tired and plenty sore by the time I hit that pillow tonight, but nothing I couldn't handle before." He held Nick's gaze and didn't waver. "And nothing I'm afraid to handle now."
Hobbs, mid-sixties, 10th grade education, born to work range: "Well, if it's any o' your business, which it ain't... I 'spect I'll end up dog tired and bone-weary by the time I fall into bed." He held Nick's gaze as tough and hard as he had twenty years before. "Nothin' I couldn't handle then. Or now."
Sam Stafford, owner of the Double S, tough, taciturn, aggressive, struggling to be a better person. And it's a REAL struggle for Sam. "I've been tired and sore before, and never let it stop me from doing what needs to be done. Handled it then." He aimed a steel-edged look at his middle son. "I'll handle it just as well now."
Nick, age 33, Colt's younger brother, raised on the Double S and stayed on the ranch, helping develop a nationally recognized embryo transplant program for superior meat-producing cattle: "I'm not afraid to get tired, sore or dirty if that's what we need to get the job done." He kept his gaze on Colt, but tipped the brim of his hat down, ever so slightly, a minimal challenge. But still a challenge. "Whatever it takes."
Angelina, raised by Ecuadoran immigrant parents, college educated Seattle detective, effective at role play for undercover work. (Now Angelina is a little different because she's got two identities. When she's Angelina, the Latina cook and house manager, she speaks with some Spanglish and a more thoughtful immigrant-style speech. When she's herself, she uses hints of Latina from being raised by Spanish-speaking/English speaking parents, but her speech is more All-American conversational English. So that was tricky...) As Angelina: "It will, perhaps, make me tired and sore, but by the day's end it will be a job well done. And that is the end I seek."
As Detective Mary Angela Castiglione: She leaned close-- real close-- and he'd heard the term snapping eyes before, but he'd never really visualized it.
Now he did.
She held his gaze, held it hard. "I'll get through this like I've gotten through everything else life has handed me over the past few years, and if I'm a little tired and sore by the end of the day, I'll deal with it. Got it?"
As Isabo Castiglione, Angelina's widowed mother: "I will, of course, get through this as I have so many things because the Lord, my God has strengthened me. His will and grace surround me and offer me solace when the night grows long. It is in Him, I rest."
As Murt McMurty, former Double S Ranch manager, a man who tried to retire... and simply couldn't stay away, born to die in the saddle: "I've been tired and sore before. Expect to be again. Pass the biscuits."
As Trey Stafford, the youngest Stafford son, a country music superstar who owns a ranch in the hills of Virginia but rarely sees it: Trey faced Nick, peaceable as always, and that in itself was an aggravating experience. "I can sit saddle as long as I need to, and as good as any." He shrugged, cowboy-easy, making Nick wonder if he was as mellow as he appeared, or if it was just good acting. "If aching bones keep me up tonight, I'll find a place under a star-soaked sky and strum notes until a few of them make sense." He smiled then, right at Nick, and cuffed his arm. "And I'll make sure I dedicate it to you, all right?"
The art of creating dialogue reflective of the characters is by structuring the setting of the conversation (the action beats, or whatever you call them) to reflect that person... and then keeping their choice of words in character.
Now if anyone tells you all kids sound alike, laugh at them. The art of creating realistic children in your stories should never be minimized. If 75% of your readers are MOTHERS OR GRANDMOTHERS, then you need to be spot on while creating children.
Or don't use them. Honestly, if it's alien to you, and it doesn't feel right, minimize your use of kids in stories.
I've got three kids in this first book. Angelina's son Noah (age 3 and speaks well, complete sentences with an occasional stutter)
Cheyenne Stafford, Nick's oldest daughter, age 8.
Dakota Stafford, Nick's younger daughter, age 5.
Noah's speech is advanced because he's been raised in a solitary environment with his grandmother. She speaks with intent and few contractions in precise English as a second language style, so Noah's full sentences and enunciation are due to her influence.
Cheyenne is typical in-your-face American kid, with attitude. So when Cheyenne talks, she has a bite, a snark, a thread of anger over her mother's abandonment and her father's stubborn, boots-in-the-mud edicts.
Dakota is six years old, and she's a charismatic little thing, eager to please while she quietly breaks rules... she's just way better at it than her older sister because she appears to appease.
And by the end of the story, I've eased up on Noah's precision speech because now he's around other kids and adults and he's acclimating.
Cheyenne loses some of her snark, but not much because I need some for BOOK 2!!!
And Dakota stay's pretty much in character because she's not challenged by anything directly.
And she gets a kitten, reason enough right there for her to be nice, right?
What is your biggest challenge with dialogue? Or what are the subtle differences you fall down on?
Give us a shout about this, about cowboys, about holiday crazy, or the GREAT HARLEQUIN SALE going on right now!!!
All of our Love Inspired books are $1.99 for e-readers of all sorts! Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Google, whatever device you use: $1.99/book!!!! For $10 investment you can get 5 Ruthy books!!!!!
You can get all SIX "Men of Allegany County" books for less than $12!!!!! A-Stinkin'-Mazing!
You can get all SIX "Kirkwood Lake" books for less than $12!!!!!
Stock up time on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Google... you name it, they've got it!
And I'm looking to pick three readers today, three readers for "Back in the Saddle" who are willing to have a review ready to post on release day in March....
So let me know in the comments if you'd like to be tossed into the cat dish as a reader! I sure would appreciate it!
Coffee and cake inside.... and a pot of tea, as well!
ruthloganherne.com or come and cook with her at the Yankee Belle Cafe today!