You may be angry, you may be sad, you may be livid. It might be about something that happened yesterday, or ten years ago.
Now, this can be tough, but ‘eat the cold’: look that moment in the face and plot it out as a series of events. In other words, instead of telling us how you felt, tell us what happened.
Next, step into character. Be the person who caused the most pain. What motivated him to act this way? Test out different scenarios.
What happens if you handled things differently? What have you learnt? Would you act differently next time?
Digest the emotions just as your body digests food. Get rid of the junk and keep the energy.
This is your characters’ story and if they are well-conceived, they will be consistent and in their own way, predictable. Trust them to act and react according to their own values and beliefs.
The best characters have a sense of humour. Let them have fun at your expense. Forget your carefully planned outline and hold on. It’s time for the helter-skelter. Enjoy the ride.
Conversations must hide instead of explain. Hide when you can reveal. Lie when you can tell the truth.
Allow your characters to misunderstand, to talk at cross purposes, to interrupt, to hesitate.
Direct the dialogue off stage. Call for the waiter to pay a bill, call to the bartender to order another beer. Allow the action to interrupt the flow.
Have your characters answer questions with questions. Like “Did you steal the picture?” with “What do you take me for?”
Allow your characters to talk to themselves. “What am I doing here?”
Just a few ideas to help you make your dialogue endlessly fascinating.
So you have to write a bit of dialogue. Where to start?
With the first draft, dialogue doesn't need to be subtle. Write on the nose. They say what they think regardless of consequences. Enjoy! This part can be fun. Just sit back and watch as the fireworks explode.
So what to do on the second draft? Two things. Watch what they do when they talk. The conversation isn't just about what they say; it is also about that they do. So pay attention. What do they do? Turn their back, sit down, squint?
Next, work out what they are hiding. Characters will always hide their true meaning behind their words. The subtext is important.
Learn from the masters. Watch a politician evading questions. Politicians can never be seen to be losing. Someone else is always to blame. They believe themselves to be the masters of deception. As if!