on dialogue and borrowing and truth

“I’m not sure I’m happy with how I write dialogue,” I told my co-author.

“I think you do dialogue, just fine,” he replied.

“Maybe . . . I’ll go back to it. I’m just not sure I captured what you were saying at the time.”

“I think you capture it just fine.”

Our regular writing meetings via phone or video chat have become an important dialogue on multiple levels. Maybe most important, it gives a poke and a deadline of some kind. I’m responsible to someone else and a specific upcoming event. Just as useful is the actual feedback, which is interesting to me as we are writing about the process of Critical Review in some of our work, and trying to explain what this means. I think we’ll learn more about this as we continue to put it into practice, which includes telling each other that we’ve missed the mark. In this conversation, though, I was being told that I’d hit something, which I hadn’t been sure of.

“I basically copied that idea from somewhere else,” I’d admitted.

“Oh, of course you did.” I knew I was unoriginal; I didn’t realize I was quite so transparent. Actually, what he meant was that there were plenty of good things to model our own writing after, and we never expect to invent our own piece of original style. Writing is interesting to me in that it gets better the more you read, the more you emulate. I am always needing to read more.

That made me think that I should go back to the original piece that I thought I was emulating, the short story that gave me the idea for style I was using. So I pulled it off the shelf, but it wasn’t the one I was thinking of. Then I remembered: still the same book, a different page. But it was still different. It was still about trying to tell a truth, and how many different forms this can take, but I realized that I was trying to tell my own truth. So, thanks to Tim O’Brien for giving me an idea about how to tell a story, but it’s still exciting that we get to tell our own stories through our own voices.

I’m still working on the dialogue.

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