I’ve always enjoyed writing dialog, even when I wrote stories as a kid. To me, it’s the most effective way of making my characters come alive. But there have been times when I’ve used narrative, then realized it would be better to show my readers, through dialog, instead of telling them.
Take, for example, the following passage from The Red Dress. In my original draft, I wrote a paragraph or two, explaining how my main character, Eve, and her husband, Greg, developed a policy with their children that everyone do their own laundry and help with housework instead of Eve doing it all herself. While editing, I decided instead to insert a dinner scene during which the policy is discussed and the children react. If, after reading this, you want to know who Virginia, Charlene and Brenda are and the children’s ages, you’d better read the whole book.
One evening a week later, they were all at the dining room table.
“This tuna casserole is great!” said Thomas through a mouthful of food. “It sure beats the frozen stuff.”
Eve smiled, resisting the urge to chide her son for talking with his mouth full. “I’m glad you like it. It was your grandma’s recipe. I asked your grandpa to email it to me. When we go to Fowler for my class reunion, I plan to look through her other recipes to see what else I could make.”
“Cool,” said Julie. “I remember she used to make a really good chocolate pie, probably better than Virginia’s.”
“I know,” said Eve. “Your grandpa sent me that recipe, too. I would have made it to go with the tuna casserole, but I just didn’t have time. You know my writing keeps me busy, but I’m really trying to make more time for all of you.”
She braced herself for an outburst from Julie, but none came. Instead, Greg said with a reassuring smile, “Honey, you’re doing great. We’ve had some good meals over the past week, haven’t we, guys?”
“Yeah, I loved Jan’s lasagna recipe we had a few nights ago,” said Thomas.
“And her goulash was pretty good,” said Julie. “Oh, and thanks for washing my Sugar Shack t–shirt.”
“You’re welcome,” said Eve. “While we’re on the subject, I could use your help. When Ashley and I were in California, we found out that Brenda did a lot of housework and cooking while her mother was sick.”
Ashley turned pale, and her fork slipped out of her hand and fell to the floor with a clatter. “Mom, what are you saying?”
As the others stared at her in consternation, Eve realized she hadn’t phrased that well. “Oh, honey, no! I’m not dying of cancer, like Charlene. I’m just saying that there’s no reason why you, Thomas, and Julie couldn’t pitch in.”
Julie glared at her mother. “Mom, you’ve got to be kidding. I have a job. I don’t have time to do laundry or housework.”
“You don’t have to do it all,” said Eve, struggling to hide her exasperation. “We can all do it together. Let’s start with the laundry. Tomorrow, I’ll show you all how to use the washer and dryer, and after that, you can each do your own laundry.”
Ashley brightened. “When Brenda and I were putting our towels in the dryer, she gave me some tips on doing laundry that she learned in her home economics class last year. If she can do it, I can, too.” She picked up her fork from the floor and went to the kitchen for a clean one.
“I guess washing clothes isn’t any harder than painting the fence or changing a bike tire,” said Thomas. “In Tom Sawyer’s day, they didn’t even have washing machines.”
“You’re right, buddy,” said Greg. “Laundry nowadays isn’t hard to do. When I was in college and before I married your mom, I did my own laundry.”
“I don’t believe this,” said Julie. “When am I gonna have time to do my laundry? I’m working six to eight–hour shifts.”
She looked to her father, and Eve expected him to say that he would do her laundry, but he surprised her. “Hey, I don’t like your attitude. Your mom’s right. We all need to pitch in. There’s no reason why she has to do everything. She’s not our maid. She’s my wife and your mother.”
Julie hung her head.
To soften the blow, Eve said, “You can do your laundry on your days off. That’s what your father and I did when we were both working.”
Ashley, having returned to the table, said, “At least you don’t have to whitewash the fence all by yourself.”
“Whatever,” said Julie, picking up her fork.
“And I don’t like this ‘whatever’ business, either,” said Greg. “You’re using the word in the wrong context.”
Julie said nothing and continued eating while a solitary tear rolled down her cheek.
The above was inspired by this week’s Open Book Blog Hop prompt by Stevie Turner. If you’d like to participate, click here.
By the way, for those of you who use the National Library Services for the Blind and Print Disabled, The Red Dress is available for download from their site here. No matter how you read it, please be sure to review it wherever you can. That goes for all my books. Thank you for stopping by. Stay safe, happy, and healthy.
New! The Red Dress
Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books
When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.
Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.