"Everybody has a secret world inside of them. All of the people of the world, I mean everybody. No matter how dull and boring they are on the outside, inside them they've all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds. Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands maybe" ~ Neil Gaiman (A Game of You)


Blogfest -- "Let's Talk"

Roni Griffin at *Fiction Groupie* is hosting a wonderful blogfest today focusing on dialogue.  Now, I have to admit, dialogue is my personal Achilles' heel, so this is a great opportunity for me to get some great constructive criticism!  So, here is my entry, and I welcome your comments.  Be kind -- but be honest!

From my work in progress, A Novel Idea:

    Jane was upstairs in her room when she heard a soft knock on the door.
    "Mom, can I talk to you?"  Jamie asked.
    "Sure, hon, what is it?"  Jamie handed her a piece of paper.  It was a notice from school explaining that one of their students had died.  It offered condolences to the family of the girl and grief counseling services for any of their students.  Jane looked up from the note to see her daughter's face.
    "Oh, honey, I'm so sorry.  That's awful.  Do you know who it was?"
    "Yeah, Marsha Sampson.  She was in my choir class."
    "Did you know her very well?"
    "Kind of.  I mean, we just had the one class together, but I saw her every day."
    "Did anybody say what happened?"
    "Well, the teachers won't tell us anything, but everyone is saying she committed suicide."  Jamie's brow furrowed.  "She thought she didn't have any friends, but she did.  She didn't sit by herself at lunch or anything.  I don't know why she would kill herself, Mom."
    Jane sat down on the edge of her bed and pulled Jamie down beside her.  She put her arm around her daughter's shoulders.
    "Honey, I'm sure there were things going on in her life that you didn't see.  People kill themselves when they feel trapped, hopeless.  When they can't see a way out.  You know, there wasn't anything that you could have done."
    Jamie buried her face in her mother's shoulder.  There was a muffled, "Maybe."
    Jane hugged her and for awhile they said nothing.  Then Jamie pulled away from her mom and looked up at her.  She tilted her head to the side and frowned.
    "Mom?" she said in a small voice.
    "Do you think Marsha went to hell?  Some of the kids are saying she went to hell because she committed suicide."
    Jane recoiled at the cruelty of children.
    "Oh, I believe God is kinder than that," Jane said.  "I like to think of Him waiting for her, taking her in His arms, and letting her cry on His shoulder.  Her life must have already been hell if it was so bad she killed herself.  That's probably enough."
    Jamie's body relaxed, and she nodded her head.
    "But..." Jane hesitated.  "Well, I imagine Marsha can look at her life from a different perspective now.  She can see things she couldn't when she was here.  She can see that there would have been another way out, eventually.  And maybe she can see all the good, happy things that were waiting for her -- people she hadn't met yet, things she would have done.  I imagine that would be a kind of hell, too."
    "She was really good at singing," Jamie said.
    "I bet there were a lot of things she was good at.  She just didn't know it yet."
    Jamie leaned into her mom and let her head rest again on her shoulder.  She drew in her breath with a shudder.  Jane heard a sniffle.  Ah, Jamie, poor Jamie, healer of bird's wings and welcomer of strays.  Jane gently rubbed her back.
    "It's just so sad," Jamie said.
    "I know, honey.  It is."


To participate in today's blogfest, visit Roni's blog here.  (Roni, I would have added the button to my sidebar, but couldn't figure out how to do it. :(  Sorry!)


sbjames said...

Hey Shelli,
I came over here after seeing your tweet. I thought your dialogue was fine- one thing i'd recommend is more contractions. "everbody's saying" is more teen talk.
"nothing you could've done"

Most people don't enuciate words so clearly. (at least not in my house *g*)

Juanita said...

Wow that's a heavy topic - could be more emotionally intense maybe? A nice way of showing the mother daughter relationship.

Shelli said...

Susan -- You're right, of course. I need to get rid of that college essay editor I have stuck in my brain. :) Thank you!

Juanita -- Yes, I agree, and that's where I get a little stuck. I want to show, not tell, but I don't want to get overly dramatic. I think I need to focus on the areas in between the speaking to try to create that intensity. Thanks!

KayKay said...

This is pretty heavy. I really like the way Jane handled everything though. But I agree with Juanita that it could be a little more intense. Still, great writing. And thanks for sharing!

Shelli said...

Thanks for the encouragement, KayKay.

Lovy Boheme said...

Honestly, I would take out that entire "But..." paragraph. It sounds preachy and somewhat harsh for a mother that's just trying to comfort her daughter. Otherwise, I think you dealt nicely with such a heavy topic.

Tara said...

This hit home for me. We had a local high school girl commit suicide a few weeks back; I blogged about it. Very sad stuff.

I agree with the "teen voice" mentioned above. Overall, though, I wouldn't have guessed dialogue to be a weak point for you. It just needs a little tightening and a couple of the tags cut.

Shelli said...

Lovy -- thank you for your impression of that paragraph. It is actually important to the story and draws a parallel to a choice the mom is trying to make in her own life. So, it's important that it be effective. I'll see if I can rework it so it fits better.

Tara -- this is based on my own daughter who had an acquaintance at school commit suicide. A big discussion at school was whether or not the girl had gone to hell. I think it's sad. And thank you for the kind comments! I'll work on the teen voice (you'd think I'd have that down with three teenagers at home!) and the tags.

Dawn Embers said...

Well done. I've expected more "we need to talk" type intros, and similar versions but so far haven't read any except this one. But I have many more to read. Good work with this entry. It's well written.

C R Ward said...

This was a really moving piece, and it really showed the close relationship between the mother and daughter. Well done!

Shelli said...

Dawn -- I'm sure I did this unthinkingly; my girls always come in and ask "Can we talk?" Thank you for reading it and your compliments.

C R -- thank you for your comments!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

You did a very nice job of showing a mother comfort her daughter during a confusing and dark moment. When I was 13 a classmate killed herself. I never understood and had no one I felt I could ask. So I think this would be a powerful scene in a book for tweens/teens.

C. Michael Fontes said...

wow! Very strong dialog! It's always hard to tackle strong emotions, especially when there is a comprehension gap between the speakers. Well done!

Charity Bradford said...

Shelli, thanks for coming by my blog. This has a lot of potential in it. I agree with all that's been said above.

I still struggle to use contractions because of that inner editor. We just have to remind ourselves that fiction should flow, and we normally use contractions.

Here is a great blog for ideas of how to "show" emotions. I use it when I get stuck. The emotions are in the right side bar, just scroll down. Bookshelf Muse

Good luck!

Valerie said...

Very heavy, and moving. Aside from what's been said, this might benefit from a bit more conflict; maybe have Jamie push back more instead of mostly accepting what Jane says. Still, I've got tears in my eyes, so nice work.

Bookewyrme said...

A very bittersweet passage. My only complaint is that I wasn't sure if Jaimie was a girl or a boy until halfway through. I imagine in the context of the larger story that's not a problem though.


Angela M. said...

I agree w/ Tara, especially about the dialogue. Also I empathize with the editor thing because I was the newspaper editor at my college for two years. It sticks with you.

One thing that helps me is reading the dialogue aloud. If it sounds stilted, unnatural or even out of character, I rework it.

I don't think this necessarily needs conflict, depending on the context of the excerpt. I've seen plenty of mother-daughter relationships with this kind of warmth.

Thank you for checking out my blog. It's nice to hear from writers close to home!

Nikki~Down syndrome Storyteller said...

It's funny, knowing you and your girls like I do, I can totally see this conversation happening, in the exact way you wrote it. Yes, people really talk like that. I love the warmth that shows through. Great job!

Shelli said...

Tricia -- thank you for your comments. I'm so sad you didn't have someone to talk to. I know schools offer "grief counselors," but it seems like at that age you need someone you know and trust.

Michael -- *blush* thank you, that is kind praise.

Charity -- thank you, I think that's the perfect source to tap into the intensity that's missing.

Valerie -- thank you. I think I'll work on more intensity, but not necessarily through conflict. I just think a young girl wouldn't be pushing away when she's looking for comfort.

Lia -- ah, I've already decided I need to rename her, because Jamie and Jane are too close anyway. Thanks for pointing that out; I'm sure it would be confusing in the beginning of my book, too.

Angela -- my husband just suggested the same thing! Good husband, isn't he? I'll try it.

Nikki -- oh, I'm so happy to see you drop by! Yep, that was Anneli. So sad at that age, isn't it? Thank you, and I can't wait to see more of your work!

roh morgon said...

Very touching. Nice somber tone in a sweet mother and daughter scene.

Well done.

John Wiswell said...

I found the dialogue quite sweet and liked the detail of rubbing her back. Perhaps it's because of what I read, but I can't remember ever reading that detail despite it being such a common way of comforting the young.

Shelli said...

roh -- thank you very much!

John -- Thank you, and yes, I think I pulled that from my mom hat. :)

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

Hi Shelli,

Really touching conversation between mother and daughter.

I agree with the comment about the "but" paragraph, maybe not the time for the mother to say that.

And this exchange was a bit "talking head" to me--maybe have her go sit next to her on the bed there or something:
"Oh, honey, I'm so sorry. That's awful. Do you know who it was?"
"Yeah, Marsha Sampson. She was in my choir class."
"Did you know her very well?"
"Kind of. I mean, we just had the one class together, but I saw her every day."
"Did anybody say what happened?"

And lastly, be careful with how similar your names are Jane and Jamie. I stumbled a few times with that.

Other than that, I think you've got a really poignant scene here. :)

Thanks for participating!

Shelli said...

Roni -- I knew I could count on you for a solid critique! Thank you for stopping by.