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Posts Tagged ‘teen talk’

Writing dialogue is all about balance. The words of course, but also the space around the words. What is NOT being said can be more informative and enriching than what IS said – but you need both. Then you weave in action too. Concrete reminders of where your characters are – and the actions create beats and pauses too.

Talking to my teen-age daughter is all about balance too. More so. Here we have what is being said, what is not being said; as well as what is not ALLOWED to be said and what will be misconstrued and twisted around so as to be an attack. Mothers are simply not allowed to say some things.

For example, I can say, “That shirt brings out the blue in your eyes.” But I am not allowed to say, “If you didn’t wear so much freaking makeup we could actually see your eyes.”

This amazing, talented, determined, fierce, intelligent, strong, and deeply private girl is a bit of a mystery to me… and always has been – but throw in the teen thing and everything is a mystery. We’ve always joked that she is a cat living with a family of dogs.

Driving her to all her various practices is one place where we can talk. We are alone (being the middle child really does mean that more often than not there are siblings around). We don’t have to make eye contact. She knows she will escape within a definite time limit. We have the action and other cars to create beats and space.

But now she’s learning to drive.

Besides the fact that it is just as terrifying the second time around, we just can’t have the same conversations. Now I say, “Watch your speed on this upcoming curve,” because I am not allowed to say, “For the love of doughnuts and all things sweet, SLOW DOWN.”

And, of course, there’s the whole idea that she’s a big girl now. She’s learning to drive so she can move on and out into the world.

I’m losing even more opportunities to talk… to guess what is going on in the space behind the words.

Sarah Wones Tomp

WRITING ON THE SIDEWALK

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