Dialog and The Secret Life of Pronouns

New tool for writing! But only for revisions – it would be a disaster in a first draft. In his book The Secret Life of Pronouns, James W. Pennebaker examines everything from Craigslist to the Federalist Papers. The books’ description says he uses “computational linguistics-in essence, counting the frequency of words we use-to show that our language carries secrets about our feelings, our self-concept, and our social intelligence. Our most forgettable words, such as pronouns and prepositions, can be the most revealing: their patterns are as distinctive as fingerprints.”

Seems like a good tool for analyzing your characters’ dialog. How often do they use the word “I”? If they are in a power position, do they use it at all?

It helps to look at your work in new ways; it also helps since you will have to go over the entire manuscript many times and that gets to be a grind. I’m taking an 8 week acting course through the Atlantic Acting School. I’m reading plays – very helpful for writing dialog because that’s about all they are – but more significantly, analyzing them in a new way (see A Practical Handbook for the Actor)

So, when you go back over your manuscript, do a revision just on the dialog, be precise with your word choice, and use the lessons and techniques from playwrights and Pennebaker.

UPDATE: here’s a link from a playwright on writing dialogue

odds & ends

Happy Friday!

Something to think about over the weekend: Dialog is people saying no to each other in interesting ways. It is about people talking, but can often be about people not communicating (thanks to Rob Roberge)

The Book Publicity Blog makes the case for authors not approaching show producers on their own.

Pamela Dorman discusses her imprint at Penguin.

A number of authors are addressing themes of loneliness, including Paolo Giordano in The Solitude of Prime Numbers, a book getting a lot of buzz.