Instant Message, Ugh

One of my favorite things to do is read people.  I used to think that I had to be present, to be there next to the person, to feel their eyes.  And I don't mean getting my grubby hands on people's corneas.  To be there  wasn't necessary.  But as instant messaging becomes a tool in corporations, it becomes a tool for me, and anyones else, to learn to read people through their IM. People IM they way they talk.  Which is fine!  But it's funny when people type "Uh..."  And they do type the ... after the Uh.  Like they want you to know they're thinking.  I've also seen my questions answered first with "er".


Or what about the "Let me think about that."  Why not just think about it, then respond once you've pondered, surmised, and worked through?

I also love the "Hmmm."  I love it cause I do that when I don't know how to respond.  Gives me time to think without typing let me think.

So what's the point?

One thing that is true in our world, in our universe, is we're all connected.  It's the reason I can read people when they're in my presence or not (something anyone can do).  There is an energy like the force in Star Wars that connects us all, connects us to the environment we live in.  We think of ourselves as separate beings, when we are really a single entity.  It's the reason why when a person hurts someone, they in turn hurt themselves.  When people come back from war they're forever changed and suffer from post traumatic stress disorder.  The death they see, the death they cause rips their souls.

Remember Harry Potter?  How Voldemort wanted to rip his soul into pieces by killing others?  There is truth in that.

I've had to think this about a lot.  The main character deals with this not only within himself, but with the families that are opposed to the erupting war.  A war that he's partly responsible.

And of course this idea doesn't just apply to death.  This applies to hurting someone emotionally.  I can't tell you how many times I've argued with my mom and felt guilty about it afterward.  Or the number of times I've fallen into severe arguments with my ex-girlfriends and felt horrible.  In the end, no one wins a fight.  Both sides are hurt, exhausted, and don't want to connect with each other.

Is it better to be right, or to be happy?  Because isn't the  meaning of life happiness?

Listen to Me!

A pet peeve of mine is people not listening to each other when they talk.  It's one thing if passersby just greet each other.  But it's another thing when I talk to a friend, and the next time I talk to them I have to repeat what I told them last time.  Weren't you listening to me?  And if you weren't interested, then why do you ask what I've been up to.  In listening to other people, I can tell who's listening and who is only hearing. Want to be more charismatic with people?  Listen.  It's one of the biggest complaints women have of men.  But when I talk to women, a lot of them don't listen.  And they wonder why guys don't listen to them.

A couple of days ago I was in the lunch room.  Three ladies were sitting at a table.  A feast spread in front.  I was listening to them talk.  I do this a lot.  As a former student of acting, and now an author, I listen to people speak, toreadthem.  It's a great way to learn what natural dialogue sounds like.  I've heard industry professionals theorize endlessly about natural dialogue, but just listening to others is the best way.  The best way to learn a new language is to submerge yourself in it.

But here's another pet peeve of mine:

Lady #1:  Your son. He worked on Sunday?

Lady #2:  Well, you know, he, uh, you know, like, he works on Sundays, you know.

Lady #1:  Why?

Lady #2:  You know, he, you know, like, gets paid more, you know, um, Sundays. He even like, uh, worked on Mother's day. You know? (laughs)

I can't stand filler words.  I use them.  But not like that.  It was like watching the adult channel through all the fuzz because I wasn't subscribed to it.  And this lady was in her fifties.  The above is exactly how she spoke.

One thing that authors have to keep in mind as we write dialogue is where the person comes from.  When researching for a character, there are several things that will affect their speech:  occupation, gender, age, culture, education, quirks, passions.  The list could go on and on, which can make writers go crazy trying to figure out speech patterns.  Lucky for us that 90% or more of speech is the same for everyone.

Dude #1:  Hey, wassup?  What you been up to?

Dude #2:  Man! Long time. Uh, not much. Just pluggin' away, hangin' out, terrorizing chics.

Dude #1:  Aw dude. I got this one chic...

The dialogue is fairly normal until the dudes rudely call women chics (wink), but a lot of guys do that.  But scenes aren't made up of these normal everyday things.  Scenes usually get heated with conflict, tension, suspension.  So if we look at two guys who're betting against each other, ten thousand dollars on the line on a basketball game, they'll not only use lingo that pertains to basketball.  Their speech will get excited as the teams battle back and forth.

Heed the endless babbling of industry professionals as they theorize about dialogue.  But it's way better and much more fun listening to others.  Read them.  Create mini stories as you listen.  I do this every day.

If you want to learn specific techniques about dialogue, check outBeyond Structure.

Reading People

How do you read people? Go with your gut. What more is there?  Body language.  It's said that at least 80% of what people say is through body language.  And in fact, people intuitively read body language.  They may not be conscious of it.

If someone is assertive, their posture is straight, chest out, shoulders back, head craned like a flamingo.

What if someone slumps, hesitates to look you in the eye, crosses their arms, and even angles their body away?  Could be signs of deception, signs of low self worth or esteem.  With everything remaining the same, but you add the characteristics of someone who's assertive, then we can assume that person simply doesn't find you attractive.  Or they can be looking for someone and just doesn't see you.  Or they may be angry because someone stood them up.

But when reading people, I tend to go with my gut.  I do this with women.  Friends of mine have tried to set me up on blind dates.  The problem with that is within the first minute I can tell whether I have a connection with the woman or not.  And I'm old enough to realize the difference between lust and like.  Lust for men is pretty obvious.  Let's just say feelings toward the woman I'm in lust for don't originate anywhere within my chest.  And my eyes will most likely be focused on hers.

It sucks when I don't feel a connection.  Cuz I gots to talks to her.  Kinda like talking to a blank wall.  I'm sure it's the same for her.

Most people can't seem to read people.  Why is that?  Have they lost that special power?  Can anyone read people?  First off, any human can read another human, unless said human doesn't want to be read.  And you can lose that power by mistrust.  Whose trust?

Going with your gut means that you have to trust yourself.  Do you? you need or ask others for their approval or opinion?  Read my post onGo with your gut. It'll give you an example of how I seeked approval outside of myself.

The way to practice this is by people watching.  Sit in a mall.  As a person walks by, let your mind create a story.  And trust that it's true, no matter how strange.  If you want to take a step further, go up and talk to them.  See how close your story came.

A better way of doing this is bring a friend.  My best friend and I used to do this a lot.  Most of the time we came up with the same story.  If our stories didn't match, then we'd discuss why we read what we read.

Writing the emotions of different characters can take the form of telling:  He's mad.  It can take the form of action:  He slammed his cup down.  It can take the form of body language:  She shoved him off and turned away.  Or it can take the form of dialogue:  "Get off me!"

Oooh.  Too much information.

Actors people watch a lot.  When I studied acting, I spent a lot of time people watching.  Now, I use that resource in my writing.  Because if you communicate emotion through just one way--telling, action, body language, dialogue--it can get boring.  Combining different ways allows for character development and variety.

Most important of all, trust yourself.  As kids, parents tell us 'No', 'Do this', 'Do that'.  As a result, we've become reliant on others.  Rely on yourself, open your mind, and let the stories come about.  You may be surprised.