Desperate for Dialogue

Stephen King says a story needs several essentials: Narrative, description and dialogue. Dialogue reveals the persona of each character. I love South Carolina language except when a Yankee is trying to mimic it. Dorothy Benton Frank writes novels about the Lowcountry of South Carolina. Female Southern writers use words that smell of azaleas. A couple of paragraphs that paint a picture of the Miss Livina, Grand Dame of the plantation:

“Miss Millie” was polishing my mother’s Strasbourg silver flatware which had been given to her mother before her by a dear family friend descended from Robert E. Lee himself on the occasion of her marriage. Well, alright, I got it through Neiman Marcus online, but who needs to know that?”

“I just adored escaping to my bedroom. It faced a
long stretch of the Edisto River. From my windows I watched the sunrise and in the evening I would go out onto my terrace as it slipped into Mother Nature’s pocket for the night. My dear Nevil had restored the suite of rooms for me years ago.
He always understood my little indulgence for shoes and had built a special sliding storage area that held all two hundred pairs in their original boxes and acid-free paper.”

“The room was exactly as it had been before my darling Nevil left the earth. When he was in the room my heartbeat picked up and I became giddy with sheer delight of just sharing the same space with him.”

If that last paragraph doesn’t make you want a mint julep, you’re not paying attention. It’s not just the South, it shows up in literature from the Southwest. Leon Hale, a writer from Texas, told the story in Southern Living magazine of a man who lost his pocket watch. The story teller told us about his ancestry and third cousins and how they all fit into his life and losing of his watch, which was found in the belly of a fish. He was fishing off the old steel bridge that got knocked down by that barge. The watch fell out of his pocket when he reached for a can of beer. His wife had told him not to drink and fish. And he told her….

I started to say I don’t talk that way, but I think I might. Not as beautifully, but as detailed. If I’m quoting someone to you, I will tell you about the person quoted and why his/her credibility should impress you and demand your attention. But I can’t write Southern dialogue or description.

“I will admit that the girls and I had been out on the courses killing clay birds, and perhaps we had imbibed a bit of something to ease the glare of the sun.” (Plantation, Penguin Group, ©2001)

I am also reading Jesus Speaks by Leonard Sweet & Frank Viola and studying the biblical patriarch Abraham with the questions: How did God speak to him, how did he understand and discern it was really God? God spoke differently to Hagar and Ishmael than to Abram. To each of us, He speaks in our vernacular.
Jesus says, “Let him who has ears, hear….” And “My sheep know my voice.” Frank Viola encourages us to take the example of Jesus.

“Each day that He lived on this earth, Jesus lived in constant desperation and neediness for His Father. He indicated this when He said, ‘I can do nothing on my own” (John 5:30 NLT).

Desperate for dialogue
©2017 D. Dean Benton dean@deanbenton.org

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