"Visualize" Your Way To Writing Better Dialogue

by William Mathes


My fiction-writing clients occasionally come to me with the following problem: they're somewhere in the thick of working on their manuscript, and BOOM! They're stuck! They've hit the "Dialogue Wall," and can't seem to get beyond it. Their challenge, they say, is that they don't have any clear idea about what the characters in their story are supposed to say next. It's as though the thread tying together the dynamics of their dialogue has just vanished! If you've ever encountered this particular "block" yourself, you'll know it can be both frustrating and perplexing.

The following "visualization" exercise has brought these clients satisfying success–a revived clarity, coherence and authenticity in their characters' voices. You may have to practice it a couple of times, though, in order to achieve the desired outcome.
Start by finding a quiet place to sit for awhile (45 minutes to an hour should suffice), as free from disturbance or distraction as possible. Phones, TV and music should be "off" (outdoors is good, as long as you're comfortable and not likely to be disturbed); ask for some "space" (if necessary), close and lock the door, etc.

You'll want to have a pad of paper, notebook, laptop or desktop computer handy, and a pen, pencil or keyboard nearby. Now, read the most recent section of writing you've completed (in the story you've been working on, of course); and when you're done, when you're clear about where things "left off," gently close your eyes. Slowly begin to breathe deeply, with a relaxed, easy measure to it; there's no rush to go anywhere. Just effortlessly draw in a full measure of breath through your nostrils, and slowly let it out through your nostrils, like water rushing up onto the shore and then back out.

After one or two minutes of that, begin turning your attention naturally and easily inward; that is, allow your attention to drift toward wherever your "core," your "center" is for you. (If you feel "stuck," bring your attention gently to your breath, and simply float along with its rise and fall for a little while). Proceed with this for another couple of minutes.

When you feel you've settled down some, and you're feeling some sense of inner quietness, keep your eyes closed and then just hold the clear intention that, when you open your "inner eyes," you'll be looking at a scene that's inhabited by whichever characters in your story are "up on the table," ready to reveal some more of their story to you.* Now, open your inner eyes and just watch. Simply pay attention to what appears before you. Be innocent. Don't try to steer anyone or anything, and refrain from "probing" or trying to figure things out with your characters. Don't ask them for more than they show you. Just be present with them, and observe what goes on, remaining alert to any details. Allow whatever is revealing itself to you to play itself out (don't stop anything prematurely). If they involve you somehow, in any way, go with the "flow." If at first, nothing seems to be happening or appearing, relax, just remain present there, without expectation. Ideally, what shows up does so in its own time, not yours (i.e. it's best if your "expectations" aren't running this). When you sense that all of the "action" has come to a conclusion, close your "inner" eyes. Then, begin slowly bringing your attention back to "normal" consciousness, guiding your attention back to your breathing, back to your body and your surroundings, your normal thoughts, etc. (Take a few minutes).

When you feel comfortable to, open your eyes, and immediately begin writing down what you recall from your experience, without editing it; capture the details you remember, without straining your mind. If you become "blocked," relax, close your eyes and allow yourself to become quiet again; often, this will allow remembrance of more details to return. When you're finished, look over what you've written, and again, see if any further details come to mind. Later (or then, if you feel like it), you can go back and begin to "edit" the material to fit into your story.

[*: Your characters don't have to appear to you in the exact same place you last had them; wherever they "show up" is fine, since later, you can transpose whatever's useful from the exercise to your current story.]

"Visualize" Your Way To Writing Better Dialogue
by William Mathes

Click Here to read the article… Some Thoughts on Writing by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love