Rendering Speech

‘The first thought is the one everybody has. The second thought is where your writing should begin…’

As part of the creative writing course I previously attended, we looked at ‘rendering speech’ in writing. For some writers this can come naturally, for others, not so much. The key point however is to write as one would speak – to portray real, messy speech as opposed to ‘perfect’ but inherently flawed dialogue.

What we write should therefore be ‘true to our ear’ and be as fast and energetic as real speech really is.

We must have rhythm (which can of course be interrupted), register (the different tones used) and realism. We must, as Damian Gorman explained, ‘write from the outside looking in’.

Of course, as I’ve touched on before, this then throws up the issue of voice and finding the right one in our writing. In this particular class, we agreed that finding a path you’re comfortable following will help steer your writing i.e. the story will speak more clearly this way and flow more easily.

In discussing this, we were of course considering the art of short story writing and of prose but I think this advice can be applied to any form of writing. After last week’s sad news of Seamus Heaney, a frequently repeated requiem to his work was that he was a poet who spoke to the people. He was accessible, he was loved and he wrote from the heart about what he knew and what meant the most to him.

He found his voice, he took up ‘the squat pen’ and he spoke.


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