The Interpersonal Economy

Building on how Stories Are the Study of Being, and combining it with The Very Heart of Fiction for this Workshop Wednesday, I present to you today the Interpersonal Economy.

It’s the idea that interpersonal relationships are like a marketplace where we trade value for value. And much like a marketplace, each individual holds a hierarchy of values that determine whether or not they do business with another. In a way, we are businesses in and of ourselves, and everyone else we interact with are like customers who we want to sell ourselves to.

And I’m not even talking about mere monetary gain where you buy some Pokemon cards off each other or whatever. I’m talking more about selling our ideas and values to others in order to see if we want to do business together. This can range from shared values like the appreciation of art, literature, or any other hobby you can think of. Going even deeper than that, we also want to trade value through the exchange of ideas. Ideas on how one should conduct their lives, their relationships, and contribute to society.

All of these things are values that we measure within our own lives and seek to find those who may either share our values or help improve them through civil discourse. I’m talking, of course, about conflict, which is another thing that is inevitable in the marketplace and in relationships.

Sometimes customers are not content with the service they get, and so the business has the responsibility to humbly receive criticism on how to improve how they serve their customers. That’s assuming that the business is at fault, though. Because on the flip side customers can sometimes mistreat a business due to a myriad of reasons. Maybe the customer is entitled and expects more than the business can actually provide, or maybe they hold a grudge for having been served poorly before.

Whatever the case may be conflict among humans are inevitable in the Interpersonal Economy.


Business Drama is Just Relationship Drama, but Fancier

If you’re planning to write a story with a memorable ensemble cast–or in the middle of it already–I would suggest creating a character web that shows how each character is connected to each other. You could do this with pen/pencil and paper or with a mind mapping program, but I personally prefer Scapple from Literature and Latte.

And no, I am not sponsored by them *wink wink, nudge nudge.* I just really love the writing programs they’ve made, most notably Scrivener for having met so many of my writing needs for many years now. But back to the post!

Creating a Mind Map of how your characters interconnect with each other and detailing what the cost/benefit analysis of their relationships will help you write more meaningful dialogue and plot points. When you know exactly how your characters benefit from each other and what their conflicts cost each other, it will make for deeper and more exciting drama.

What makes human relationships so interesting is how we can get under each other’s skin, yet somehow muster all the forgiveness in the world to keep certain individuals in our lives. For better or for worse. These are things that are hard to measure because several costs might be made up for in one big benefit. Or vice versa. One big cost can tarnish an otherwise seemingly beneficial relationship.

For example you might have a friend who you can air out your frustrations to and they’ll do the same for you, but other than that, you don’t offer each other much else other than free and half baked therapy for each other. There’s no fun in the relationship and there might not even be growth from the sharing of problems, rather the exacerbation of them.

This kind of cost/benefit analysis would be the cornerstone of conflict because people have very unique and individual goals and motivations that drive them, and more often than that, a conflict of interest arises when we have counter values from each other. If not similar values that are approached with methodologies different from our own.


Designing Your Interpersonal Economy

Taking a deeper look, here is an example of what an Interpersonal Economy mind map could look like, drawing straight from my 5th draft of It Starts at Home (which has evolved into a whole other monster and deserving of a new title since I last mentioned it here at Your Write to Live).

The new premise for “It Starts at Home” is that there are four juniors in high school who want to become professional gamers who want to win 1st in the international Atlantis Assault tournament.

Atlantis Assault is a 4v4, team based, first person shooter that is all the craze in the universe of my story. Each of these teens are equipped with their own anxieties about their futures after high school.

Pressured by their parents to succeed academically, and the one thing that brings hope and sparks joy in the lives of these teens is not only playing Atlantis Assault together, but the kind of friendships that develop between them in and out of the game. Both as individuals and as a group.

Each character is designated a specific color, so whenever that color pops up in another character’s web of influence, it’s detailing a cost or benefit of their relationship with each other. Some costs and benefits are recurring and that points to how that one person has the same effect on different people.

You will notice that some of these are tagged with either a + or – and occasionally a +/-. That is describing whether or not the effect one character has another is positive or negative, or maybe even both as a lot of trades of value in relationships end up being double edged swords like any other good cost/benefit analysis could give insight to.


Your Interpersonal Economy and You

Your Write to Live has always been about providing fiction writing tips that could also apply to your real life if you pursue self knowledge and personal development. It is my belief that fiction writing (and reading for that matter) is our way of understanding ourselves and the world better. It’s through these larger than life characters we draw inspiration from to become better people who act in good faith in the world.

So with that said, I encourage you to create Interpersonal Economy mind maps for both your fictional and real life ensembles. For your work of fiction, it will help you heighten the drama by creating well crafted characters with nuanced relationships. For your real life, it could give you a better understanding of how valuable your relationships are and where they might need some work.

After all, stories are fundamentally the expression of human relationship, and it’s through them we come to understand our place in the world

Did you find this post helpful?

Do you have any thoughts and criticisms about the Interpersonal Economy?

Is this the kind of content you would like to see more of here at Your Write to Live?

Leave a comment below and let me know!

How to Comfortably Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

The adage of “getting out of your comfort” zone is far too common in self-help and personal development circles, for better or for worse. It is for the better because there is no denying that life does begin at the end of the comfort zone. However, it can also be for the worse when the practice is advertised as intentionally getting yourself in the danger zone.

As I’ve posited in Movie Montage Motivation, growth comes from a constant daily grind toward mastery. It takes time to learn and train in something you’re interested in, it doesn’t all happen in the matter of three minutes to the tune of Eye of the Tiger. In fact, it probably takes listening to Survivor’s entire discography several times over before you can deservedly run to the top of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s stairs and throw your hands up in triumph.

And if you pay close attention to Rocky’s facial expressions during that monumental montage, you could read the clear discomfort in his disposition that speaks volumes of how hard it actually is to get out your comfort zone. In today’s Meaningful Monday post, here are three things you can do get out of your comfort zone comfortably with little to no impact other than surprising yourself with what you could accomplish if you just applied yourself properly:

  1. Being clear about your motivations.
  2. Taking tiny steps.
  3. Committing past the resistance.

He Who Has a ‘Why’ to Live Can Bear Almost Any ‘How’ – Nietzsche

If you have a specific interest you want to become familiar with and master, it is important to evaluate what it would mean to you commit to it, as well as why you’re engaging with it in the first place. What is motivating you to learn about something beyond mere fascination with it? Maybe it’s learning about real estate investing, learning how to paint, or even in my case, learning how to play a certain genre of video game.

Whatever your motivation is, be clear as to why you want to gain some mastery in something and you will inevitably gravitate towards the methods in which you can achieve the aforementioned mastery. Or at the very least, something close to mastery; a level you’re comfortable with reaching and staying in, with the option to grow further down the line if you so choose.

Take for example my recent fascination with First Person Shooters, a genre of video game that I used to detest throughout my life. I’d seldom play them here and there and overall preferred games in third person because it is easier to see what my character is doing, as well as measuring the distance between my attacks and the positioning of my opponents.

One FPS I really want to “git gud” at is Overwatch because I am enamored by the lore, the character design, and overall gameplay. Despite my aversion to FPS games, I did play it for a while last year and got somewhat decent at it while using a Steam Controller to play it, but often felt stumped with how bad my aim was. So inevitably I figured that maybe I should switch over to playing with keyboard and mouse to have better control over my aim.

At first it felt like I sacrificed my movement skills from the Steam Controller for the sake of a very tiny improvement in my aim, but I’ve been at it for weeks now, along with playing a whole slew of other FPS games and have been in love since. I cannot believe that after all these years I have missed out on such a great genre because I wasn’t good enough at them to enjoy them, let alone garner any interest in them to begin with.

But you might be asking at this point, what is my why, and what is the how I’ve come to because of my motivations?

The simple answer is that I want to get good at FPS games so I can enjoy them better. After all, constantly getting rekt can get tiring fast, and it is gratifying to be able to avoid attacks and concoct strategies to outsmart either the AI in single player games or the human opponents in online competitive games. The deeper answer, I suppose, is wanting to be able to contribute to my team and help them achieve victory.

So how do I get good? Constant practice and playing, as well as some self reflection as to how I use the abilities of my chosen character in conjunction with the abilities of my teammates, and learning the beautiful balance between calling certain shots and letting others lead the team when they have better ideas than me. Couple that with video tutorials geared toward specific characters and how to use them effectively, as well as other general tips that can be universalized across FPS games.

Now hopefully I haven’t lost any sophisticated folks who are too good for video games–because I’ll admit this wasn’t the most meaningful example possible–but the principle is to take stock of why you want something and figure out how to get it. Sometimes you’ll stumble around blindly and trip over yourself, other times you’ll learn from cold hard experience. While this is fine for the most part, we do live in an age where there are resources for just about any interest out there with people who are more than happy to help others expand their awareness and proficiency, so seek those out as well.

Aim High, but Don’t Break Your Neck

The next thing you need to consider is how reasonable your goals are. You want to aim high enough so that there would be a noticeable difference between you right now and the you you will become as a result of your practice and dedication. But you also don’t want to aim too high that your intended goal is constantly out of reach and only serves to discourage you from ever moving forward.

This is the importance of taking it slow and taking small steps toward your goals, especially when you’re just starting out. It’s already hard enough stepping out of your comfort zone so why make things even harder for yourself, right?

What helps you digest big goals is to cut them up into tinier bite sized portions. Think about your favorite meal and what it takes to eat it. Let’s say you like burgers. While you could stuff your entire mouth with a burger, I wouldn’t recommend it. Big juicy burgers take several tiny (or a few giant 😉 bites to finish. It’s the same thing with achieving a goal.

I would even argue that you shouldn’t see the end result as your goal, rather treat that tiny chunk of the goal as the most important thing in your life. You know that cliché; life’s all about the journey and not the destination. So maybe instead of constantly looking toward who you would be as a master at something, maybe approach every tiny step toward that mastery as if it’s the most important thing and only thing in the world.

Making the Mundane Memorable

Readers can gain insight on who your characters are based on how they tackle everyday chores like washing the dishes or doing their laundry. It sounds boring on its own, but with what I’m about to share with you can either be a fun exercise you keep to yourself to get a sense of your characters, or let it become a full scene in your story that provides that insight for your readers.

Some of the most common writing advice writers are given is to leave out the minutiae of everyday life in their stories. Now while I do think it makes logical sense, because you want to get to the meaty dramatic parts of a story that much sooner to keep readers engaged, I think adding a little bit of mundane everyday life can actually enrich the experience. After all;

“How you do anything is how you do everything.” – Harve Eker.

Readers can gain insight on who your characters are based on how they tackle everyday chores like washing the dishes or doing their laundry. It sounds boring on its own, but with what I’m about to share with you can either be a fun exercise you keep to yourself to get a sense of your characters, or let it become a full scene in your story that provides that insight for your readers.

The Meaningfully Mundane

So what am I talking about? How can one possibly make the mundane memorable? How do you even start?

You start by understanding your character’s temperament and how well or how poorly they take on the boring chores of everyday life. Do they brush their teeth only enough to get the taste of morning breath out of their mouth, or do they meticulously brush every single tooth from every nook and cranny? Do they hop in the shower for less than a minute or do they make it a meditative practice of feeling the warmth of the water wash them of their worries of the day?

What you want to do is invoke your character’s personality in how they take on these everyday tasks. Depending on what point you’re at in the plot and what has happened so far, how they take on daily tasks can also become part of the symbology of your story. That is of course, if you want that particular task to be repeated more than once in the story to symbolize your character’s state of mind.

Therapeutic Routines

Let’s take for example a therapist named Linus. He is everything you’d expect from a therapist; someone who has his life together who helps others get their lives together as well. He starts the story off with having healthy hearty breakfasts in the morning, listening attentively to his patients at work, and then coming home to relax by keeping the place tidy and habitable.

But then somewhere down the line, he is confronted by hardship. Linus is given a client named Damon that is so down in the dumps and desperate that despite Linus’ years of experience, he can’t seem to help Damon open up about his life or take any positive action to improve it. Linus prides himself on being an effective therapist, but that pride holds no weight now because he begins to feel like a failure due to not being able to help this downtrodden man.

Now Linus is rattled about himself and all his years spent studying psychology in university. His goal was to help people, but he feels insecure about his capacity to do so. He is lost and mere routine is no longer enough to keep himself stable and capable of being the therapist he knows how to be.

Taking a second look at his daily routine further in the story, it would then devolve compared to how mindfully and meaningfully he once approached it. Instead of taking the time to fry up some eggs and bacon, toast some bread, and brew himself a mug of coffee, he starts settling for a granola bar and drinking an entire pot of coffee to force himself to get through the day.

He goes to work barely listening to any of his patients because he’s obsessed with how and why he can’t help Damon, and he barely has the energy and motivation to keep his place tidy when he gets home from work. A once spotless kitchen now sports unwashed dishes, trash bags that have yet to be taken out, and a dining table cluttered with unopened mail.

For Linus, taking care of his home and his patients was his own personal therapy. It’s what gave him a sense of purpose and joy in his life, but it has been disrupted by one challenging patient he can’t seem to help. Maintaining his home routine and doing well at work go hand in hand, one affecting the other. Maybe now what he needs is a break in his routine and actual therapy himself from a trusted mentor.

Whatever the case may be, how he approaches mundane tasks like preparing breakfast and tidying his home have changed because his mental state and life circumstance has changed as well.

Micro and Macro Triumph

In my example story about Linus the Therapist, he starts off with a solid routine that he falls off from when he’s confronted with conflict at work. It is through self reflection and growth that he must return to wholeness by disciplining himself to take care of himself and his home in order to become an effective therapist again.

Being able to help Damon with his personal life and his daily routines would be the macro triumph and that would be symbolized further with the micro triumph of both men cleaning up their homes and their selves in order to act properly in the world, which would be the macro triumph.

Each man doing tiny things in their private lives would greatly impact how they present themselves to the world and operate in it because the way they handle their micro responsibilities greatly affects how they tackle their macro challenges in life.


Give Your Characters Meaningful Mundane Routines

Now obviously you don’t want to bore your readers with excess detail on mundane day to day tasks, but choosing a particular daily routine for your character to symbolize their current state of mind in the story is a sure fire way to making the mundane meaningful, as well as flesh out the plot and characters further.

What I’ve described in this hypothetical story about Linus the Therapist was very bare bones and basic for the sake of simplicity, but for your own work, it could be much more complex than breakfast, work, and keeping a tidy home. The goal would be to emphasize in enough detail how one can approach a daily routine with their heart and soul when things are going well in their lives and then neglecting that kind of discipline later on in the story because of the challenges they face, only to return back to order or something better when they’ve overcome their personal struggles.

Or even have your character start off in a state of absolute chaos and disorder either in how they maintain their homes or selves. Grooming could be a good one too where you have an unkept character not brushing their hair, barely showering on a regular basis, and wearing dirty clothing. Consider a man who wants to find the love of his life, but is constantly rejected because despite his efforts to pick up women because he’s not well groomed and all it would take is basic grooming and self care to begin appearing attractive to not only women, but also friends, family, and potential employers.

Whichever way you slice it, there is more to mundane everyday life than often noted if you take in account how much our daily routines actually affect how we appear and operate in the world.

What are some mundane daily tasks you take pride in excelling at?

Are you a great cook? Do you have a pristine home? How about a well disciplined workout routine?

Whatever you’ve got going for you, let me know if this helps you consider the importance of mundane daily routines in your life and/or the fictional characters you are writing about!

Own Your Interests, but Don’t Let Them Own You

Having interests in anything like art, sports, and any other hobbies you can think of is a way to enrich our lives and add meaning to them. As humans with a limited lifespan, we need things to preoccupy our minds with or we risk staring straight into the abyss, filled with the inherent anxiety that comes with mortality.

What interests you the most? Are these hobbies you engage with alone and/or with others? Has anyone ever given you any trouble for having these interests? And on the flip side, have you ever been so dumbfounded by someone else’s interests that you couldn’t wrap your head around how one could be so obsessed with something you simply don’t understand?

Interests and You

Having interests in anything like art, sports, and any other hobbies you can think of is a way to enrich our lives and add meaning to them. As humans with a limited lifespan, we need things to preoccupy our minds with or we risk staring straight into the abyss, filled with the inherent anxiety that comes with mortality.

I don’t mean to sound so bleak, but when you stop to really think about it, we really are just distracting ourselves before death, and in my humble opinion, there is a right way to distract yourself and a wrong way to distract yourself. The right way to engage in these distractions is to be so immersed in the experience that the concept of time becomes irrelevant, while the wrong way is using interests to fill your ego and avoid connection with yourself and others.

Interests are a highly personal thing and may mean different things to one person than it does for another. For example, my lifelong interest in video games holds with different motives than it does for others. For a lot of people it’s just a way to relax, turn their brains off, and have a good time. And that’s perfectly fine, I won’t judge them for it.

It’s just that for me, on top of those things I mentioned above, video games are also experienced I like immersing myself in to appreciate the amalgamation of art that they contain. From the graphical aesthetics, the mechanical design, and right down to the music and writing all add up to a cacophony of pleasure, meaning, and inspiration for me. Additionally, I also enjoy them because they are a way to test my capacity for skill development.

Now while there is an argument to be made that skills learned in video games are not transferable to real life, I would normally beg to differ, but for the sake of brevity I want to emphasize the more meta concept of skill development. If not the development of skills, it’s the accumulation of knowledge that comes with learning and researching different interests.

For you it might be a TV show that you’re in love with for a myriad of reasons. Maybe it hits all the right emotional beats you like or it has all the interesting concepts that fire up your imagination. Whatever it is, it is through your interests that you learn a lot about yourself. You learn what matters to you based on what aspects you pay attention to. You also end up sharpening different aspects of yourself through these interests depending on what kind of skills they require to become proficient in.

Sharing Your Interests With Others

The beauty of having your own personal reasons for liking something is finding people with similar interests to share your passions with. If they have different reasons than you, then it only enriches your experience further because they can point you toward other aspects of that interest that you wouldn’t have noticed on your own.

Taking another example from my life, I also like to make music and while I can humbly admit that I’m an adept songwriter, I can even more humbly admit that I have 0 clue what I’m doing production wise. I can write songs with diverse song structures, catchy hooks, and meaningful lyrics, but when I recorded my first EP this past summer, I literally had no clue how to sound engineer it to make it sound professional.

I shared a song with a music producer friend of mine and gave me some pretty good feedback on how to improve it. Little things like recording a second take for my vocals and rhythm guitar could thicken the sound of the production and make it sound less empty in terms of its sonic spacing. Couple that with another friend of mine who has insights on how to equalize the different instruments to make them pop more in the mix, these were all things I didn’t pay much mind to because I’m so hyper focused on the songwriting itself.

For those of you who don’t know much about music, I am hoping I still retained your interest because another beautiful thing about having your own unique approach to your interests is sharing it with others who don’t initially have much knowledge on your interests until you share it with them.

As a friend to diverse group of people, one of my mantras is “your pleasure is my pleasure.” If you have an interest I have no clue about like gardening or bodybuilding, because you are my friend, you can share the things you are passionate about with me because I’m interested in learning more about what inspires you and what matters to you. I’m always equipped with an endless array of questions to get a better understanding of how other hobbies function that I may or may not get into myself.

Likewise when you share you interests with friends who support your divergent passions, sharing those interests with them also helps you understand your interests better because you are forced to describe things to people who are not “in the know” about them. Not only does it help them feel more connected to you–because they get a better understanding of what matters to you and the details you are attuned to–but you also end up developing a greater understanding of your interests because you may not have initially been conscious of what you like about them until you’ve conceptualized them in conversation.

Your Interests vs the Disinterest of Others

Unfortunately not everybody is willing to understand you to the fullest and may even find reason to dissuade you from your interests. Or worse, some people have interests that are so esoteric that it’s almost as if they have them just to affirm that no one understands them. This is quite the pickle because my focus is uniting people of similar and divergent interests, and sometimes there are just people out there who will either hate on you for liking a certain thing, or regard their own interests as something that makes them better than you.

This is where today’s title comes in handy: own your interests, but don’t let them own you.

What I mean by this is while it’s good to have interests your passionate about, you can’t let them consume you and turn into your entire identity. Because otherwise you risk losing yourself in a heap of unnecessary opposition.

For instance, I love listening to Metal and K-Pop. They are the top two genres I listen to and while the music itself is fun and enjoyable, there is something to be said about fans on either spectrum that rubs me the wrong way. I’m talking, of course, about metal elitists and die hard K-Poppers. They are basically two sides of the same coin for me. Metal elitists have it in their heads that only certain types of metal and certain bands can be considered “metal,” and for die hard K-Poppers, you’re not a true fan unless you have nothing but unconditional love for your “idols.”

In either case, it’s unnecessary gatekeeping that can prevent people from the outside get into either genre, let alone accept them as things that people enjoy. Throughout my life I’ve been bashed for liking bands that weren’t heavy enough to others, as well as being called a fake fan because I don’t like a few songs by one of my favorite K-Pop groups.

It’s basic tribalism at its core. So while it is nice to find a group of people who share your interests, be wary of those who might put up certain barriers as to how and why you’re a “real fan” or not because this could be dangerous. This could cost you that interest if you’re around people who soil it with their hyper criticism and self appointed authority on that interest. Some people may know more than you and have more experience than you, and can put forth how and why you should like something, but in the end it is always entirely up to you how you engage in an interest.

If anything, avoid these people at all costs.

Avoid the kind of people who think you’re weird and unacceptable because people from your fandom, so to speak, generally give that interest a negative impression to those on the outside. Avoid the kind of people who are on the “inside” as well, if they are the type to try and dissuade you from liking something the way you want to. They may have more knowledge and experience as to what makes that hobby fun and interesting, but in the end it’s entirely up to you how and why you engage in it in the first place.

And last but not least, avoid the people who have esoteric interests that either have a high bar for entry and/or the people who have simple interests that they approach in a very esoteric way. Like art snobs, basically. People who approach their interests in the most abstract and esoteric way that even they can’t comprehend or conceptualize what they enjoy in a way that entices you.

I have the nagging suspicion that a lot of people out there have “unique” interests not because of their genuine enjoyment of them, but rather the sense of individuality it gives them above others. The kind of people who if you ask them about their interests, they can’t even give you a straight answer to your questions or describe them to you in a way that intentionally alienates either of you from feeling any sense of connection.


How Many Times Did I Say Interest in This Post?

In conclusion, hobbies and interests are a good way to learn about ourselves and connect with others. If you’re not developing your skills or expanding your knowledge with them–or at bare minimum feeling a sense of immersion with them–then be wary of whether you’re taking up a certain hobby to feel like you belong or feel better than others. And likewise be wary of those who may show signs of this intentional misunderstanding that could lead from sharing divergent interests with others.

But all in all, our passions should be the result of our genuine fascination with them, not a desire to be a certain kind of person because that’s seeking a false sense of status and superiority over others. These are things that can give us insights on how we operate and how others operate, and in turn make the world a better place.

To harken back to my seemingly bleak outlook at the beginning of this post, being interested in a variety of things throughout our lives is one of the many ways to stave off the abyss. Have your interests, but be careful not to let them accelerate your descent into the abyss. They are meant to strengthen and unite individuals, not alienate and demean them.

What is your relationship to your interests?

Have you benefited from connecting with individuals who share the same interests as you?

Make sure to like this post, follow Your Write to Live, and answer these questions and more in the comments below!

Dialogue Drafting

One of the quickest ways to smashing writer’s block out of the way is by pre-writing the dialogue for your upcoming chapter. Focusing solely on what your characters will say to each other cuts away all the time and energy it takes to set up the scene in terms of describing the environment and the actions the characters will take during their conversations. Stories only move forward because of character interactions and so it’s important to learn to how to do some Dialogue Drafting.

Talking Heads Build the Body

Common writing advice warns writers against turning characters into a bunch of talking heads that exist in a vacuum without non-verbal communication or relation to the environment they converse in. However, for the sake of Dialogue Drafting, the point is to write nothing but the dialogue with little to no “stage direction” that you later turn into narrative.

The point is to have all your characters air out their grievances with each other in whatever stream of consciousness you happen to write if you just focus on what they want to say to each other. A lot of it will inevitably be a bit of small talk before the central themes and conflicts of the story get mentioned, but consider that all as a mere warm up. You will know you’ve hit your stride once you get emotionally invested in their conversations, even if it’s not a heated argument, but nonetheless a critical conversation they must have with each other.

When you’re not concerned about writing any narrative description and let them speak in rapid succession with each other, several things can emerge from this free flow form of writing. You need to free yourself from the expectation to maintain descriptions of the setting, your casts’ physical appearance, and the actions they take within their environment while they have these conversations

Dialogue Drafting can help you:

  1. Discover your characters’ voices.
  2. Reveal what’s truly at stake for each character.
  3. Organically evolve their relationships to each other.

Giving Your Characters Some Singing Lessons

Dialogue Drafting can help you learn how to make your characters talk more uniquely from each other. When all you have is a bunch of talking heads clutter a page or five, you will easily get bored by how similarly your characters speak if dialogue isn’t your forte. Soon you’ll find yourself trying to create different speech patterns for each character to make them stand out more.

Just like singing, dialogue in fiction requires refreshing rhythms and “melodies” in order to maintain reader retention. How you do this is by deciding how much or how little characters speak. For instance, a verbose character contrasted by one who values brevity and concision will react and speak in a drastically different way from one another.

Couple that with the kind of vocabulary each character is equipped with, you can bring your characters’ dialogue to life much more with this in consideration. Do they use big words or simple words? Do they speak too much or too little? Do they speak loudly or quietly? These are all the things to consider when you are crafting a character.

Try and think of it musically: each character is a different instrument in a song. Each instrument, in a well written piece, will do their job in laying the foundation of the song and maybe sometimes get their spotlight moments the way a sweet guitar solo does before letting the rest of the instruments breathe and say what they need to say.

Likewise with your characters, some will have to hang back and not say much before they step in and say their piece especially when a certain point of contention in the conversation means more to them than it does for the others, which brings me to the next point.

Revealing Character Motivations

When you do this dance of inhabiting all of your characters’ voices in rapid succession, they begin to reveal things to you that they truly wanted. Especially things you may not have originally outlined for their GMC’s or for the chapter as a whole. This is because when you’re not concerned with the setting or physical movement of characters, you are actually constantly shifting between their minds and letting them speak for you.

It is an odd thing to consider that these fictional characters we create having a life of their own, sometimes separate from what we intend for them, let alone display in our manuscripts, but nonetheless I believe this is true at some psychological level. After all, the characters we create are simply amalgamations of ourselves and other people we have met, so while they may or may not closely resemble us or the people we have (hopefully) loosely based them on, what stands eternal is the behavior.

What this means is that people may have certain mix of thought patterns and behaviors unique to them, but thought patterns and behaviors in general exist in a universal realm regardless of time and person exhibiting them. There are commonalities among all people, and so the characters we create may not be “real” in a sense, but they are hyper real because they represent various modes of beings human undertake.

I apologize if that’s a little too heady, so a simple way to put it is this:

No matter how many new people enter the world and how different they may be in appearance, they will still inevitably embody common human behaviors. Or even simpler; we may look different from each other, but we’re all almost inevitably the same.

Keeping that in mind when you write a Dialogue Draft, you may start to learn that your characters share common goals, but go about them in a different way, or maybe they have different goals, but approach them in the same way–along with every other combination in the book.

Whatever the case, Dialogue Drafting will reveal the fundamental differences and similarities between your characters, for better or for worse. Sometimes those similarities are due to the lack of individuating them from each other, and other times they’re good story serving similarities that they need to learn and discover along the way.

In doing so, they get to experience the following:

Ever Evolving Relationships

While there is much to be said what people, and characters do to each other and for each other, what relationships all come down to is verbal communication. Your word is bond. What you say to others and how you communicate with them create an implicit promise of interacting that way unless stated otherwise.

If you’re kind and generous then it is implied that people can come to expect more of that from you. If you’re mean and cold hearted then it is implied that people can come to expect more of that from you as well. Until of course the other party says something that is either suspicious of the former and/or opposed to the latter.

We may all have almost the same needs and desires, but how we communicate them and how we mix and match our own values are what’s unique to each of us. What generosity means to me might mean something entirely different for you because we most likely have different ways to measure how generous we want to be respectively.

So that said, another thing you learn from Dialogue Drafting is how your characters communicate the same needs differently, as well as what that could mean for the future of their relationships if they so choose to maintain it. We’re all social creatures and we need each other to survive, but that doesn’t mean we have to get along with every single person on the planet. That would actually be counter productive because you can’t please everybody and not everybody can and will like you.

Again, while behaviors might be universal, how we measure our personal values will be unique across individuals, and it’s in that fundamental difference that creates conflict, as well as pave the way toward relationships that either end up stronger, strained, or severed.

If you’ve mapped out your own Interpersonal Economy for your ensemble of characters, every cost and benefit you’ve outlined between individuals will become more pronounced when you write a Dialogue Draft. It’s through our words that we express our values and it’s through our relationships that we either affirm or deny them depending on any new information that may get us to rethink our positions.

And in the end that’s what all dialogue is really about: characters stating their positions and arguing why their needs should trump the needs of others, or at the very least be taken into account equally if they aren’t already.

Piecing it All Together

Now of course once you’re done Dialogue Drafting, you can’t keep your characters bodiless and nothing but mere heads floating in a vacuum of nothingness. But thanks to the dialogue you have pre-written for your chapter, you are even better equipped to fill in the blanks in regards to the environment and the physical actions they may take in between certain lines.

You will almost always have way more dialogue than you can actually include in your manuscript so this is the part where you will have to trust your instincts and see which lines are worth keeping and which ones need to be discarded. Some lines of dialogue might turn into internal narrative for a first person book, or side insights for a 3rd person one. Some may not even make the cut.

The lines that will make it, though, are the ones you feel strongly resemble what the characters are truly about and actually move the plot along due to the shift and evolution of their relationships from the exchange. Another great benefit to Drafting Dialogue is to get the throwaway dialogue out of the way so it’s much easier for the meaningful dialogue to emerge and be honed in on.

Did you find this Workshop Wednesday tip useful?

Have you done anything similar to Dialogue Drafting before?

Let me know in the comments below, and happy writing, Your Write to Live Lovers!