Successful Women of Israel

stories featuring Israel's successful women

Month: March 2014

Getting the Most Out of Dialogue

“Where’ve you been?” he demanded eagerly. “Daisy’s furious because you haven’t called up.”
“This is Mr Gatsby, Mr Buchanan.”
They shook hands briefly, and a strained, unfamiliar look of embarrassment came over Gatsby’s face.
“How’ve you been anyhow?” demanded Tom of me.
“How’d you happen to come up this far to eat?”
“I’ve been having lunch with Mr Gatsby.”
I turned toward Mr Gatsby, but he was no longer there.

(F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby)

Dialogue is the writer’s greatest of tools when it comes to revealing character.

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Writing the “Universal Truth”

Money is like any other virus: once it has rotted the soul of the person who houses it, it sets off in search of new blood. (Carlos Ruiz Záfon, The Shadow of the Wind)

I love this simile – money, a virus. Not because it’s necessarily true, but because it can be true. Because we all know somebody who treats money as if it’s life’s only currency, or its most important one. And it is an illness, the underlying assumption being that money is a value, not a means.
What Záfon is also conveying, is that this unhealthy understanding of money is involuntary. And that once such a detrimental idea sets in, it rots the soul and then goes off to infect somebody else.
The illustration works. Záfon has carefully drawn a picture with words. We see the illness, the rotted soul and the virus that sets off after new blood.
Carlos Ruiz Zafon has successfully imparted what William Zinsser calls “the universal truth” – that kernel of knowledge a reader recognizes from their own life. The recognition of the “the universal truth” and the form a writer gives it in her writing, makes for strong, powerful writing. A chord, a heartstring is moved in the reader. And the reader wants more.
The next time you sit to write, challenge yourself. Take the idea you’d like to convey and dress it up. See if it works. If it doesn’t, change the outfit, and try again. Find that “universal truth” and you can’t go wrong.

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