This Metaphorical Bar ep. 7: Dialogue

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Production notes: Robyn had some recording issues. There are a few minor places where she’ll drop a word or two and some popping noises. We apologize and are working on making sure this doesn’t happen in future recordings. (However, we’ve recorded several episodes prior to editing this, so there may be issues in the next few podcasts as well. Where possible, I’ll note anything big that is missing.)


Who We Are

I’m Karen Healey, an author and teacher living in Otautahi New Zealand, and I’m into perfume now.

I’m Robyn Fleming, a parent and writer in Tucson, Arizona. I once fell into a cactus! It was terrible.

I’m Carla M. Lee, an author, artist, and attorney living in the Midwest USA, I once nearly broke my neck saving my dog from a spider and I love everyone in this metaphorical bar.

What We’re Drinking

Karen: diet Coke

Robyn: raspberry Italian cream soda

Carla: lime sparkling water

Episode Summary

Topic: Dialogue

  • Karen and Robyn love writing dialogue and are good at it. Carla hates it and is bad at it. HMMMMMMMM.
  • Carla: It’s hard to find a character voice rather than the author voice and struggles to make it sound realistic. Description and action is easy, dialogue is hard.
  • Robyn: Part of what is fun about dialogue is immersing herself in the language patterns of the setting, e.g., Austen, and finds mimicking style very satisfying. Dialogue is kind of like the character narrating.
  • Karen: Loves dialogue and will often write the first draft of a chapter with just dialogue and then filling it out later with everything else. Loves dialogue as the skeleton, the thing that gets you into voice and into character.
  • Carla and Karen are cowriting something, and Carla writes a lot of the action and Karen writes a lot of the dialogue; they hand it off to each other depending on what needs to happen.
  • One suggestion is to pay attention to what metaphors each character would use (e.g., nautical metaphors, fairy tale metaphors, references based on class or other experiences) and use that to focus in on their language.
  • Focus on sentence structure: which characters speak in short sentences, which have tangents, etc.
  • Can help to focus on one character’s dialogue at a time during editing to make it consistent without mixing voices.
  • Things that Karen and/or Robyn think helped them develop dialogue as a skill: improv, acting, tabletop roleplaying, mock trial, mimicking other people’s styles, listening to other people’s conversations.
  • Things that Carla thinks inhibited her ability to develop dialogue as a skill: no improv, backstage when in the theater, roleplaying mostly as a fighter so little talking, no mock trial and a vehement refusal to be a litigator, hatred of mimicking other people’s styles, bad hearing and inability to eavesdrop on people’s conversations.
  • Read a lot of dialogue, listen to podcasts (e.g., ours and the different way we speak and the different metaphors we employ), talk to people.

Things Mentioned in the Episode

Ask Your Friendly Neighborhood Bartender


Carla: Only fake marriage in a certain form of it. Not married, but people usually assume married; also plays with assumptions around sexuality as a bisexual cis woman who is in a relationship with a cis man.

Find Us Online

Carla: @carlamlee on TwitterTumblrInstagram
Karen: @kehealey on Twitter, @karenhealey on Tumblr, and
Robyn: @robyn_writing on Twitter

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