Two things you need

Moira Court’s artwork goes beyond representing the scene, it distills the essence

For writers of fiction there are two attributes you really need. A knack for writing dialogue and passionate attention to detail. Of course there are others, but these two are the essentials. And they don’t just fall from the sky as a free gift to you. You must work at getting these two things right before you can reap the rewards.

In an interview with the late Peter Temple, whose body of work straddles the boundary between crime writing and literary fiction, Adrian McKinty commented on the great novelist’s excellent use of dialogue and asked how someone like him, born in the UK and coming to Australia as an adult, could get the Australian voice so right? Peter Temple said,’Be a good listener.’ It sounds easy, but he doesn’t just mean listen, he means practice the art of listening. Pay attention to the shifting tone of voice, the differing length of pauses, the enormous range of body language that goes with any verbal communication. That’s at the same time as you are thinking about a person’s accent and how to capture that on the page so that your readers will not find it confusing to read.

And if you happen to already be a person for whom attention to detail is a habit you will start off ahead of the field. If not, you must work hard to develop the skills, the patience, and a sort of sixth sense about where the crux of a matter lies. You must learn how to jot things down, to quickly make a meaningful note of the details and to only take what your reader needs from research you are doing. Adrian McKinty says that in Peter Temple’s books it is always obvious that he has walked his landscapes, sailed his waterways, talked to people and figured out not just what they are saying, but how they are saying it.

Hard work, but essential to well written novels.

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