Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Are you talkin to me? (Quasi-review of HOW TO BE BAD and general thoughts on dialogue.)

I picked up HOW TO BE BAD because of the plot structure -- alternating among the points of view of three female friends -- which mirrored my WIP. I read it in one sitting because holy crap it was so much fun.

And just so you know what I'm talking about, here's the jacket copy:

Three girls who couldn't be more different have one goal in mind: to get the heck out of Dodge. Well, Niceville, Florida, actually. But it might as well be called Nowheresville. Vicks is the wild-child fry cook whose boyfriend left for college and isn't returning any of her calls; Mel, the good girl in expensive jeans who just wants everyone to like her; and Jesse, the trailer-dwelling human morality meter who's discovered a life-altering secret.

Each has her own reason for climbing into Jesse's mom's beat-up station wagon and hitting the highway for a weekend trip, whether she knows it or not. Armed only with Vicks's ancient, battered copy of a guidebook called Fantastical Florida, a map Jesse picked up with her dwindling funds, and Mel's mom's credit card, they're Miami bound. Hearts will be broken, friendships will be tested, and a ridiculously hot stranger could change the course of everything. And if they don't kill each other first, Vicks, Mel and Jesse will not only have a road trip to remember, they'll have friends for life.

This book is FUNNY. Like, absurdly funny. 

Evidence via first line:
At the end of July, back when I was still fun, I bought Vicks two tufts of fake armpit hair from Jokes-a-Plenty.

And though the characters were strong, the plotting tight, and the narration nearly seamless, what really stood out was the dialogue. The conversations between these three girls flowed with such a natural and ridiculous certainty that I felt like I was listening in on a conversation I had with my friends in high school. (Though we never had to escape an alligator.) There were almost no one-liners; the humor came from the characters themselves, and the dialogue built upon itself to create that wonderful realism.

Why am I so obsessed with this darn dialogue?

Well, my lovely FNC critiquers claim that dialogue is my strength. That's my one definite confidence when I write. But I finished reading this book and scooted right over to my latest draft to compare it to the dialogue in HOW TO BE BAD. I went back and analyzed passages to see how the authors created a flow that barely required dialogue tags and allowed me to visualize the action exactly. I liked it so much that I questioned my own knowledge and talent as a writer because I knew it could teach me something.

That's skill, people.

Also, I definitely wouldn't have known that three authors wrote this book. Sure, there were multiple points of view, but the characters remained consistent throughout in personality and voice, even when it wasn't their chapter to narrate.

The best part of HOW TO BE BAD?

It's a ball to read. It regularly touches on serious topics (as per the jacket copy, every girl has her issues), but it didn't weigh me down with them. Instead, I had a great time with Jesse, Vicks, and Mel as they drove to Miami. And here's the kicker -- I am personally biased against road trip novels. I just feel they're cliche or something. Way to bust that particular prejudice.

Conclusion for Writers: If you're having trouble with authentic dialogue in your WIP and don't want to resort to a fickle pop culture reference every other line, read this book. Plus, it really nails the nuances of friendship. 

Conclusion for Readers: If you're sitting at home bored and want an adventure with your friends but it's kinda not happening... read this book. It's almost as good as being there.

What book's dialogue do you just love? Have you read a book recently that's so awesome in some way that it makes you question yourself as a writer? (We love those books. Pushing us to be better and all.)


  1. Multiple Choices. I'm also a fan of the Magnetic Kama Sutra...oh wait that has no dialogue;)

  2. Wow, we had completely opposite reactions to this book, which I found boring and asinine; I found the dialogue completely uninteresting.
    How funny that two people could have such COMPLETELY different reactions. I loved the dialogue in the Millenium trilogy. It really kept the book moving, and it felt like real "book" dialogue to me. :-) even if it was never really funny.

  3. Brizmus - Thanks so much for saying that! I'm always intrigued by opposite reactions to books. I think people's opinions have something to do with personal preference of a style or genre, but also to do with your mood when you read it. For example, sometimes I NEED a good rom-com (I've been itching to re-watch The Holiday), but other times I want more substance or action or something. I definitely was in the mood for a HOW TO BE BAD type of book that night (what can I say, the Phillies were losing).


Thanks so much for reading our blog, and we really appreciate you taking the time to comment! We read every one, and we try to respond to all of them via email/comment.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...