Incorporating words of others, along with your own, captures the nuances in your relationships and adds richness to your stories.
Over the years, I have documented dozens of conversations. In many of these instances I would have only remembered the general feeling they evoked had I not written the dialogue down. In many of these instances, I am certain that the addition of dialogue kept the story from falling flat.
When I write dialogue, I imagine my audience and the details I would thread into the story if they were sitting across from me. How would I tell the story? What relevant details would I share?
A common approach I take is to document both sides of the conversation, word for word.
My layout “It’s Puppy Love” is an example of a conversation between my son and I. I set up the situation with a leading paragraph that gives context and flavor, and then I moved into straight back-and-forth dialogue.
Journaling: Why do kids seem to confide in the family they perceive as “cool”? In my family, it’s my sister Lynn. The nieces, nephews, and now even my son dish their secrets up so easily. At my birthday dinner, I couldn’t help but overhear Jake talking to Aunt Lynn, and the word “girlfriend” wafted through the air. It hung there, suspended, in full view for a mom’s inspection. I tried not to pounce. I know it’s a mistake to show hunger for information.
Me: (causally) So, you have a girlfriend? Really?
Jake: (being cool) Yes.
Me: How do you know she’s your girlfriend? Does she hold your hand?
Jake: No mom. (Looking sheepish)
Me: Does she sit beside you at lunch?
Jake: No! Mommmm!
Me: Well, how do you know she’s your girlfriend?
Jake: Because she’s in love with me.
Add your thoughts
Another approach is to work your thoughts and narrative about the situation in with the dialogue.
This technique keeps the story flowing and, even more, it lets the reader know how you were feeling. The incident recounted on “‘Laying’ Another Kid” evoked a lot of feelings for me and there was a lot going on between the lines. I recorded that by threading the thoughts that were going through my mind into the lines of dialogue. The result is a more interesting and insightful story than would have resulted from using typical connectors like “and then he said.”
Journaling: Jake walked into the room during a show that I knew wasn’t age appropriate. It was about child abduction. He immediately latched onto the content and started launching questions in true Jacob style. “Mom, what would happen if someone took me? What would you do?” Sensing a parent moment, I tried my best to stay in control. “Jake, if something ever happened to you, my heart wourld be broken in a million pieces. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to find you.” But Jake wasn’t stopping today. His little mind was already in full swing. “Mom, if you lost me, wouldn’t you just lay another kid?” When I looked puzzled, he went on. “You know mom, make one come out of your tummy.” It took a second to register. Lay. Egg. Chick. Hatch… Kid??? “Jake, I could never replace you with another kid.” That would never happen. I only ever wanted you. You’re the only Jacob for me.” To which he replied, “I don’t know mom. There are a ton of Jacobs in my school.” Ok, now this is getting hard. Too fast. “But Jake – there is only ONE Jacob Anthony Cherchio in the whole wide world. I am quite certain of that.”
Disaster averted. Jake’s concern seemed to be abated (and The Talk Delayed) – for the moment. But that little mind is always ticking. Always thinking. Always hatching another question for a new day.
There are times when a single quote embedded in your journaling creates an interesting rhythm and has great power.
I suppose that technically doesn’t meet the definition of dialogue, but when the quote is connected to an opposing person’s thought, it can almost read like dialogue. I used this technique in “Billie Joe Armstrong Meets Eddie Van Halen.” I quoted myself, my son, and my husband throughout the journaling. Since I didn’t use quotation marks, it’s clear to the reader it wasn’t a direct quote. Using this technique, I interjected my thoughts as well as a couple paraphrased statements into the journaling.
Journaling: Every year about mid-September, the angst begins: what to be for Halloween? This year, as we purused online catalogs, we realized that costumes that used to look cute on younger boys can be decidedly uncool on 8 year olds. I really wanted to build a robot costume, all crafty-mom style, like my friend Cassie, but Michael stopped me in my tracks and told me I was nuts. “You know you don’t have time. Plus, there’s the overspray from the silver paint to deal with.” Good point. I ruled out Mario and Luigi out of sheer principle. “You don’t want to look like a dork, do you?” I didn’t think so.
Then out of the blue, you had it. The most brilliant idea ever. “Mom, I want to be a rock star.” Of course you do! We can make that cool. Because it IS cool. The question is who? What era? That was easily answered by your hair, which has a will of its own, and begs to be pulled up and shaped into maniacal twists with Bed Head products. A touch of blue hair spray gave it a little edge. We added earrings, eyeliner, cut off gloves, a wrist band, jeans, skull tee, skater shoes, and a Paper Jamz guitar.
Dude. Rock on.
P.S. Don’t get any ideas. You’re still taking piano.
Color outside the lines
There are no rules when it comes to incorporating dialogue into a scrapbook page.
In fact, I break the rules whenever possible. When documenting a conversation word for word, the formatting looks best and is easiest to read when it appears as in the “It’s Puppy Love” layout. When a person speaks, it starts a new line. However, sometimes it works just as well to write continuously as I did in the “Laying Another Kid” page.
Remember this: You’re writing for your family and friends, not your Comp 101 teacher. How could you incorporate a special conversation into your next page? Journaling dialogue doesn’t require that you get each quote perfect, word for word. Even if you don’t remember all the details, you can elaborate by documenting your thoughts and feelings along with the dialogue.
Myra Cherchio is a “nearly native” Floridian, mom and clinic director of a medical practice. She spends her free time with camera in hand, documenting her favorite memories with photos and journaling. Check out her pages in her Designer Digitals gallery.