Thursday, November 10, 2011

MGOC Contributor: David Shifren


EXCERPT from "Talking the Talk in Crime (and Other) Fiction" by David Shifren in Many Genres, One Craft: Lessons in Writing Popular Fiction

For dialogue to sound real it’s no secret that cops had better sound like cops, lawyers like lawyers and doctors like doctors, but never is this more important than when members of a profession talk with each other. When writing such scenes you walk a fine line between including enough technical jargon to sound authentic but not so much you lose lay readers.

What’s a writer to do?

Unfortunately the tried-and-true method for testing dialogue – reading it aloud and trusting your ear to flag what doesn’t fly – won’t always work when your characters are speaking the lingo and acronyms of their professional language.


David Shifren has been teaching for SHU’s graduate writing program for six years and teaching for the University of Pittsburgh, where he earned an MFA in Fiction Writing, since 1989. His published books include traditional westerns à la Louis L’Amour (this despite Shifren's having grown up in Brooklyn) and three mystery novels for a longtime best-selling young adult series. He was awarded a 2006 Pennsylvania State Council on the Arts Screenwriting Fellowship and has had three screenplays optioned. Currently he is working on a police procedural based on his experiences as a police officer in Western Pennsylvania.

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