Oh, That Infamous Green Dress

Once in a blue moon (note to self: what the heck does “blue moon” mean?? I better look that up first chance I get) I find a piece of clothing so perfect that I wear it forever.

Right now, hanging in my closet, is a red cardigan sweater I got from my husband for Christmas 27 years ago. It is so comfortable, and cozy and nice to wear that it will be cherished until the last thread unravels and it is no longer a recognizable shape. You probably have something like that in your closet, too.

Years ago, when I still wore a size I could mention in mixed company, I bought a Kelly green silk shirtwaist dress. It was perfection.

Comfortable? Check.

Good color? Check.

Easy to care for? Check.

Stylish? Ah, not so much…it was, after all, a shirtwaist dress. Plain Jane, but it did the job.

It was definitely my “go-to” outfit when all else failed. I wore it to church with a blazer. I wore it to coffees with a cute little sweater. I wore it to luncheons with pearls (yes, pearls—it was a long time ago). And I enjoyed every minute of the time I spent in it.

One glorious North Carolina fall morning, I went to a coffee given by the wife of my husband’s commander. (We were an Air Force family.) I had worked my way through the fruit kabobs and blueberry muffins when up slithered a woman I knew slightly, and didn’t particularly enjoy.

“Oh, hi, Bev. I almost didn’t recognize you without your green dress on.”

She grabbed a nibble and wandered away—smiling that smarmy “gotcha” smile she had perfected. All these years later I still remember how embarrassed I felt. Unfortunately, I never really enjoyed wearing that dress again. Her words had more of an impact than I like to admit.

So, you may be wondering, what’s the point of that story? The point, dear friends, is that everything—no matter how silly or painful—is fodder for your writing. Those nine words tell a great deal about the woman who spoke them. But, they are also a great example of how dialogue can tell—in a few words— much that needs to be said about the character of your character.

Would you like to know that woman? Or would you rather be seated on the other side of the room from her. Is she confident? Or snide? Is she trying to be funny? Is she cruel? Or foolish? Or is she insecure? Those nine words tell worlds about her.

Most writers (oh, beware of generalizations) love to write description. We wax ecstatic about fall leaves and burbling brooks but may tend to find our dialogue wooden or unnatural because it isn’t as much fun to write. My suggestion is to have a little notebook handy at all times and write down all the fun, dramatic, and unbelievably entertaining snippets of conversation you hear standing in line at the grocery store or waiting at the doctor’s office or sitting in a booth at Starbucks.

Sometimes something will stay with you (like the infamous green dress episode) but generally clever things slip away before you can get to the computer unless you have written them down.

Eavesdropping is another device in your writing tool box.—a fun but important one. Dialogue is hard. Overheard conversations can be dramatic or entertaining and can add zip to your book. Go for it.


(Checked out Google— A blue moon is the second Full Moon to occur in a single calendar month. Who knew???????)


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