What lengths will a writer go to to write great dialog? I once took a course from T. Davis Bunn, in which he revealed that he had once frequented coffee shops with a voice-activated recorder tucked into his pocket. Later, he transcribed the overheard conversations, so he could study the rhythm and pattern of speech.
All to improve his writing, you see.
I ended up buying myself a recorder after that, but never had the nerve to use it the way he did. I have, however, been known to take some very, very detailed notes in church.
When I wrote To Dance in the Desert, I watched Hugh Grant movies to think through the way two of my characters would talk. I wish I'd known my friend, the British poet Mandy Sutter at the time. If I had, Tom and Jane might have, from time to time, admitted that they were "chuffed" to hear some bit of good news. If they were really happy, they might have been "dead chuffed," and if they were delirious, they might have been "chuffed to little mint balls." Talk like that tempts me to write another British character.
I hope it's no surprise that I love language. I'll bet you do, too. You probably have a whole lexicon of funny sayings you were raised with that you've passed on as a (perhaps dubious) legacy to your children.
I grew up hearing about loud noises and sudden appearances of quiet folks who "scared the piewadden" out of others. Then one day years ago, I'd dropped in to pick my son up from third grade, when I heard a little girl demand, "Alex! What's a piewadden?"
The answer? I haven't the slightest, though it seems to be a substance that bursts out of frightened people.
I have on my desk a lovely book titled Informal English by Jeffrey Kacirk. I'm not certain it's much use when determining what a particular character, with a particular background would say in a given situation, but it's still great fun for browsing.
You do browse dictionaries for fun, right?
Here are a few that I like:
box of teeth: an accordion.
happifying: making happy.
Mississippi marbles: dice.
Jump in, please. Tell us the turns of phrases you hold nearest your heart.
We'd love to hear what flips your switch.