In email zzzThunk says
First off, let me start by saying I like Al’Rashad. I enjoy it every week. But here’s what I don’t get: I know you’re capable of writing more sizzling dialogue than what makes it onto those pages. (It’s not bad dialogue at all, but…) You’ve shown us all that before, so I know it has to be a conscious choice. But why make that choice, exactly?
Because I’m trying to write something approaching more naturalistic dialogue rather than go with my usual hyper-stylized joke-spew? This isn’t to say I don’t enjoy writing like that. It’s fun to write like that, obviously. But putting it in the mouths of my characters rings false to me most of the time, so I don’t go that route. It just doesn’t seem right to me that these fantasy-epic characters should be talking like extras from a Joss Whedon script, you know? To say nothing of the fact that nobody would get their equivalent of pop-culture references.
Of course, there are character/world reasons for it as well. The astute will have noticed that everybody in this fantasy world, thus far, appears to mostly be speaking the same language, which is a bit odd given that the two dominant cultures (in terms of narrative thus far) are pretty wildly different from one another, and there are in-story reasons for that – involving a Roman Empire analogue that left behind their language as the lingua franca a couple of centuries ago. But if you look at some of the speeches, it’s clear that those individual cultures are reasserting themselves and their interpretations of that common tongue are starting to become individual dialects, and given another couple hundred years of cultural isolation from one another there would be enough language drift that they would be barely recognizable as kin. (It would actually happen much faster than that, actually, and I’m cheating a bit by having a lingua franca last as long as it has, but this is a creative choice because language barriers are mostly not fun.)
On top of that some of the characters aren’t particularly good choices for lengthy, witty interludes. Kahal is a very formal person for a number of reasons (after all, someone romancing a lady several miles above him on the social ladder should watch his words carefully). Rayana is an actual princess and also someone who has to watch her words carefully thanks to numerous political enemies. I mostly use Fezay and Joro for snark purposes because they’re both lower-class and proud (as is Tanquir, who also loves to hear himself talk, so there’s that – and yes, Tanquir is not finished yet in this story, rest assured).
But at the same time, I don’t want the dialogue in Al’Rashad to be too formal, or even, say, Conan-formal (and I have told myself repeatedly that if any page sounds like a page out of Conan, it needs a rewrite, unless it is too awesome to rewrite). I’m trying to hit that middle ground in a triangle where Conan is at one point, Whedon at a second and, say, David Mamet or even John Cassavetes at a third.
Anyway, the point of this post is basically “yes, the dialogue is supposed to be like that,” so you’re welcome, and I guess I’ll open the floor to other questions about the comic if people want.