At eight, Legg's father died suddenly, plunging his family into poverty. Two years later, while suffering from crippling migraines, he started in business.
National media dubbed him the "Teen Tycoon," but by the time he reached his twenties, the high-flying Legg became ensnarled in the financial whirlwind of the junk bond eighties, lost his entire fortune... and ended up serving time in federal prison for financial improprieties.
Legg emerged, chastened and wiser, one year later and began anew in retail and real estate. From there his life adventures have led him through magazine publishing, a newspaper column, photography, FM radio, CD production and concert promotion.
Click on the image to learn more about Brandt, his books, and his photography.
Questions for Brandt from Julia's students
How do you determine how much dialogue there will be between characters and the extent to which the dialogue reveals latent traits of the characters?
My strength as a writer doesn’t come from a strong academic background, tenth grade English was as far as I got (although I did get a GED). Instead, my writing benefits from my many colorful and diverse experiences. Writing straight prose is more challenging for me than dialogue. So I lean towards the latter when telling a story. I hear the conversations between the characters as they happen in my head. It’s often automatic, as soon as I finish typing what one of them said, the response starts coming. I think the characters are better at telling the story than me. It is their story after all, not mine.
How do you know when to use a dialogue tag and when not to?
I wish I didn’t have to use them at all. If it is two people talking, I try not to use more than one or two at the top (unless it’s a long conversation). If my beta readers write me a note in the margin asking who is talking, I fix it. It’s obviously much more difficult when there are three or more people in the dialogue. I’ll even go so far as to avoid multiple characters conversing if I can. Otherwise, I try to get away with as few as possible and rarely anything more than “_______ said.”
What steps do you take to create a rich dialogue?
I write the dialogue as it comes through without editing. Then, during my first re-read, I cut anything that isn’t advancing the plot or revealing more about the characters themselves. I also keep an ear out for anything that sounds stilted or unnatural.
When in doubt, I read it aloud; you can always tell when you hear it instead of reading it. Until I get to know a character – that point when they take on a life of their own - I try to picture them as someone I’ve known in real life. That’s where that colorful and diverse experience thing comes in. People we’ve known feed the fictional characters. Along the way, I’ve met presidents and prisoners, tycoons and trash men, famous musicians, drug dealers, salesmen, reporters, CIA, FBI agents, corrupt politicians, psychics, drunks, etc., everyone reminds me of someone.