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Monday, October 29, 2012

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away…

Oh, yes I do love my Star Wars. But I digress.

When I started this writing career, I loathed dialogue. Creating it, speaking, and visualizing the stuff. Hated it. I slammed through it to get back to the good stuff; action, drama, and narrative. But somewhere along the way, I grew to enjoy if not love it.

Why did I change?

Beats me.

But methinks it had something to do with the story. I learned from my characters. They introduced themselves to me in dialogue and the interaction became golden.

The revelation occurred after a reader told me she hated narrative. She’d skip the scenery and absorb the conversations instead. I do the same when deciding whether to buy a new book, I jump past the first page and look for dialogue. Agents read dialogue to judge whether a manuscript is worthy of their attention.

But how to do it right?

This week, submit your dialogue excerpts to unicornbellsubmissions@gmail.com

Good dialogue has several components.
  • Action
  • Introduction
  • Plot
  • Character traits.
With skill, a writer can move the story forward using these elements. But too often dialogue is the writer’s downfall. Too much information, explaining, and unnatural voice bogs a reader down.

Pitfalls include:

Backstory leads to unnatural.

A glut of info confuses the reader. Make it mysterious. Give the conversation some color without slopping on the whole paint pot.

Attributes that explain.
“Should I run all the way?” she inquired.
“If you want to make it on time,” he smiled.

Let your characters speak for themselves. Don’t explain.

Fred hated flies in the house.
“Don’t you know I hate flies in the house,” he said.

People pause, slur, use bad grammar and short sentences. Not many yap in long complicated monologues. Let them disagree, interrupt, and argue.

Use dialect carefully. A drib there, now and then helps define the character traits.

Break it up.
Long conversation is as tiresome as too much description. Break the speechifying into sections. Let the characters interact physically while the conversation develops. Watch TV and films. See how the script lets them move, pick up a dish, look at a newspaper.

Lastly, always read aloud as you edit. Even better, draft a spouse or passing kid. Bribe them with cookies if you must.

Do you have dialogue that needs critted? Or simply proud of and want to show the world. Send to unicornbellsubmissions@gmail.com.


jp@A Green Ridge said...

Enjoyed all your tips so much!...:)JP

prerna pickett said...

i have a hard time with dialogue as well, thanks for sharing the tips!

Jeff Hargett said...

Interesting. I often enjoy writing dialog more than the rest. Love the examples you cited. I've seen echo done well, but only in humor.

mshatch said...

I love writing dialogue - more so when I get it just right. Excellent tips.