I'll be your thursday host on APA blog, until Tina-Sue banishes me lol
I'm a Paranormal & Romance author with lots of other things tucked under my belt. (NO, that isn't fat, honest)I'll be chatting about lots of different things this year - writing, Agents, Publishers, the metaphysical, author chats, and anything else I can think of.
I look forward to your comments and getting to know you.
If I could write a book on the amount of questions that I’ve been asked with regards to dialogue – it would be an epic! Realistic dialogue doesn’t always come easily to everyone. But I can’t tell you how important it is. Dialogue advances a story and fleshes out the characters while providing a break from straight exposition. But, nothing pulls the reader out of a story faster than bad dialogue. Half finished sentences and the dreaded “uh” and “oh” doesn’t make dialogue sound more realistic. These kind of extraneous words look unprofessional and can send a very good book into an editors slush pile. It takes time to develop a good technique, but here’s a few of my guidelines. Please feel free to add your own in your comments. I’ll collate them all and add them to a page on my writer’s blog. Don’t forget to leave your website address and I’ll put it beside your idea on the page.
Firstly, listen to how people talk. Now do be careful. I’d hate for you to be arrested as a stalker or something! Just eavesdrop and scribble down phrases that you like. You’ll be amazed how much information you can collect by just listening. The right words can make a two dimensional character, three dimensional and much more visual to a reader. BUT, in the yin and yang of things, the wrong word/phrase can destroy the reader’s belief in the character. A disaster that must be avoided at all costs.
Let me give you an example. Let’s say your character is a builder. Big, burly, muscled in all the right places. Would he really say “goodness me” if things go wrong? Likewise, would a solicitor say “blimey or wotcha pal’? No, of course not, but you’ll be surprised at how many writers make this fateful slip. Dialogue should read like real speech. But, in saying that, real speech has words and sounds that would be distracting if included on a page. So you need to act like a filter too. An author has many caps. That is always good to remember!
Now comes the tricky part. When it’s all down and you’re happy with it, you now need to cut out the words and phrases that don’t serve the conversation’s purpose. Dialogue should be used to move the story forward while bringing your characters to life. The reader doesn’t want to hear a mish mash of thoughts and comments that have nothing to do with the story. They will start to line skip. That turns into page skimming and the reader losing interest all together. I once read a book where half a chapter was dedicated to a characters operation. Why? If the story doesn’t move on from the dialogue, cut it out altogether. Characters do chat, but they should be drip feeding information to the reader from it. But do be careful. Never be too obvious that you’re communicating information; otherwise you run the risk of info dumping. My rule of thumb is give no character more than three uninterrupted sentences at once. Trust me. The reader will remember details from earlier in the story.
Make sure you break up dialogue with action, because physical details help to break up the words on the page. If it’s all talk, the reader will get bored. Have arms thrown up in supplication, chairs scrapped across the floor, eyes filling with tears, screams, shouts, laughter...whatever it takes to make your character real.
Now we get to tag lines. The bane of every writer’s life to write and read. If you put the feeling into the dialog you won’t need to use them at all. Try not to say ‘he said angrily, she said sadly. This can be taken as author interference. Instead, put the feeling into the dialogue. Don’t try too hard to vary tags. Veering too much beyond “he said/she said” draws attention to them. If you write “interjected,” or “he sighed,” you’ve now drawn the reader out of the action you’re trying to create. If your dialogue is working well, none of these words in the tag line will be needed.
Last, but by no means least, we come to the most important point of all. Punctuate dialogue correctly. Nothing is more distracting to an editor than a writer who doesn’t know how to use punctuation. You can polish your manuscript until it shines, but it will be all for nothing if it’s covered in punctuation errors.
I hope my ideas help in some way. I look forward to hearing your comments and I’ll be back next Thursdays with more Food for Thought.