Dialogue
comes naturally to some authors, but others struggle with trying to share
realistic, pertinent, and dynamic conversations in their fiction. Today, let’s
take a look at some practices to avoid and some that will assist in providing
vibrant dialogue.
If the conversation doesn’t add to the
story, nix it.
You’ve no doubt heard it before. In fiction, the weather is
only important in fiction if a tornado or other natural catastrophe is pending.
Likewise, the niceties each of us endure when we come upon a friend or acquaintance
are not interesting in real life. If the conversation between your characters
doesn’t move the plot forward, if it isn’t instilled with conflict, delete it.
Don’t let your characters discuss things
they know about each other.
If Mary and Sue have been friends since grade
school, don’t have them sitting down to tea to discuss the things they know
about each other, especially if this conversation is utilized in order to bring
in back story or information that is best received another way. Don’t do it, especially
if the back story or information isn’t pertinent. If it is pertinent, bring it
in via conflict.
“Mary,
I told you I didn’t want to see George again. Cancel his invitation to the
party.”
“I don’t
understand your fixation with this. He’s just an old friend from school. Get
over it.”
“Get
over what? The fact that he never was a friend or that he attacked me after the
Homecoming Dance our senior year?”
Match the character’s speech with his/her
background and education.
Quite simply, a doctor isn’t going to talk like a
mob boss, and a mob boss isn’t going to converse like a mother of three
children. Well, of course, you could have some very interesting characters if
there was a reason for them to do so, but generally, ah, no.
Accents are a great way to define a
character’s speech, but don’t overdo it.
Joel Chandler Harris got away with
writing heavy dialogue in his Uncle Remus stories, but those stories are very
difficult to read. It is best to stick with a handful of words that will define
the accent being conveyed. An easy example is our American Southern accent.
Everyone knows we don’t say our “r’s” and “g’s.” There’s also that ever-ready y’all
(but make sure you use this correctly. This is an abbreviation for “you all,”
and “y’all” is plural. Never have your Southern Belle talking to a lone
individual when she invites, “Y’all come and sit here a spell.”)
Everyone uses contractions. Your characters
should use them, too.
The greatest tell an author has with regard to
whether he or she takes seriously the writing of dialogue, is in the writing of
conversations in which contractions are never used, such as: “I will be there
tomorrow. Do not forget. You will have to pick me up at the airport.”
And
that leads to the last note regarding dialogue:
If you really want to know how your
dialogue flows, read it aloud.
Reading aloud will help you to hear the
nuance, or lack thereof, you are trying to develop. For example, if you read
the above example aloud, you would most likely realize that it would sound
better like this: “I’ll be there tomorrow. Don’t forget. You’ll need to pick me
up at the airport.”
If,
after reading the line aloud, the author decided emphasis was needed, he might write:
“I’ll be there tomorrow. Do not forget. You’ll need to pick me up at the
airport.”
Happy
editing.

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