Monday, October 9, 2017

Reading good dialogue makes readers feel like they're on the scene.

Reading good dialogue makes readers feel like they're on the scene, on the page, involved with the characters, or at least overhearing. 

Many of my online students wrote dialogue that was stilted and formal as if using arcane, sophisticated verbiage would sound like real writing.

That’s okay if you want to convey the idea the character is stiff, formal or pompous or his first language is not English. However, the simple way to make your dialogue less formal is to use more contractions
  • Can't instead of cannot. 
  • Don’t instead of do not. 
  • Wouldn’t instead of would not. 
That’s more the way people speak in their everyday life.

Avoid dialogue that does not have a purpose:

"Hello, Jim. How are you?"

"Oh, I'm bored."

[Guess what. Readers are also bored.]

Avoid dialogue that has no reason to be spoken.

"Hello. My name is Carla. May I get you a drink?"

"Yes, please. I would like a martini with 2 olives."

"Sure thing, sir. I'll be right back with your order."

That dialogue tells readers absolutely nothing. All of the drama and the tension of the scene is killed by irrelevant dialogue. Don't throw extraneous dialogue into an action scene or waste dialogue on things that don't matter.

Dialogue shows us immediacy 
while narrative only tells us what is happening.

The words your characters speak to one another do more to convey their nuances to readers than any words you can use to describe them.

What they say and how they say it reveals not only their opinions and attitudes, but it shows much about their personalities and their relationships with one another. Anything revealed about a character in the words of that character has a ring of truth, which does not exist when you merely tell readers about the character. Dialogue proves what you've said about the characters is true.

Does he talk like that? Really?

When you write dialogue for a specific character, make sure your character is the type of person who would talk like that.

A white, elderly Jewish lawyer is just as unlikely to say, "What's happening, dude?” as a six-year-old child is unlikely to say, "The willows were inexplicably green, and sunlight glazed the windowpanes."

In both cases, the dialogue is inappropriate for the character. You may argue you know an attorney or a child who speaks this way, but it will be difficult to make readers believe it.

----- (From NOVEL SECRETS available in paperback and Kindle form.)

Lary Crews