Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Dialogue that's Real


I don't know about you, but having a great conversation is the next best thing to eating a chocolate doughnut. I love to talk, and I love to listen, and I love words (no surprise there).

Photo by: stu_spivack, courtesy of Flickr
Dialogue comes in all shapes and sizes in real life just like it should come in the real world called our latest novel. But sometimes, (dare I say it?) we find that our book dialogue is stilted, untrue, long-winded, boring, and altogether unrealistic.

Yes, real life dialogue can run the same gamut, but usually it's real enough in getting us to continue with our conversation. If the conversation turns sour we usually stop speaking, leave the room, or speak with someone else in the group.

Unfortunately, in a novel, we really can't stop speaking. (There's something about pure setting that really bores the reader). We can't leave the room (because again we're looking around at the pretty rose bushes in the charming garden of our main character for all time) and we can speak to someone else in the group I suppose, though the main character will still need to speak at some point in our novel.

What we can do is to create real dialogue in the first place instead of something else. And that takes practice.

Here are some helps:
  • Consider a real conversation and base your book dialogue off of that. What do people really say? "I can't believe it! Are you serious?" or do they say, "I am full of disbelief. You are talking to me like you're not very serious"?
I hope you chose the first option. No one I know says, "I am full of disbelief. You are talking to me like you're not very serious."
  • Consider the actions that accompany the dialogue. "I can't believe it! Are you serious?" Charly tugged at her shirt, trying to cover up the offending navel. Or, "I am full of disbelief. You are talking to me like you're not very serious." Charly thought her friend didn't understand about the latest styles. She liked the style.  
Just say it without saying everything. Your reader will figure it out if you say it without so many superfluous 'explaining' words. We know in the first instance that Charly was wearing a shirt that showed her navel. We also know that her friend was 'offended' by it.
  • Consider how often you use dialogue. I have said this before but it bears repeating. A great book has a mixture of dialogue and setting; one doesn't overrun the other, though dialogue usually plays a slightly higher hand than setting. Look over a page of your writing. Do you have more dialogue or more setting? Dialogue will keep your writing clipping along; setting gives it more of a pause. Let me put it this way: Have you ever skipped long winded setting to get to the next piece of dialogue?
In the end, dialogue that is real takes the pressure off your readers. Instead of hoping your story gets better, they can't wait to find out what happens next.





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