Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Good Dialogue

Posted by Eileen Astels

Writing good dialogue takes practice, and then some more practice. Here are just a few pointers I've picked up so far. I've got a long way to go to learn this concept, so this post is as much for me as it is for anyone else interested. Hopefully these pointers will help us all.

One of the basic things to consider when creating dialogue segments is to cut out all the "boring" chat. Use a quick transition sentence to get through the pleasantries that everyone knows happens, but doesn't want to be bothered reading or experiencing through a book. Cut to the chase, as they say. Get to the good stuff immediately. And by "good stuff", I mean have the characters talk move the plot forward, or at the very least, reveal important characterization. Your readers will thank you for doing so.

Make the words spoken on your page sound like the unique characters you've created. Give them individual speech rhythms, patterns. If your hero has a habit of clipping his sentences, then make his dialogue clipped--don't complete all his sentences. If your hero is a rambler, let him ramble, but be sure to make his rambling interesting. Again, so as not to bore the reader, you may want to make use of a beat or transitional phrase to reveal the never-ending spiel without making the reader sit through every single word.

Favorite words. We all have words we tend to use more than the next person. Give each of your characters some pet words and sprinkle them into their dialogue, there's alone.

Anything that will help define who is speaking is a great element to incorporate in your dialogue segments. The less speaker attributions required, the better. Even mannerisms within beats can be used when the dialogue can't be phrased in a unique-to-the-speaker way.

Read your dialogue aloud. Listen. Do you hear the difference speech patterns, cadence, choice words? Go through each quote and make it as unique to the speaker as possible.

Okay, now it's your turn. If you have any other suggestions, please drop them in a comment. I'm listening.



P.S. A little heads up: Kaye Dacus will be running a series on writing dialogue, called "Say What?" on her website starting in a week or two. You may want to check it out, I know I will be. Here's the link: Hopefully I'll see over there.

1 comment:

Catherine West said...

I love writing dialogue but sometimes it's easy to get carried away. I tend to forget that what is being said has to be vital information to the story, to help push it along. If not, it needs to go.
I'm still learning too! Thanks for the wisdom.