By: Linda S. Clare
YOU ARE NOT YOUR CHARACTERS
One of the easiest ways to improve your dialogue is to keep in mind that you are not the characters. If all the dialogue sounds like YOU, it will be hard for readers to differentiate (and root for or against) characters in your story.
Whenever you’re out in public, keep a keen ear on the conversations around you. Some writers even secretly record or jot down snippets of the things people say. Take special care to note the differences in how men and women, kids and seniors, white-collar workers and laborers speak. They say writers must be perpetually noticing, so allow your noticing to extend to the speech you overhear. Then apply these gleanings to your fiction. You’re more likely to paint a vivid picture of your character if readers believe the way a character speaks makes sense.
NO FAIR INFO SHARE
A second easy way to pump up dialogue is to avoid the temptation of stuffing characters’ speech with convenient information, info both characters already know and yes, speeches. I preach the value of The Rule of Three to avoid “
speechifying–” that is, after a character
speaks three lines of dialogue, either switch to the other speaker or else
break up with a sentence or two of action, emotion or inner thought. And think
about how people who know one another seldom speak words of info both know.
An example might be two guys who work at the Los Angeles Aviation and Widget Factory. Would one say, “Are you going to work today at the Los Angeles Aviation and Widget Factory?” More likely, he would say, “Are you going to work today?” They both know where. And if you use dialogue to reveal crucial information about the story, beware. Info dumps, the “you know” syndrome (You know you have to spend the night in your aunt’s haunted mansion in order to collect the million dollars) and
devices are easily spotted by readers and take away from the suspended
disbelief a story must maintain. Instead, look for more natural ways to
disclose important points.
IF IT TALKS LIKE A DUCK
. . .
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