Thursday, December 2, 2010

Writing Advice #4: A Few Words About Dialogue

Dialogue is one of the most enjoyable parts of fiction writing, but it can also be tricky. Dialogue breathes life into characters, and—if it’s done correctly—will provide background information and advance the story. Here are three quick tips for making dialogue do its job:
1. No speeches, please. Have you ever watched a movie and seen a character giving a long-winded speech? Unless the character was on stage or is the President of the United States, that speech probably made him/her seem boring and phony. So steer clear of speeches when writing fiction. Listen to how people really speak to one another. Their sentences are sometimes short and clipped. Answers are often given in phrases or single words. This is real-life speech, and it should be reflected that way in your writing.

2. Don’t use characters’ names constantly. “Well, Mary, I think you should stay with your husband. He’s a great guy, Mary. I think, Mary, that you should give him another chance, Mary.” You see my point, right?

3. Don't drag it out. Use “What?” and “Huh?” and “What did you say?” sparingly. While these words and phrases might mirror realistic speech, they’ll unnecessarily lengthen your manuscript and slow down the story. Use these types of words/phrases only for dramatic effect.

My main point: Dialogue should push things forward. Don’t let it hold your story back.