If you’re like me-an on and off writer with chronic writer’s block and an insane goal of being a somewhat successful published author-then you’ve hit the common road bumps. One of mine is the dreaded question of dialogue. I often stop and wonder, am I doing this right? Should that be there? I hate the word “I”, or is it a letter? Somebody please comment on what it is.
While I wait for that wonderful person to comment, let me get on with the show.
It’s annoying. It’s not necessary for every body of work. Take poetry. I don’t read much poetry that has line after line of quotes and back and forths. I don’t see…
“His hair shined down,
like the moon bathing a swan.”
“Those words, so true,
my soul quakes. Tell me more.”
Nope. Never seen something like that before but maybe I’ll search for it. Maybe. In the mean time, I’ll work on perfecting what I’ve come to learn about dialogue.
It’s not supposed to be perfect. Think about it; how many people do you know speak without so much as a pause or pause filler like “Uhm”, “So”, “Like”? I don’t know about you, but I don’t know anybody like that. They will pause if anything and it’s a noticeable pause. Face it, some people speak in broken speech patterns.
“That sale. You know, at that
store. You know the store.”
“The store where?”
“At the mall. There’s a sale at the mall.”
Sometimes the important bits are at the very end and you have to ride out the fluff. If you rush them, they’ll get upset or flustered, so you wait. Or maybe you, or your character, understand the other person. It’s a real thing, so why not incorporate that style of dialogue into your writing?
People also speak in rounds. They will dodge the point for as long as they can. Sometimes it’s because they have speech ADD-I have a sister like this, so I know what I’m talking about here. Then there are those who simply want to prolong the inevitable.
“Can I ask you something? I don’t want
want to bother you or anything. I mean,
I don’t think I’m a bother. Am I? Sometimes I think I
am cause, you know, I like to talk, a lot. I need to
learn to let others talk but-what was I talking
about originally? Oh yea, do you like me?”
See? It looks crazy, right? Now read it out loud, paying attention to the punctuation. Feel the momentum of it. Let your tongue get tied up as you speed through the ramble. That’s the making of real dialogue. Too often we doubt ourselves and that’s because whenever you watch a scene in a movie or television series, the lines sound perfect. They’re not all long-winded or crammed with information. We like the strong, silent type. We like the bad boys who say five words max at any given time.
“Want to hang out later? Movie or something?”
“Tomorrow then? I have a cool game we can play.”
“I’ll let you know.”
Boom. Conversation done. As fun as that is, and insightful to the character at times, it’s not the norm. People speak differently. People use words like “Shizzle” or “Obvs.” I know that there are writers, readers, editors, professors, and publishers out there that will say DO NOT USE SLANG but if you’re painting a character and that’s how they speak, do it. You didn’t sign up to be a writer to sit in a mold. Break out of it and let your voice rise above the rules.
I feel like I have firm hold on style of speech and dialogue. I know what my characters sound like. Now all I have to do is figure out when to wrap actions and setting around their words and when not to. Here’s to my success.
You can read more about dialogue here.
I also suggest reading about sentence structure here. For some people, it’ll hammer techniques home, but for others, it may be the guiding light you’ve been waiting for.
Both links will be in The Toolbox as helpful tips and advice.