Dialogue moves the story on. It shows not tells. It should get the reader thinking about the character. Dialogue increases the readers view of what the character is really like rather than TELLING everyone.
SHOWING the character through dialogue is a good way of presenting them. It helps flesh out a story and, as said previously moves the story along. You are aiming to help the reader invest in the character., sympathize and identify with. them
The beauty of writing dialogue you can get them to say anything. Funny, sad, whatever, you are penning their life, the way they think, behave and feel. In short you can get inside their head.
Warning. Too much dialogue could become irritating. Especially if there is much to see around. The reader needs to know exactly where they are – called grounded. This helps us settle into the story. Too little dialogue can possibly leave the reader feeling cheated. I say that because sometimes an argument can arise, or a disagreement, or a funny incident that connects the characters and develops them. Make them real, with human emotions.
Listening and observing people maybe obvious, but REALLY listening, tuning into conversations and identifying what it is that makes that person interesting, what has grabbed your attention can be used in your writing. What made you switch off.
We all have a way with words.
USE DIALECTS CAREFULLY – have a whole new meaning and spin on the way we speak but it can sound forced.
LANGUAGES will also fashion dialogue we may find sexy – the French for example are often used.
READ dialogue with a new eye. How does it bring the character to life in your head? Use this material to try re-writing it. Is it sharp, witty. How does it contrast with the other character.
BE consistent – don’t suddenly let Jill say something Jack might. They are individuals with individual thoughts. they might copy something like OMG or shut the front door or d’ya no? but its the rest that makes them who they are instantly recognisable.
The action between dialogue is important I feel, otherwise its just lines of speaking and it can get pretty boring. Also confusing.
ADULTS OR CHILDREN?
The way kids speak their language changes swiftly. So be careful not to use it directly, unless it’s in a historical novel, and then that will be timely and appropriate. Children are innocent – honest – and will often surprise or shock you with what they say. Listen to kids. Its the only way if you’re going to write with them in the storyline but using their lingo may not be wholly useful.
Watch for mannerisms and body language you can use between dialogue. Are they gesticulating whilst they talk? This helps break up the passage between dialogue. “For god’s sake, get a grip woman.” He sighed and slammed the door before he did something he would really regret.
Marigold, wide eyed, saw the signs. She had wound him up, she was looking for a fight.
“You don’t get to walk out on me that easy mate!” She chased after him and dragged him by the scruff of his neck (I wouldn’t like to meet her on a dark night!)
I was told by one of my colleagues I obviously couldn’t speak unless my hands were moving in all directions. I tried hard to sort that out as I felt bothered by his comment. Was it irritating? Who knows? It could be just the thing that the character needs to make it them.
Do you remember who Harry Potters mate was who said ‘bloody’ quite often? For me I immediately knew who was speaking, just because of this little quirk.
CHECK THIS OUT AND SEE WHICH FEELS MORE COMFORTABLE – how would you improve it.
“I kissed a French man because he looked like the man who went out with Halle Berry. Actually I was wrong. He was not French at all but a German.”
“I snogged a French boy because he looked like that bloke who goes out with Halle Berry. Turns out he was actually German.” JoJo Moyes Paris for One
Personally I believe in the sentence above by Jo Jo Moyes. Its sharper, wittier and gets to the point.
“Hi, lovely to see you. How about we grab lunch and eat over there on the grass for a catch up?”
“Sounds good. Can we talk before we get to next class? It’s about you know who, she’s been getting on my nerves lately and I don’t know how to handle it.”
“Tuna and mayo? Eww, can’t stand mayo, makes me heave. Come to think of it so does tuna.”
In those few short lines of dialogue, there are a few clues as to where they are going, where they are going to sit and what they like to eat. This takes us back to show not tell.
SPOT THE CONTRACTIONS
How many have been used. Did you find them disconcerting or did it flow?
None of us speak perfect English. Well, okay maybe you do. Apologies, of course you do.
In the main though, if you listen carefully to dialogue, we use a variety of methods to convey what we want to say.
Contractions are often used. “It’s” for example – it is. I don’t want to insult you.
Don’t – do not. Do you get my drift? Contractions are more casual and, in my opinion, honest when reading dialogue.
WHEN TO USE DIALOGUE
We’ve discussed when to use dialogue in a previous blog. Personally, after going through a mountain of novels, I still think its approximately 50/50 dialogue and prose.
SOMETHING I LEARNED
Speech marks – for my debut I had written in single speech marks. The publisher wanted double. No problem I hear you say. Well it was a HUGE problem – imagine all that dialogue with contractions pinging with “ in between when it was corrected. ARGGH. Nightmare! It took ages to clean up.
I guess it might be an idea to put “ rather than ‘ because double can be reverted to ‘ easily.
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