Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 13, 2009

Writing Better Dialogue

  1. Chick TalkObserve and listen to how people talk.  If you are writing for young children, find a place where you can sit and listen.  Libraries have special events for young children.  Talk to the children’s librarian to see if you can sit in and observe.  Talk to a friend who has children the same age as your characters.  Perhaps you can wrangle an invitation to a party.  Make sure you take lots of notes.  Author Carolyn Mackler writes for teen.  One of the things she attributes to her success is finding a coffee shop where teens hang out after school.  She makes a point of getting a table before school lets out and waits with her journal ready to take notes on what they say and how they say it – what they wear and how they look.
  2. Make it real.  People use slang.  They use contractions.  They don’t always talk in full sentences and even when they do, we don’t need to include all of it.  Edit out the filler words and speech that doesn’t contribute to your plot in some way. 
  3. Break up dialogue with action.  Just as long paragraphs with lots of information dumped in about past happenings drags down a story, so does endless dialogue.  Break it up with text that shows the reader physical things going on.  The person pauses and looks over her glasses and says something else.  The girl talks, flips her hair and continues talking.
  4. Don’t Overdo Dialogue tags.  Try to stick to “he said/she said”.  Getting too creative with your tags draws attention away from your dialogue and that is what needs to be the focus.  In the revision process look for all the places where you can remove “He said/she said.”  If only two people are talking you don’t need to use a tag on every exchange.
  5. Don’t go overboard with slang and profanity.  They can be distracting and you run the risk of alienating your reader.
  6. Stay clear of dialect.  Unless you are from a certain area, region or country, you shouldn’t try to write in that dialect.  To write more than a few sentences requires the expertise of someone from the region who is familiar with all the terms, inflections and meanings.  Consider your readers.  The different meanings, phonetic spelling and dropped endings can slow the story, make it harder to read and become irritating.  In fact you could lose the reader all together.

Hope this gives you some ideas to improve your dialogue.  Let me know. 

Kathy


Responses

  1. Some excellent suggestions and definitely something to think about. I very much agree with numbers 1, 5 and 6. Though I wonder about the third one. Observation would lead me to believe that people sit for long periods of time babbling with little in the way of action other than the occasionally hair flip. I think dialogue can really move the pace of the story on and tell you more about the character than description of action, at times and when appropriate. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

    Like

    • Cassandra,

      Thanks for stopping back and leaving a comment. I guess I was trying to say that when our characters have a little more to say than normal, it is good to remember to break up the dialog with some type of action to keep it interesting.
      I agree, dialogue is a great way to move the story along and give your readers a better look inside your characters.

      Glad you stopoped by and hope to hear from you again.

      Kathy

      Like


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