Dialing Up your Dialogue

Not so good…

“It’s a rock,” Jen said.

“Is it,” Ken replied.

“Yes, a large one,” Jen leaned in to inspect.

“How shall we move it,” Ken leaned in too.

“Umm, well… let me think about that.”

Better…

“Crap that rock is the size of Ms. Masey’s prize-winning pumpkin, Jen.”

Jen put her shoulder into, but all that accomplished was a shooting pain down her arm.

“Maybe a rope?” Ken poked it with the toe of his worn boot. “I could attach it to the bull bar. What do you think?”

“Well, I think it’s fair to say we can’t drive over it.” Jen eyeballed the obstruction.

 

Writing dazzling dialogue is a very difficult skill to master. When written well dialogue can be witty, fast-paced and give insights into your characters… or it can be stilted, awkward and boring. Which would you rather have?

Dialogue is more important in the modern romance than it was many years ago. Readers don’t tolerate redundant info dumps like they used too. Having said that, nor do they tolerate long-winded prose. Getting the balance right is not always easy, but it comes the more you write. Take the time to read some of those authors you love, and see how they had perfected it!

 

Tips for writing good dialogue

  • Putting in dialogue for the sake of it is not advisable. Having two people discussing something boring is not a good way to engage the reader.
  • Keep it realistic, and get the balance right between readable and readability.
  • We don’t want to hear all the umms and ahhs that take place in a conversation on the page like you would do if you were listening to a conversation in real life.
  • Every line of dialogue needs to be there for a reason, not to pad your word count. When used well dialogue can convey a scene or emotion without going into long-winded detail, and move the story forward.
  • Each character also has their own individual way of speaking. We’re not talking about languages, like Scottish, “dinna ken, lassie!” Sometimes this works, but be careful your readers will understand what it is you’re trying to say. We’re talking about the masculine way of speaking, v the feminine. Old v young. A well-bred aristocrat v someone who speaks using a lot of slang or swearing.
  • Don’t info dump! As Shar calls it, the ‘do you know, Bob,’ conversation.
    If there are only the two people in the conversation, you shouldn’t need too many he said or she said. New writers tend to do this, and it’s often not necessary. The flip side to this is that we also need to know who’s speaking. It’s a balancing act, but you’ll get it right with practice.
  • Avoid purple prose, which is dialogue that is too elaborate or ornate.
    Don’t overdo it! ‘Even so, beloved Eva! fair star of thy dwelling! Thou art passing away, but they that love thee dearest know it not.’” (Can be over the top in the wrong situation)
  • Don’t overuse words, by this I mean overwriting a sentence. “Why is it that I must go to that particular store today.” Instead of “Why do I have to go to that store today.” Obviously, there are exceptions, like historical romance, but for the most, don’t!
  • Be careful of parroting. “It is a lovely sunset, John.” “Yes, it is a lovely sunset says, Jill.”
  • Dialogue and action work well. “Get out of here now,” he said angrily, or “Get out of here now!” He slammed his hand down on the table. The second sentence has more punch don’t you think?

FYI It’s ok to break the rules, nothing is set in stone, but just make sure that if you do, it works! Go to your keeper shelf and read the books you love. If they’ve broken the rules, usually it’s for a reason, like sarcasm.

Dialogue is easy. It’s what you’ve been doing almost every day, most of your life. 
– Josip Novakovich

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