Tuesday, April 2, 2013

"Is your dialogue believeable?" she asked.

I hope everyone enjoyed our little April Fool's entry yesterday. :)  No, there is no actual book.  It was just a made up book.  We thought you'd be entertained.

On to bigger and better things!  DIALOGUE!  Dialogue can be a pretty hard thing to write.  Mainly because the things you want to say in your head are these epic sayings!  And you know exactly how you want to say it and exactly how it should be.  When you put it to paper, however, it may not be as epic as you imagined in your head.

So I'm going to give you a few tips on how to write believable (if not good) dialogue.

Rule #1: Tone down the vocabulary.

You have a fantastic vocabulary.  Great!  However, your characters probably shouldn't be using words like "hitherto" or "aforementioned" (even though that's just about one of my favorite words ever.)  Most people (sadly) do not have ridiculous vocabularies and, unless you're me and my group of friends, most people don't use those vocabularies even if they do have them.

So keep it simple when using actual dialogue.  I'm not saying you can't even use a big word in speech, but it shouldn't be your time to show off the words you know.  ESPECIALLY if you're characters are teenagers.  Teenagers don't use ridiculous words.  They use slang and shortcuts and their own code practically.

I'm not saying there aren't exceptions to the rule (Cassandra in "I See" is one of them); I'm just saying that vocab should usually be cut down on in speech.

Rule #2: Say it out loud.

If you feel like an idiot saying it out loud, chances are your character shouldn't be saying it either.  Sentences like, "But John!  I don't think I could live without you!" are cheesy and unrealistic.  Say that sentence out loud to yourself.  Go on, do it.  Feel like an idiot?  Imagine if you were actually saying it TO someone.

People don't talk like that.  And I understand that it can be hard to tell if the dialogue is getting away from you.  Saying it out loud, the way you imagine the character would say it in the book, fixes bad dialogue every time. 

Rule #3: Less is More

We all remember my post on "Show, Don't Tell" and dialogue is a place you have to watch that just like in the rest of your novel.  I understand the impulse to want to explain everything through your character's words, but think of it in terms of your life.

Read the dialogue.  Would you say all that to someone you know?  Or would they get bored halfway through?  Is all that information really necessary?  Or would a best friend tell you to shut up because she gets the point?  That's how you have to think when you write dialogue.  It's speech, one character to another.  Leave the detailed descriptions to the narration.

Theses are three good guidelines to writing dialogue.  Follow them, and you'll be on your way to writing dialogue with the best of them.

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