Tuesday, November 17, 2015

3T Writing Tidbit

"Hi." "Hi." "How are you." "Oh fine..."
*yawn* Can we throw in ninjas now?

Dialog isn't just speech. As we found last month, it has three purposes, move the story forward, reveal something about the character, and/or show conflict.

But now that you have your purposeful dialog, how about making it sound like it's coming out of real mouths?

"Hi." "How are you?"

These are "real" things people say. But they don't sound real. They sound cardboard, cartoonish.

That's because dialog isn't supposed to sound real. It's supposed to sound realistic.

Readers suspend their disbelief to be swept along in the story. Give them dialog that sweeps them along in the story but doesn't break the suspension.

First, make it fit the character's era, age, region, class.

Then add one or two ruffles or bows (or metal studs depending on the character): interruptions, repeat, slang, contractions, swearing, pauses, imperatives, character has trouble saying what they mean.

Finally, subtract stiff or stilted dialog, words that break the character's characteristics ("Yo, bro," the countess said), tongue twisters and bits that don't fit the action (e.g. "Let me recite the whole preamble to the constitution" takes one punch).

Published since 2009, over the years I've accumulated various items of writing wisdom. The Third Tuesday Writing Tidbit showcases these items in no particular order. Click here to see all 3T Tidbits.

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