I’m not one for hard and fast rules (always, never…please!) but there are some good dialogue tips here…
You know that part in your favourite show, usually the first 15 minutes or so, where characters are talking but they ain’t saying nothing (new) i.e. background and contextual overload in dialogue form …that’s what I think of when I read rule 1: Never use dialogue as an information dump (See what I mean about always, never… sometimes you’ve got to give a little something something through the dialogue …the trick is to keep it conversational).
My time as a reporter (where it’s all he said, she said with the occasional rebellion to something more descriptive) more than anything has taught me as much as possible to beware dialogue tags that get in the way of the actual dialogue which is rule 2: Use simple dialogue tags.
Having the characters do instead of or while talking is a good idea as well since that’s what we do in real life – see, I’m thinking and typing and listening to music all at once. Knew show don’t tell was gonna work its way in here some where. So, use the moments, reveal the characters, create forward movement, slow things down or speed them up, use the moments; rule 3: Use dialogue beats to help with story pacing and to convey information or emotion.
But it’s so pretty…. rule 4: Remember that often less is more.
Rule number 5 is Be careful when writing dialect. Ok, here’s the thing, I try to write the characters’ voices as I hear them (not literally…exactly). In editing I read the dialogue out loud to hear it (for real this time). As the review process gets going I may nip and tuck here and there so that they still sound like themselves but can be understood…it’s not a science with me…but so far it works.
I think my dialogue note, if I have one, is I don’t try to create my characters, I try to get to know them and be true to them in the telling. How they speak is a part of that. I am ever a student of this craft but reader response suggests I get it right (some of the time):
“… nicely managed dialogue that captures personality and mood.”
“The dialect is wonderfully written and rolls off the mental tongue while reading it.”
“I find myself caught up again in the complexity of the characters, in a fascination with a world with layers of languages I hardly know, with its sense of community.”
“Even though the dialect wasn’t something I was used to at the end of the book, I felt that I could go to Antigua and carry on a conversation with the best of them.”
“The characters are so vivid, that I got this idea that when I will visit Antigua, I will meet them in the streets.”
*WARNING*Shameless plug alert* All reader reviews refer to my book Oh Gad! About which you can read more, here.
As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.