Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Technically Speaking - A Few Words on Dialogue

by Alycia W. Morales
@AlyciaMorales

There is an art to writing dialogue. I'm not sure many people who are beginning writers know that, as I see a lot of "technical" dialogue when I'm editing. So, here are a few things beginning writers should focus on when crafting banter between their characters.

1. People don't really talk in perfect sentences. Sometimes when we speak, we leave out parts of sentences to emphasize a point or because we're in a stressful or dangerous situation and we need to just get our words out. So when you write, keep this in mind.

How to learn to write it: Listen really closely to some conversations. While you're standing in the grocery line. While you're enjoying your java at the coffee shop. Waiting for a movie. (See what I did there?) Eating Thanksgiving dinner with your family. (See? I did it again.) Then practice writing dialogue between your characters and try to make it sound like people do when they speak.

2. People talk with contractions. We don't say "Do Not." We say "Don't." Unless we're making a point to our children. Then we may say something like, "Do not touch that gun." But if our kids know not to touch the firearms, we can casually say, "Don't touch the guns until we tell you it's okay." Like if we're at the shooting range.

How to learn to write it: Go back through your novel and look through your dialogue (or your non-fiction book, because this applies there too, as you need to keep the tone conversational so you don't offend someone with a directive tone). Any time you find two words that should be a contraction, make them into a contraction. I bet you'll be surprised at how many you find.

3. Most people don't speak with a monotone. Notice I said most. My high school biology teacher was an exception to the rule. Be sure your characters don't, either.

How to learn to write it: Make sure your dialogue isn't "flat." Be sure you're changing your sentence structure just like you would when you're writing action scenarios or setting. And...

4. Add dialogue beats. Dialogue tags are necessary in order for the reader to know who's speaking, but these can become redundant if that's all you're using. Adding dialogue beats (the character's action) adds a new dynamic to your dialogue. "You won't believe what happened to me..." Jane sneezed and wiped her nose with the back of her hand. "Yesterday, I was in a commercial shoot with the white horse that was in The Lord of the Rings trilogy."

How to learn to write it: Find natural breaks in your characters' dialogue. Which of the five senses would they be using in this place? Would they look up or down or away due to an emotion they're experiencing (don't tell me the emotion, though)? Would they savor the flavor of the cheesecake they've craved for the last month as they've fasted eating desserts? Would they pull the hand-knit blanket closer and breathe in their spouse's scent? Put that action in the midst of your dialogue. Or before it. Or after it. Wherever it would naturally occur.

These are just a few of the dynamics of dialogue. But they're a good start to overcoming technical speaking.

Tweetable:

Technically Speaking - Dialogue Advice via @AlyciaMorales {Click to Tweet}

Does your dialogue fall flat? How to fix it: {Click to Tweet}

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