As you’re trying out your new dialogue skills, remember to listen. Listen to conversations in movies, on TV and all around you. Listening helps develop your “ear” for dialogue. Keep in mind, though, that dialogue sounds like real speech, but it isn’t. What does this mean?
Writing Tip For Today: Dialogue sounds like real speech in that it:
- uses some idioms or colloquialisms.
- usually abbreviates by using contractions
- doesn’t allow speakers to utter things the characters already know. For instance, you want the reader to know the character is working for the largest company west of the Rockies. But who would say, “You know, I work for the John Q. Public company–largest company west of the Rockies.” The phrase “you know” can be a tip-off that you need to be more creative in giving the reader info.
- doesn’t allow the characters to natter. In real speech we hem and haw, talk about nothing and generally produce a lot of meaningless words. In a story the dialogue must always advance the story line in some way.
- doesn’t allow the characters to educate one another. This is also known as “information-loading” or “encyclopedic responses.” Again the usual culprit is an author who could be more creative in getting the desired info to the reader.
Try This! Think of 3 ways other than dialogue in which you could relay vital info without putting it into the mouths of your characters.