Common Writing Pitfalls #3 Dialogue: Part Two
Back to the Common Writing Pitfalls series.
This is Part Two of an earlier post on dialogue.
Dialogue: Part Two
- Don’t use REAL dialogue.
Real everyday dialogue is boring. When you see someone outside on the sidewalk, you make small talk.
“Hey, how are you?”
“Fine, how are you?
“Great. Where are you going?”
“Just around the block.”
But no one wants to read small talk. Unless it has a major plot purpose—like behind your people, a building is falling to the ground and they are missing the action because they live in a giant plastic bubble.
Cut every word that you don’t need and be creative with the words you choose to use. Witty, fun dialogue keeps readers hooked.
2. Watch out for overuse of names.
How many times in real life do we say a person’s name in conversation? Not many. So check for that when you edit. The exception to this comes when your character does this with everyone because it’s a personality trait he carries throughout the book.
“Hey, Susan, how are you?”
“Fine, Jill, how are you?
“I’m great, Susan. Where are you going?”
“Just around the block, Jill. Care to join me?”
3. Use dialogue to give information and move the story forward.
Be careful not to give an information dump or overload. Share your secrets lightly and scatter them throughout the book.
Don’t give obvious information.
4. Use dialogue to show us more about the personality of your characters
Each of your characters will speak differently. The words or phrases they use can show us something about their personality. Is your character’s speech formal, choppy, snarky, polite, stilted, humorous, sarcastic. What words do they use? One person may describe a movie as great and another as a masterpiece of cinema.
Dialogue tags come in here, too. Does your character wave her arms when she talks? Stand still? Or shift her feet? Make eye contact? Avoid eye contact?
5. What your characters don’t say can be just as crucial as what they do say.
What if your character doesn’t answer a question? Or provide information? Maybe your character changes the subject or deflects. Silence or omission of information by his carefully chosen words can be just as telling as actual information giving dialogue.