Sunday 14 June 2009

Creative writing - dialogue

Tell Me a Story - Dialogue.

AJ, can you help me? My dialogue never seems ‘real’. Have you any tips you can share?
Hi, Pauline. You're right to pay attention to it because dialogue is VERY important. Your novel needs to contain around 50% - 60% dialogue to keep it moving along.

I know it sounds trite, but try listening to the way people talk. Study the selection of words, and the tempo used. People don’t speak in long sentences, so make sure you write your dialogue in short, sharp sentences.

As you listen, decide which of those spoken words are actually suitable for your writing. In real life, when we meet someone, we greet each other with worn-out phrases, asking how they are, etc. This is monotonous stuff.
Readers are intelligent and understand that small talk occurs – they simply aren’t interested. They want to get to the substance of the conversation without everyday fluff. Remove the minutiae; give the readers what they want.

You also need to append dialogue with body language. Without body language, readers can’t always appreciate the value of words. Readers need to see the protagonists in their mind's eye as they talk - do they grimace, smile, frown? Body language can completely alter the meaning of words.

Adding body language can also alter the pacing of the work. There are times when brisk dialogue is necessary, and times when we want to slow it down. Describing body language can slow it quite subtly without altering the substance.

One thing I must point out. Be VERY careful if your character has a dialect. Writing in heavy dialect can become distracting and time-consuming, and most readers tire of it quickly - one of the rare times when you should TELL, not SHOW.

Hope this helps a little, Pauline – and good luck.

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