Sunday, 2 November 2008

Ten essential points of dialogue in a novel

Tell Me a Story - writing tips

Dialogue is essential to your novel. Dialogue keeps a story dynamic, it can help dentify characters, it is a way of 'showing' instead of 'telling', and it shifts the tale forward.... Without good dialogue your story will die.

Okay, so I know everyone likes lists. To summarize my previous articles on dialogue I've made a list. Hope it helps a little.

Essential points.
  1. It could be that up to fifty percent of your novel is made of dialogue – half your book, so make it good, make it realistic.
  2. Characters should NOT indulge in chitchat. Every bit of dialogue should move the story onward. If it doesn't contribute in some way, scrub it out.
  3. Dialogue should NOT be true to life – people speak in garbled ways - it should just read as if it’s true to life.
  4. An easy way to check whether your dialogue is okay, is to record it. When you play it back, you’ll hear the shaky bits.
  5. Every central character should have their own unique ‘voice’ that the reader begins to recognize - their own overused words - but not TOO overused. Be discrete, don't make them sound like morons by too much repetition.
  6. The better you know your characters, the better the dialogue will be.
  7. To a certain extent, you can impart age and character with dialogue without having to explain things to the readers. Young people speak in a different way to older people.... but beware of using the latest 'in' words. Your novel might soon become outdated.
  8. Quality dialogue helps readers to become immersed in the novel.
  9. Keep your dialogue to short bursts. If a piece of dialogue entails more than one paragraph, it turns into verbal diarrhoea.
  10. Stay away from substitute words for ‘said’. Words like ‘affirmed’articulated’ and 'vowed', highlight themselves rather than how it's spoken. ‘Said’ is a small word that disappears and allows readers to concentrate on the story.
Make the most of your dialogue. Don't waste the opportunity to enhance your story and you won't go far wrong.

Looking for your next read? Try:

SHORT MOMENTS - a collection of short stories that will jerk tears
PAST SINS - a contemporary women's novel