Not surprisingly, I’ve drifted away from blogs and social media lately. I’m determined to buckle down and finish Murder Is Where the Heart Is. Because I wrote the book so quickly during National Novel Writing Month, over five thousand words have been tossed, and there is a ton of rewriting yet to do. I’ll get there. I simply need to focus.
However, there is a special reason for posting to my blog today.
I originally started blogging to chronicle my writing experiences. For that reason, I want to mark another milestone. Today is my two-year anniversary of becoming a writer.
Woo-hoo! Break out the M&M’s!
I thought it fitting to pick a writing topic for this post.
I chose dialogue for two reasons. First, I enjoy writing dialogue. Second, my blog post of September 18, 2012 has page views every day. Is Your book Dialogue Heavy has been visited more times than any of my other posts.
In that post, I expressed my discontent with a book I had read that was packed full of dialogue. I wrote: I became weary of listening in on conversations. I was relieved when there were short bursts of description or information. The story moved too quickly with nearly all of it being told in dialogue. New characters came on the scene and added to the conversation with nary an introduction made.
I still feel the same way, but I also still believe that enjoyment or dissatisfaction with the amount of dialogue in a book is ultimately the personal preference of the reader.
Let’s move on today to writing dialogue. I have a few things to share.
When I first began writing, I realized the story was playing in my mind like a movie. It was easy to write what I was seeing and hearing. It’s still like that for me most of the time.
I read several articles about dialogue, and two simple things helped me the most.
- People don’t use perfect grammar when they speak.
- People usually use contractions when they speak.
Reading my dialogue aloud helps tremendously to hear if it sounds realistic or not.
I also tend to write with simple words, so having my characters speak with simple words works well for me.
I often envision favorite television or movie actors playing out scenes. My Jo Ravens character isn’t blonde, but at times, I envision her facial expressions, manner of speaking, and even her laughter as that of Katherine Heigl’s. It worked perfectly as I wrote the following short scene from my work in progress.
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(Quick setup: Jo is at a wedding reception. The adults are avoiding her.)
I sat down at a table where two young boys were playing with handheld video games. The boys were oblivious to my presence until I popped the second meatball into my mouth. One of them scowled at me.
“Hey, you got me in trouble.”
My eyes widened. I held back a smile. “I did not,” I said.
“Did too,” he said.
I leaned forward, stared the kid down, and asked, “How did I get you in trouble?”
“Geez, lady, once you started laughing, I started laughing, too.”
The second boy finally looked up from his game and said, “Me, too.”
The first boy finished his tale of woe. “My mom pinched me to make me stop laughing. It hurt like crazy.” He lifted his shirtsleeve to show a small bruise.
I gave him a look of sympathy and mouthed a silent, “Wow.”
“My mom gave me the death stare,” the second boy said. “That kept me from laughing.”
I pulled my lips in between my teeth and bit down, struggling to hold back laughter. I finally said, “Well, you have to admit, the helicopter was pretty funny. So was the preacher taking a dive.” I raised one eyebrow, smiled at the boys, and nodded my head to encourage them to agree with me.
The second boy laughed and said, “I know! I’ve never seen a preacher move so fast.”
The first boy put his hand over his mouth in an attempt to stifle a laugh, but a sourpuss woman quickly extinguished it for him when she tugged his arm hard enough to lift him out of his chair and whisk him away. The second boy might as well have been tugged, too, because he was gone in a flash.
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Simple words. Simple dialogue. It’s my favorite part of writing.
Share your best tips. What helps you write dialogue?