Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Do As My Link Says, Not As I Do

There's a great post on editing dialogue on The Blood-Red Pencil today.

I love dialogue. It's my favourite thing to read and my favourite thing to write. I often tune out of books if they go too long without anyone saying anything, unless the writing is really engaging and there's a strong sense of character, even if the character isn't saying much. Dialogue for me makes a piece of writing humann - if there's a person, and they're talking, I feel more like I can get to know them. But since I love dialogue and write a lot of it, naturally I make a lot of my mistakes there.

I'm most guilty of the Filler Dialogue problem.

'How are you?' asked Rosie.
'Fine, fine,' said Elizabeth, sitting down at the table with a sigh. 'Jack got over that awful cold, thank God.'
'Oh, I'm glad to hear that. . .'

Bleugh. No one needs to read that. Unless, somehow, I need to use that dialogue to imply that Rosie isn't happy at all that Jack is feeling better because she has - DUN DUN DUN - poisoned him with a synthetic version of the common cold virus. People did that all the time in the forties, honest.

I'm bad for the Talking Heads problem too - once my characters start nattering, I often find myself leaving them to it. In real life, there's nothing I'd rather do than talk and listen. The biggest drain on my writing time is meeting up with friends to talk, so when my characters start talking, I'm quite happy to just sit back and let it happen.

Not allowed though, it doesn't read well.

Do you guys have any problems with writing dialogue? Do you prefer to skip it altogether?


  1. I find it easier just to write dialogue on it's own which probably makes it a play.
    It is difficult to write because it always sounds so false and stilted.
    When people are actually having a conversation, they overlap and can use nuances in their voices, a tricky one.

  2. I love dialogue too, but yes the hi how are you and fine, thanks, how about yourself has GOT to go!! Also the talking heads, a real problem. Those are the two biggies, and I'm trying to figure out my issues but the only one I can think of is not writing enough dialogue. I always go back in later and fill out with more.

  3. I find reading it loud always helps. Although I dare say it sounds a bit bonkers to anyone listening in. But I like it as it's a great way of getting straight to the heart of what a character thinks or understands. Plus it's kind to the reaer; it breaks up the paragraphs a bit!

  4. Thanks for the link!

    I love writing dialogue. I'm not the greatest at it, but I'm learning!

  5. Have another late-arriving link, this one from Janice Hardy -

  6. I was working on a dialog-driven scene today -- and I got caught up in spelling out every thought. Not necessary, and makes for boring reading! I look forward to revising it :))

  7. Oh dialogue - yes! My favourite bit to edit - like you I have a big red pen across filler dialogues - I laugh everytime I come across one in my stories - it's like, what on earth was I thinking?!!?

    Thanks for the links - very very helpful!

    take care

  8. I like dialogue too. I try to pepper it around. It can be very difficult though.

    Thanks for the link

  9. Thanks for the link!!

    I'm learning the art of dialogue... I'm not great at it but I'm learning, step by step.

  10. So glad I'm not the only one! Sometimes Blogland feels like a big support group :)

  11. I love dialogue, whether reading or writing. I can't get my head around long drafts of prose where nobody says anything, as though the characters are caught in a long pause while they examine the wrinkles in one another's faces.

    I've had to really work hard to avoid filler dialogue. I have to turn off the part of my writing brain that feels the need to detail every action or event, and accept that some things just aren't necessary.

    I also find reading things aloud, dialogue or prose, helps me make sure it's serving some purpose.

  12. Dialogue is my strong point.

    I write in layers. I start with a brief story then half way through the MS I go back and start layering...filling in with description, actions done while they talk, leaving clues to what is to come. I also polish the dialogue at this point. Instead of - Mary said...I change it to, Mary gave a sardonic grin, popped a slice of the gala apple in her mouth and chewed. Taking her time as if savorying each juicy sweet chomp. Her eyes narrowed with a devilish twinkle as she swallowed and whispered, "You're dead."

    So...if you struggle with the descriptions and other points of writing...try this style of writing and see if it works for you! Good Luck. If you try it let me know how it worked for you!



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