Talking About Dialogue
So, we’re talking about dialogue. In my humble opinion, dialogue is an intricate part of storytelling—of getting the reader into the story— because it’s an extension of the characters’ personalities. Dialogue isn’t something the reader should ever have to think about. It should just…be. It should be an even flow, a give and take of conversation. If the dialogue reads stilted or forced, the reader is probably not going to hang very long with the book.
The first rule to writing believable dialogueis to make sure it jives with whatever time period you’re using in the story. If you’re writing a Regency story or a Civil War saga featuring slaves, you better be on your game with regard to those vernaculars. I got dinged in a review of my historical western romance because the reader felt I used 2012 terminology for a story set in the 1880s. Ouch! The last thing you want as an author is to have your reader yanked from the story.
Maybe that’s why I choose to write contemporary romance. No need to worry about the proper Scottish dialect for me. But even with contemporaries, you have to be careful. I personally love to use words like “gonna,” “hafta” and “kinda” in dialogue—Spell/Grammar Check be damned. This is how people talk in real life so it’s how my characters are gonna talk. Think about Morgan Freeman in Driving Miss Daisy. Did he say, “I am trying to take you to the grocery story.”? Uh, no. He said, “I’m tryin’ ta take ya to da store.” Huge difference.
The other thing to keep in mind when writing dialogue is, if your character can say something in five words, have them say it in four. Short, snappy lines makes the reading go faster because more pages are getting turned. It also puts more *white space* on the page. And readers loooooove white space.
As a reader, one of my pet peeves is when the author uses a bunch of he said/she said or he asked/she asked in dialogue. Rather than having Sally say blah, blah, blah, have Sally do something. If she’s upset, have her stomp a foot or glare at the hero. If she’s being coy or shy, have her swish side to side or twist her fingers together. Remember that pesky, yet brilliant advice: show, don’t tell. Don’t tell me who’s talking, but show me by having some action during the dialogue. It helps to solidify the characterizations and makes for a (hopefully) more enjoyable read.
Okay, so I’ve voiced my opinion about dialogue. Do you agree with me or am I barking up the metaphorical tree? Shout out your thoughts and opinions.
Contributed by MFRW author Lynda Bailey.
I’ve always loved stories, especially romances. For me the only thing better than reading a romance is writing one. That and drinking red wine while eating dark chocolate.
My romances are full of passion, with heat levels that range from hot to sizzling! I'm proud to have been a 2010 finalist in the prestigious Golden Heart®. Please join me for laughter and love, and where the good guys always win in the end.
I live in Reno with my husband of thirty+ years and our two pampered pooches.
Lynda's latest book is Shattered Trust, a contemporary BDSM erotic romance.
Kate Landry trusted the wrong man and paid dearly for her mistake. But she survived and raised her daughter alone. At forty-two, Kate has a good living as the owner of the Bluebird Saloon. But she’s forgotten how to live. That is until he comes into her bar…
Liam St. James loved a girl once. And only once. After an accident paralyzed her, she didn’t trust he’d continue to love her. Liam left and discovered a world where women did trust him—to be their Dominant. He’s a master – literally, but the request from the stoic bar owner will pose his greatest challenge yet…
Kate and Liam embark on a journey to uncover repressed urges and to discover new desires. They also fall in love. But when you’ve been shattered as badly as they have, loving is easy. Trusting is harder, especially when the heart is involved…
Learning to love is the easy part...
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