Thursday, November 6, 2014

5 Tips on Improving Dialog

 Everyone has a strength - description, tension, humor. I've been told that my dialog is done well. It's something that comes more easily for me than other parts of the story. So I think I am a bit more sensitive to bad dialog.

"Because, Jim, bad dialog is sure to be the death of a story."
"What would you say that, Mary?"
"I have been around the world learning new skills and I know that although I have been gone for 10 years that you have waited for me to return and tell you my story."
"Yes, Mary. It has been a long, sad time here."

Ack, cough, blak, bak gak.

1. No one speaks in full sentences. Which sounds more realistic?

"Mike, will you be going out sometime today?"
"I am not sure, Tom. I think I might go out later."

"You going out?" Tom asked.
"Maybe," Mike said with a shrug.

2. Don't leave the emotion out. You can shape a sentence into a tirade or a seduction depending on the person.

"Take a hike," she grumbled, pushing past him.
"Take a hike," she purred, lifting the hem of her skirt.
"Take. A. Hike!" she spat, red faced and panting.

3. Don't repeat the character's name. We don't address people by their names in every sentence.

"Tom, are you seeing Susie today?"
"Nope, Mike, I saw her yesterday."
"I think she's expecting you, Tom."
"Well, I can't make it today, Mike."

4. Let the reader connect the dots. You don't have to lay out the entire scene in dialog.

"He hit me very hard with a baseball bat and broke my elbow," Tom said angrily.

"He had a baseball bat," Tom growled. He was white with pain, but his eyes burned with anger. "Broke my damn elbow."

5. A little accent goes a long way. And if it's an alien, watch the inverted structure.

"Too backwards as the form is, can be confusing reader it is."

Too much accent makes it hard to read. Bizarre sentence structure slows the pace of the story as the reader has to sort out what's being said. I gave up on a series I was enjoying because the sentence structure of one of the aliens was so odd that I couldn't figure out what it was saying. If that's important to the story, make sure someone is around to interpret.

And most important of all - have fun!

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