I like a good bit of dialogue, a bit of banter, a bit of he said she said but…. and it is a very big but (not mine, although mine is rather large and has 2 t’s) only in small doses! There I’ve said it. Dialogue that goes on for pages bores me and can slow the pace of a book no end. I do not profess to be an expert, I just know what I like. As a general rule three sentences are about right for me before the red mist descends. If you have a character who is angry or needs to speak for longer try to break it up either with another character cutting in or action. What’s their body language saying, are their arms flailing, is their face reddening? You get the idea. The point behind dialogue is to make it seem real.Now then, whilst we are on the subject of dialogue another pet hate of mine is name calling.You want your character to be believable, yes? So why continuously use their names? Here’s what I mean. Meet Alan. Alan works with Jan and has done for five years. Whenever Alan speaks to Jan this is what he sounds like:
‘Hi Jan, how was that restaurant last night?
‘Well Alan it was really nice’
‘ I’m glad to hear that Jan’
‘Yes Alan I would highly recommend it’
AARRGGGGHHHHH…….. No, no,no,no,no. Unless you are writing comedy (in which case it is funny and reminiscent of Gavin & Stacey) do not do it – it is not real! It sounds wooden and flat and well… yuk! Remember, less is more. If in doubt speak it out (oh, I quite like that). If it doesn’t sound right to you think about how it’s going to sound to your readers.
OK, so now we’ve sorted out Alan & Jan here’s a question for you – Do you need it? The dialogue that is. Is its presence warranted? As with all things bookish it has to have a reason to be there in the first place. So, with your hand on heart should it stay or should it go? To help you decide here are a few questions to ask before letting yourself lose with the scary red pen:
- Are you advancing the plot? By that I mean building suspense, revealing something new that was not known before. Well, are you?
- Are you introducing, revealing or changing your character’s relationships? In Forbidden Colours, Midori Yates talks about her family a lot. It was a way for me reveal the importance of her family. Dialogue is a great way to add depth to your character and reveal sides to them not yet seen or known.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my take on dialogue. Here’s to dialogue being sharp and to the point – I know, I know, time to leave! Next week I shall take a look at small touches that can make a big difference to dialogue. D is also for dog and mine is biting at my heels wanting to go on an adventure. So, for now, I bid you adieu…
Please feel free to comment and/or share 🙂 Have a great weekend people!