Saturday, April 19, 2014

Speak Up!

This week, I wrote a blog about dialogue at MostlyMysteryBlog. I've always enjoyed writing dialogue, but I never knew what an important tool it can be.

Have you ever wanted to ramp up your character's emotions but you run out of adjectives? This can happen when you're writing in the third person. Or, if you're like me, you might have to watch out for the old telling vs. showing.

One easy solution to the problem is dialogue. If you have John slam his hand down on the counter and say, "Damn!" That certainly shows anger. And, if you have him think, It isn't fair. Dave always gets the girl. The reader understands that John is ticked at Dave for winning the prize once more.

What if you had John telling Dave how he feels?

"Since when is it okay to steal someone's date?"
"What are you talking about? You just met her an hour ago. Did you ask her out?"
"I would have if you hadn't butted in."
"You introduced me to her, for crying out loud."
"What was I supposed to do? You barged in and sat down."
"You were sitting at the bar."
"I saw her first."
"Yeah, and she gave me her number."
"Damn! it isn't fair. You always get the girl."

Now, you can see what really happened. John is jealous of Dave because the girls prefer him. Perhaps the person on the other end of his anger shouldn't be Dave but himself. Depending on the dialogue, you can make John look like the injured party, a good sport, or even pathetic. Dave can be a pal, clueless, or a self-serving jerk. And, by the way, you've added a lot more words to your manuscript.

Dialogue paints a more in-depth picture of a scene and its characters. I love it because I learn more about my characters through their verbal interaction. In one of my scenes, I had two characters meet for the first time. I wanted it to be a cordial meeting of neighbors, but it quickly disintegrated into a threatening situation. I hadn't realized that one of the people was so nasty and petty until I heard her in conversation with the other.

In another instance, I found one of my characters, a very nice person, had a devious bent to her personality. It came out as she was saying one thing but thinking something very different.

With specific speech used in a conversation, the length or brevity words and sentences can increase tension and  evoke emotions. If you're having trouble with dialogue, look back at books you've read where the dialogue moves the story along. See how that author did it.

I always speak out loud to hear how my conversations sound. There are also good books on the subject, or try the great online resources .

And, then there's always the old "tried and true". To understand how dialogue works, listen to it!

Keep on writing!

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