Writing dialogue isn’t as straight forward as it would seem. It was one of the areas I was dinged on when I first submitted my manuscript. According to a literary agent, my dialogue dragged. Basically I wrote out conversations just like real people talk. After taking a few classes and looking at published authors’ work, I did get a grasp of what the literary agent was saying. My dialogue was weighing the story down and offering unnecessary detail. It caused everything to come to a stop.
Fictional speech is more focused and coherent than real speech. It has a purpose. You can’t just rant and rave about the newest fashion with your friends, unless it’s an integral part of the story that provides information you are going to need later.
It should flow. If you can feel yourself reading, then stopping for a brief conversation, and then reading again, something isn’t quite right.
Conversation works best when combined with thoughts, actions and settings. Don’t separate them, but interweave them. People don’t stop to talk. They keep doing what they are doing, unless it’s something really important that demands their full attention.
The day had been crazy, but it wasn’t over yet. Walking into the conference room, Mark found Ellen sitting at the head of the table preparing packets for their upcoming meeting.
“Sorry I’m late,” he said, walking over to offer assistance.
Handing him a few, she looked him in the eye, anger and disappointment written all over her face. “Isn’t that your norm?”
Mark grasped for something to say that would ease the tension between them and get him through this day. Staring at the packets he was at a loss. What she said was true, and he couldn’t explain why. At least not now.
Easing herself up, she walked by him without saying another word.
“Well that didn’t go well at all,” he said quietly to himself, as he continued to prepare for the meeting. He would attempt to smooth things over with his secretary later, but for now he had a business to save.
By interweaving thought, action, setting, and dialogue, the scene moved forward seamlessly, pulling your reader into the story 🙂