Writing Dialogue (Repost)

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. My dialogue dragged. Basically I wrote out conversations just like real people talk. After taking a few classes and looking at how other authors wrote in published books, I did get a grasp on 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. Fictional speech also has to be purposeful. You can’t just rant and rave about the newest fashion with your friends unless it’s an integral part of the story providing information that you are going to need later. Your dialogue should be evoking something from a character or moving the story forward. It also needs to be seamlessly integrated into the story. Told you there was  more to it than you would think.

There are special rules of punctuation that are used to separate dialogue from other texts and signify who is talking. These rules are pretty standard and if you pick up any novel and turn to a page with dialogue you will see them in use.

  1. Direct quotations are set apart by using quotation marks.
  2. Alternating speakers are set apart by paragraph breaks.
  3. All quotations begin with a capital letter.

Dialogue tags are not part of a quote and should not be included in the quotation marks. They  are necessary to identify who is speaking and to convey information that isn’t clear. A character tag usually includes the character’s name and some version of said, unless conveying information that isn’t clear.
e.g.   “I love you,” Mary said.      vs.    “I love you,” Mary sobbed.

Dialogue tags should be used sparingly. You don’t want to bog down your story with he said, she said. Use them only when necessary to inform the reader who is speaking or to convey feelings.

If two characters are in a short conversation you should probably be able to get by with identifying both at the beginning of the conversation without adding additional tags. If you’ve written a long conversation between two characters, you may need to add tags ever so often to help the reader keep up with who is talking. It isn’t fun when you have to stop and go back to the top of the page and count by two’s to figure out who is saying what. You also may want to use the tags to convey feelings. Mary may have gotten angry in the middle of the conversation and you need to add a tag to suggest this.

Writing Dialogue (Repost)

Using Dialect In Writing

One way to differentiate between characters and to get a better understanding about who they are is through dialect.  We can learn a lot about a person based on their accent, grammar, and choice of words.

You don’t have to ask a person if they are from the North or South-just listen to how they speak and note their word choices.  While that is one of the most obvious examples for me, you can also distinguish education level, social status, race and ethnicity from the way a person speaks.

One thing you want to avoid is coming across offensive or stereotypical(racist).  Look at your word choice or variation of syntax as tools to differentiate your characters and suggest their ethnicity.

Use slang, nonstandard syntax, or grammar to suggest race, social class, education i.e. gonna vs. going to,  kinda vs kind of,  holler vs hollow, don’t matta vs It doesn’t matter. If you have a character from abroad throw in some regional slang ( Scottish say-aye for yes and bairns for children).

The next time you read a book take a close look at your characters and their dialect. You will learn a lot and the fact that you didn’t even think about it while reading the novel is a plus for the author. It was seamlessly woven into the story.

Creating a characters speech pattern is less about reproducing dialect and more about knowing your character. If your character is……

  • terse                –   short burst of speech
  • angry               –   speaks through clinched teeth
  • nervous           –  stammers or rambles
  • domineering  –  silent and threatening or rages

If you’re writing science fiction you can develop you own language and your own rules. There is no limits. Just be consistent.

Hope this gives you something to think about when writing dialogue. Remember to differentiate through dialect and the dialect should match your characters position in society. Also remember to be consistent with speech patterns, unless an evolution in speech pattern is an integral part of the story (Flowers for Algernon, My fair lady).

Please consider joining me on this journey and press the FOLLOW button to receive new posts as they are published. Also if you have any comments or questions, please let me know what you think.

-Jan R

 

 

 

Using Dialect In Writing

Writing Dialogue?

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. My dialogue dragged. Basically I wrote out conversations just like real people talk. After taking a few classes and looking at how other authors wrote in published books, I did get a grasp on 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.

I plan on spending a couple weeks talking about dialogue as there is a lot more to it than you would think. Fictional speech is more focused and coherent than real speech. Fictional speech also has to be purposeful. You can’t just rant and rave about the newest fashion with your friends unless it’s an integral part of the story providing information that you are going to need later. Your dialogue should be evoking something from a character or moving the story forward. It also needs to be seamlessly integrated into the story. Told you there was  more to it than you would think.

There are special rules of punctuation that are used to separate dialogue from other texts and signify who is talking. These rules are pretty standard and if you pick up any novel and turn to a page with dialogue you will see them in use.

  • Direct quotations are set apart by using quotation marks.
  • Alternating speakers are set apart by paragraph breaks.
  • All quotations begin with a capital letter.

Dialogue tags are not part of a quote and should not be included in the quotation marks. They  are necessary to identify who is speaking and to convey information that isn’t clear. A character tag usually includes the character’s name and some version of said, unless conveying information that isn’t clear.
e.g.   “I love you,” Mary said.      vs.    “I love you,” Mary sobbed.

Dialogue tags should be used sparingly. You don’t want to bog down your story with he said, she said. Use them only when necessary to inform the reader who is speaking or to convey feelings.

If two characters are in a short conversation you should probably be able to get by with identifying both at the beginning of the conversation without adding additional tags. If you’ve written a long conversation between two characters, you may need to add tags ever so often to help the reader keep up with who is talking. It isn’t fun when you have to stop and go back to the top of the page and count by two’s to figure out who is saying what. You also may want to use the tags to convey feelings. Mary may have gotten angry in the middle of the conversation and you need to add a tag to suggest this.

I will continue this discussion in my next post and probably look a little closer at how dialect can be used to distinguish between characters.

If you have any questions please comment and I will answer them to the best of my ability.  I would also like to request that you join me on this journey and consider hitting “follow” to keep up with my latest posts.  Thanks.

-Jan R

Writing Dialogue?