Here is the meat and potatoes of writing - dialogue. Good dialogue will not only move the plot along, it also lets us get to know the characters in a deeper way.
The first thing acquisitions editors look for when they begin reading a fiction submission is dialogue. A quote from Browne and King's book says, "The first thing I do is find a scene with some dialogue. If the dialogue doesn't work, the manuscript gets bounced. It it's good, I start reading."
Characters come alive - or not - when they speak. But it's not easy to put the right words into their mouths. You don't want to write dialogue in the same way you talk, with lots of ums and uhs, but you still want it to flow and feel natural. There are tricks to avoid if you want your dialogue to read like the work of a professional instead of an amateur.
Something we tend to do is called "resist the urge to explain" or RUE. We don't even realize we're doing it. Here's an example:
"You can't be serious," she said in astonishment.
If you're like most beginners, you write sentences like this almost without thinking. What could be easier than simply telling the reader how a character feels? If she is astonished, just say so. It saves all sorts of time and trouble, right?
But it's lazy writing. And it patonizes the reader. Remember, "show, don't tell?" Having the character say, "You can't be serious" conveys astonishment. There's no explanation needed. When you explain something that needs no explanation, you're writing down to your audience.
Another thing; "You can't be serious" has a formality and coldness to it. You could also say, "You've got to be kidding!" Or "You pulling my chain, dude?" Who is your character? Male or female? What is their age? Where are they in society? What genre is your book? All these things come into play when writing dialogue.
So, take a look at your dialogue and see if you're explaining what the dialogue has made clear. Then let the characters speak for themselves. If you're not sure, give us an example and we'll talk about it.
Next week, we'll look at dialogue tags and beats.
Don't Plant Trees!
4 years ago