Monday, January 12, 2009

Tuning Up Dialog

“When dialog is right, we know it. When it’s wrong we also know -- it jags on the ear like a badly tuned musical instrument.” -- Stephen King in On Writing
I do a good job writing dialog, according to the critiques I receive. One reason may be because I watch way too much television. Seriously, whatever you think about current TV offerings, it’s a good place to tune in to hear different dialects. For scripted shows, a writer can learn how good dialog influences the pace of a story. The opposite is true also. There’s one character on a current TV series whose dialog grates at me. It’s the reason I rarely watch the show. My success at writing dialog may be due to my past as a professional musician. I’m attuned to the rhythm of good dialog. I hear when it’s right and know when it’s stifling the story (like “a badly tuned musical instrument" in an orchestra).

Another thing that helps me with the dialog in my stories is that I read them out loud many times before sending them off for critique or submitting them for publication. Flaws in the pacing jump out when I do this, allowing me to make necessary changes. Lastly, I try to limit cliches in my dialog. Yes, people talk using cliches, but I believe that using too many shows a laziness on my part to make my characters stand out.

1 comment:

Loren Christie said...

Do you watch "Scrubs" ever? It's so well-written, and a bit goofy. The dialogue is great. This season is the last one.:(