Monday, August 3, 2009

Writing Lazy Dialog

“[Dialog] must show signs of intelligence at work, of characters living inside a world filled with stuff and substance…” -- Kerry Neville Bakken in “What We Talk about When We Talk.” [Crafting Fiction, Poetry & Memoir: Talks from the Colgate Writers’ Conference, 2008]
I’m writing with my editor’s hat on today. Too often I read stories that contain what I’ll call “lazy dialog.” The characters' comments are cliches that show me nothing about who these people are. It’s like the author is trying to fill space. Dialog is an integral part of any story, and what a character says is just as important as how she says it. I prefer reading dialog in which I know by the words a character uses that she is angry, or sad, or disgusted, or whatever. That is more powerful than a “he said, angrily” tag. Mr. Bakken is correct. To keep the reader interested, a story’s dialog must show characters that are intelligent and worth getting to know.

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