Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Writing Dialog That Doesn't Make The Reader Gag

“If we wrote verbatim the way we talk, our readers would execute us at dawn (or maybe earlier).” -- Sandy Tritt in Breathing Life into Dialogue.
One thing that’s jumped out at me in a few of the stories I’ve critiqued lately is the dialog. Why? It didn’t feel natural. Characters said things to each other that I couldn’t imagine them saying. The conversations included facts the characters should already know. Internal dialog felt like an info dump. I talk to myself, both out loud and internally, but not like was done in these stories.

I’m often complimented on my dialog. I can’t tell you why I have the ability to write realistic chatter. I’m not a talkative person. It might because I read a lot and pay attention to what "sounds" right and what doesn’t. Or perhaps television plays a role. There are a few shows I used to watch that I don’t now because the dialog became repetitive and stale. The words were different, but the inflection and mannerisms of the speaker were the same from week to week.

One thing I do is read my dialog out loud over and over and over until I like the rhythm and content. Why shouldn’t I? Dialog is an oral form of communication. It needs to feel right to our ears.

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