Sunday, November 7, 2010

Dynamic Dialogue

or a.k.a. how not to sound lame... :-)

Dialogue is possibly the hardest aspect of writing fiction to really nail.

Because let's face it, everyone hears people speak all the time, so they know what it should 'sound' like.

The problem is, if you were to write dialogue EXACTLY how we speak, it feels muddled, confusing or worse stilted.

Why? Because we get so many more clues in tone and inflection when we speak. Even when signing, the attitude and hand motions add layer upon layer of depth to the words themselves.

Just imagine the difference between trying to convey a really painful memory to a friend when you are in person, then if you were trying to do it on the phone (less visual information), or in an email.

How many times have you written an email which you thought was perfectly clear (and how many words did you elaborate in) only to have the recipient scratching their head.

Now try to be clear, evoke emotion and do so in a dialogue exchange.

Which doesn't mean it can't be done. Now everyone has heard the advice to listen to how people speak and I completely agree with that, however seldom does anyone talk about how to take that info and pack it into punchy dialogue.

While we will talk about this at length on my radio show the single best advice I can give you is, especially for an important scene to write your dialogue, get what you need to say out, then go back and gut it.

Figure out what you REALLY need to say. In a break-up scene it may not be about her leaving him so much as her having too much trouble dealing with her previous abuse. Or the Hero may say he can't go fight the villain but he is just too scared to fail #usually #again

Now make whatever is the single most IMPORTANT fact they need to get across a secret. Have them do everything in their power to NOT talk about what they really want to say.

Even if you don't use this new dialogue, just creating this tension and friction between truth and secret will help you ground your writing and come up with some taut dialogue.

Listen to the archive of my radio show for an hour of dynamic discussion about how to make your dialogue jump off the page!

Also remember to set a reminder HERE for Saturdays a 2pm PST so you don't miss my show on "Your Opening Line... is it knocking the socks off your readers????"


  1. I love your comment on figuring out what your characters really need to say. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I actually find dialogue the easiest part to write. What does that say about me? :)