Today I’m going to talk about dialogue in your writing. This is a way to keep things moving along in your book. Narrative is important, a way to set up the scene and impart information to the reader. However, too much narrative telling the reader what’s happening can bog things. The reader begins to lose interest in the story and may stop. You need to balance narrative and dialogue to hold the reader’s interest.
Here’s a sample of narrative and dialogue.
Sitting on a rock among the trees, Lily patiently awaited the return of Shale. She brushed back a lock of hair from her forehead. She looked skyward at the flap of wings; a smile spread across her face.
A dove surrounded by a white glow headed for her. Lily held out her hand and the bird lightly landed. “It’s about time you returned from the other side.”
“Had a little trouble crossing back,” Shale said.
From the above sentences, you know Lily is waiting for someone or something to show up. You discover Shale is a bird that can talk. You also learn Shale had trouble returning, and you want to know why so you continue reading.
Dialogues helps move the story and the plot along as the characters talk about what is going on or what they will do. It also brings them to life for the reader.
I enjoy writing dialogue. As I’m typing the conversation between them, I see and hear it playing out in my head; I can see them drinking coffee or having dinner together. Perhaps they are in a bar knocking back a few beers and discussing what happened at work and how it would affect them. Your characters lead lives outside the main plot and dialogue can show this. With dialogue, can work character description into the conversation instead of writing a laundry list description.
“Sandy, when did you become a blond? You looked better with brown hair,” Angie said.
“Damn! Scott’s head almost touches the top of the door way,” Ben said.
“Alexandria, why did you get a barbed wire tattoo on your wrist? What will your father say?”
A dialogue attribute is what you use to indicate who is speaking.
“Hey! It’s been a long time since we saw each other,” Janice said.
“Yep. Almost five years. You’re looking good,” Tim replied.
‘He said’ and ‘She exclaimed’ are dialogue tags.
“I need a band aid,” she exclaimed. Judy pressed a paper towel against her bleeding finger.
“Get it yourself. I’m busy mixing the drinks,” he said.
Tags come after dialogue, not before.
Wrong: She said, “I’m going to the store.”
Correct: “I’m going to the store,” she said.
Physical action in dialogue.
“You have the a fever.” Angie set down the thermometer and handed Bob an aspirin.
Don’t use fancy words in place of the word ‘said’. If you wrote the dialogue correctly, you don’t need to add things like ‘exclaimed’, ‘shouted’, ‘stated’. Keep things simple.
“That jackass! I would love to wring his neck!” Lily said, kicking the door closed.
“Calm down. Getting worked up won’t solve anything,” Shale said.
It’s easy enough to tell that Lily is upset by her action. You don’t need to use a word like ‘shouted’.
Don’t overdo it. When using dialogue tags, don’t go overboard. If the conversation is between two people, you can cut most of them or use action to show who is talking and move the story along at the same time.
“Damn it. If the car doesn’t start, we won’t be able to attend the wedding.” Jerry turned the key in the ignition, clicking sounds filled the car.
“I’ll call Rachel. If we don’t show up, mom and dad will be unhappy.” June removed the phone from her purse.
When three or more characters are involved in the dialogue, you need to use tags more often, so the reader knows who is saying what and why.
When you write dialogue between characters, read the conversation out loud to find out how it sounds. This will help you find awkward wording. What you write should ‘sound’ natural, not forced.
May the words ever flow!