August 8, 2011

let's talk

Dialogue plays a crucial part in any story. Talk to an industry insider (for films or literature) and he or she will tell you that dialogue can make or break a story.

During a Nebraska Romance Writers workshop, guest author Stephanie Bond stressed the importance of making sure to have enough, solid dialogue in a story. One reason? It breaks up big blocks of text and moves the story along. Readers may find big block upon big block of text intimidating and unappealing to read.

Another good reason to keep your characters talking? It's the ultimate character builder. How your character speaks and what he or she says reveals a lot about the person. If she speaks in short, clipped statements or he chatters without taking a breath, the reader can formulate opinions about the character.

Writing dialogue can be challenging. It is too easy to fall into the trap of writing complete nonsense that no one would say. For example, if I were writing a present day story about a 25-year-old woman, would she say:

a.) "I shall do my best to attend."
b.) "I would be so glad to join you."
c.) "I'm there."

In my experience as a 25-year-old woman, she'd say c. We're no longer in the times of Austen or the Brontes, and flowery prose might be fun to read and write, but it is not believable. Make sure the words you use and the way you phrase them are believable.

A friend encouraged me to sit and observe conversations in coffee shops or stores to improve the dialogue in my stories. It works well. I've even gone so far as to write down sentences or phrases I've overheard people say (or have had someone say to me in passing) if I thought it might boost my dialogue later.

Remember, publishers want books that are appealing to readers, and having witty but realistic dialogue will help you reach out to your audience.

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