Here’s the next part of RIPTIDE: Dialogue. This is an interesting topic. So many people mess up on this, which is weird, because you’d think it would be straight forward. But WRONG.
Dialogue in books can’t be like the dialogue people actually have. In actual conversation, dialogue is weird. You talk in fragmented sentences and most of what you say doesn’t really matter. In books, dialogue has to do three things.
1. Move the plot along
2. Give information
3. Develop characters
Let’s take a deeper look.
• Move the plot along:
Lets face it, everything in your book should move the plot along. This especially includes dialogue. If one of your characters says it, the reader expects it to be important. I had a scene that I just finished rewriting today in which two characters talked about someone who I wasn’t ever planning on bringing into the story. That entire exchange needed to go and so I threw it out.
• Give Information:
Here you have to be careful. You want to give the reader information, but you don’t want to be too obvious about it. Your characters should never devolve into the “As you know, Bob” dialogue. This is a bad exchange. “Well, as you know, that house is haunted.” “I did know that, but you know that it only is haunted at night.” “Yes, but as you know. . .” blah blah blah. No one believes that. Better would be something along the lines of: “I am NOT going into that house.” “Oh, come on! Sally says it’s only haunted at night.” “Well, take Sally then.” Your reader understands that the house is haunted, but you didn’t state it flat out.
• Develop Characters:
The way a character speaks says a lot about them. There’s a lot of questions to ask when writing dialogue from a certain character. And you need to know the answers to all of these for all of your characters. Are they: someone who is always grammatically correct? Talkative? Honest? Tactful? Shy? Bold? A peacemaker? Gruff? Gentle? Do they: Curse? Have unique words/phrases? Touchy subjects? What is their: Age, gender, eco status, ed level, emotional state, race? Where do they live? Who do they hang out with? Who are their family? Do they use any specific slang words?
I have characters from all over a continent getting together and one character is attempting to sound like she’s from another part of the country than she actually is. This could be the difference between Utah and Pennsylvania, which for me wasn’t a difference. Or, it could be the difference between Boston and New Orleans, which is a HUGE difference. You need to know how you want the character to sound and the KEEP THEM SOUNDING THAT WAY. Make a note somewhere so you don’t forget.
If you want, try something Brandon Sanderson once suggested. Write a story with ONLY dialogue. No tags, no beats, nothing but the way the person talks to give the reader the information they need to know who’s talking. See if you can follow it when you’re done. *This activity is even a challenge for my amazing and talented friend TK Healy who writes awesome characters. Try it. You might surprise yourself.*
This post has been a little long, so I’ll continue with dialogue on my next one as well. We’re not finished folks!
*Note: TK Healy wrote that part