Hey! This year, I’ve been doing weekly live Q&A videos Tuesdays at 2 on my Facebook Page, where you readers can interact and ask me questions (you can also throw out questions to me anytime on Twitter @hgracestewart and I’ll try to answer them within 24 hours). To help you narrow your questions to a topic, I’ve decided to offer mini-lectures whenever I can. Writing dialogue was my February 28th topic. You can watch the video (or videos, there are several archived at the top of the page) read the tips here, or both.
FIVE FAST TIPS FOR WRITING DIALOGUE
- DON’T OVERTHINK IT. Just write, and let your thoughts flow. You can go back and edit later. The best dialogue is natural, not forced.
- TALK IT OUT. Good dialogue reads like it would be spoken. So, after you have written at least a full page of dialogue, speak it out loud. You’ll find yourself editing lots once you realize just how many phrases don’t sound right when you speak them.
- ACT IT OUT. Go on, no one is watching you, except maybe your pets. So, stand up and try to act out what you’ve written. Play both characters. Does your scene ring true to life? Does it flow naturally? The more you try acting out your dialogue, over time, the more you’ll find that writing dialogue becomes an easier task.
- LOSE SOME WORDS, LOSE THE NAMES. When we speak to friends and family, we usually cut off a few words, like “went to the store,” instead of “I went to the store,” or if our spouse is calling us, we call back, “down in a sec!” instead of “I will be there in a second.” Watch for this in the sentences you write so you can stay as true to real life speech as possible. You should also lose NAMES as much as possible in your speech. People don’t use eachother’s names very often in real speech. Have you ever thought about that? We usually only use names when we’re feeling very angry, very loving, or when we need to get a person’s attention and not very often in between.
- AVOID ACCENTS. Dialects and accents, when done as part of a character’s entire speech, are confusing to readers and often break the flow of reading. Don’t try to chop and change English words to make someone sound Australian or German. Very few writers can do this well. Instead, drop in an actual French or Scottish or Japanese —whichever language you are trying to achieve—word or two into that person’s speech and italicize it. Be sure you fact-check several times and get it right. This is where good, professional, paid editors are vital.
I have a lot of writing to get done for my next novel, so I’m going to take a break from the social networking/videos, but I promise that I’ll be back discussing “How to find and develop your idea” on Tuesday, March 21st. I’ll be there at 2 EST, and it will be archived on the page, so if you miss it live, you can still watch it later that day or that week. Of course, I’ll write a summary here for you, too.
Happy dialogue writing!