Sharpening Your Dialog
I am by no means an expert on writing dialog; I wouldn’t dare claim to be anything above novice at this point in my journey. This being the case, I hesitate to give advice on the craft of writing. I mean, who am I? I’m just some chick hanging out in her Super Grover pajamas at noon on a Sunday eating oatmeal (okay, it’s a chocolate chip scone, but don’t tell my diet.). Frankly, I’m contemplating tossing this laptop in the trash and doing what non-writers do all day. Whatever that is.
Apart from eavesdropping on strangers in a coffee house (which I believe is required by law? Section 3 paragraph 187 of the Word Bender code, the Half-Caf Cappuccino Clause?), a good exercise for young writers is to read snippets of dialog from your favorite books and deconstruct them. What was it about that conversation that revealed the relationship? How did the author show you so much without telling you directly? How did the author point you to clues by using banter, mood, and rapport? How can you use the same techniques to reveal important undercurrents, highlight a subplot, or make your own characters seem richer, more complex, more human?
An author should never have to say “she was afraid of him.” Show this, or any other development, by the manner in which they approach one another and the word choices they make. Get down to the nitty-gritty: hard words vs. soft, active vs. passive. Look at what they decide to say or not say; sometimes the things left unsaid reveal more about their personality or the brewing strength of the subplot than what they do say. This should be a well-choreographed dance even before you’ve considered dialog tags. Pluck the obvious bits and trust the reader; if you’ve done it right, the reader will be able to read between the lines. A good (honest) beta reader will be able to help you decide if you’ve nailed it.
Now, there’s a pretty good chance I don’t know what I’m talking about. Taking writing advice from me is like making financial decisions based on a consultation with that hobo outside the bank. Writing is hard work and I’m still under the desk eating kindergarten paste (don’t tell my diet), but go forth and give it a try. Best of luck, little Word Benders.
AJ Aalto is the author of “Touched” and “Death Rejoices,” the first and second books of the paranormal mystery series The Marnie Baranuik Files. Aalto is an unrepentant liar and a writer of blathering nonsense offset by factual gore. There’s a possibility that A.J. is currently standing in front of her bathroom mirror snort-giggling at exploratory homemade zombie noises, like all horror writers are wont to do. A fan of saprophytic harmony, blatant carnivoracity, skin slippage, and the lovely bloat of putrefaction, she can usually be found lurking in underwater caverns waiting for unsuspecting divers. Rumour has it that A.J. Aalto is the secret cause of Rapture of the Deep–but it’s likely she started that rumour herself.
“Touched” on Amazon: http://amzn.to/16YGuqc
“Death Rejoices” on Amazon: http://amzn.to/11iyLkm