Friday, September 16, 2011

My Inner Plotter Checklist to Better Dialogue

by Brooke Favero

I'm such a plotter, I can't help it, I need to know where my story is going but my current WIP is fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants and I have no idea how I'm going to get to the end. It's a mystery even to me, so I battle my inner plotter and tell her, "Chillax, this story is dialogue practice."
And my inner plotter says, "Fine, but remember the dialogue techniques and use a checklist if you can because that would make me feel better."

So here it is, my inner plotter checklist to better dialogue:
  1. All dialogue should further the plot. Do not spend loads of time talking about weather or hey, how's it going? Your editor will cut it and your reader will be bored.
  2. Watch your tags. It's a rookie mistake to swoon or scream or stammer every tag. Stick to s/he said so that when you use another tag it has more power. My favorite style drops the tag and sticks the dialogue with action. Brooke smashes the soda can into her forehead. "Guess I need another Coke Zero."
  3. Integrate action and setting into the dialogue. These are your beats to bring life to the story.
  4. Create dynamic character relationships through dialogue. This is by far one of my most favorite Nathan Bransford lessons. Every conversation between characters should develop their relationship for good or bad. It creates tension, conflict, and interest.
  5. Be careful when using slang, character names, and info dumps in dialogue. I used Chillax above but I would never write it in a story. It will date the story faster than a cast member from Jersey Shore.
  6. People rarely listen to each other when speaking, dialogue should reflect their different motivations. John Hughes was a master of this. Just watch Sixteen Candles. The whole plot is based on miscommunication. Classic.
There you have it, my favorite techniques for improving dialogue. What's your best tip for writing dialogue?

Happy Friday, go watch Kid History. It is a master class in dialogue. Cheers.


Dean K Miller said...

I feared dialogue when I first started to seriously work on writing. Even though I need lots of work, I find dialogue to be invigorating to write, and a challenge.

When it's done right, nothing's better.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Excellent advice on dialogue, Brooke. One of the things I like to do is read dialogue aloud in the character's voice. That helps a lot with making it sound authentic.

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