Friday, December 14, 2012
Dishing out Delicious Dialogues
I just read a book three days back, it was a MG book about a small boy who finds a monster underneath his bed. The book was dialogue heavy. Infact, I could say that the entire book was like a conversation between the boy and his monster. Many people have told me that they prefer a book that has pages filled with dialogues.
I will share nuggets about dialogues which I have gathered from several sources, including my own insights from the books I have read and liked and also from the assignments of my students: why I liked some dialogues more than the others.
1. Dialogues should be as natural as possible. For this we have to be good listeners. We should listen to how people talk. Stilted and forced dialogues hampers a great scene.
2. Long Dialogues are boring. Just like long descriptions can put readers to sleep so can long dialogues.
3. Dialogues with too much information can grate on the nerves. It becomes obvious that the author has made the dialogue a dumping ground for information overload. Add the information little by little.
4. Overdoing of dialogue tags detracts from the actual dialogues. Sometimes “ she said, he replied, ” are better than fancy dialogues tags which distracts the readers’ attention from the actual dialogues.
5. Whenever there is a dialogue between two people, dialogue tags can be done away with. The reader is intelligent and is capable of understanding which character is saying what.
6. Dialogues should always be authentic and real. We should do our research to check for the authenticity of dialogues: will a doctor talk like that, would a policeman say this, will a teacher speak in this way, will a teenager use that word?
7. Dialogues should always be broken with action. This way our readers will remember that our characters are real people engaging in some action.
8. Racial stereotypes and slang must be avoided, unless its the character's trait that he/she speaks slang.
9. Dialogues should and must contribute to the plot.
10. The purpose of the dialogue is to advance the story, flesh out the character and ofcourse provide the reader a welcome break from long descriptive paragraphs. And the dialogue should do all that.
11. Dialogues should suit the occasion and the scene. You can’t have people cracking jokes with a dead body lying around, unless they are the murderers.
12. Dialogues can identify characters. It would be fun to make certain characters speak in a certain way. I like the way Hagrid spoke in the Potter books.
Dialogues are the fun part of my manuscripts. One of my dialogue sins is overdoing on dialogue tags (I hate to repeat a dialogue tag, I prefer to add variety). I also have a tendency to write long dialogues. What about you all? How do you all tackle dialogues? Any dialogue guilts that you would like to admit?