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?  

24 comments:

  1. Agree with you, Rachna that diagloues must be crisp and be associated with character easily! They provide the momentum to the story:)

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  2. So agree with you Rachna. I've had to work on having too much dialogue with no action in my story. It's taken many revisions to get it hopefully right.

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  3. Great post. It's chit chat that gets on my nerves most. Usually it's done to make the scene feel more real but it's very annoying.

    mood
    Moody Writing

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  4. I've learned to break up long dialogue, especially when it comes to guys. They tend to say less than females do.

    Great post, Rachna.

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  5. All good tips! I've learned to use just simple tags.

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  6. These are excellent points. I aim to follow them when writing dialogue. :) Number 4 is probably my pet peeve - or rather, long tag lines are. Overall I think long tag lines distract and detract from the conversation.

    Good post! Have a great weekend! :)

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  7. I agree with almost all of them, but not #8. Slang, abuses, and stereotypes are allowed in dialogue. It's part of the character's persona, how she talks, her value system, her beliefs. It's a way of making one character sound different from another.

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  8. Re #6 and #8: How can dialogue be authentic if you avoid slang? I've just spent several days adding in colloquial and idiomatic expressions into a couple of stories to make them more realistic. As soon as I read them aloud it was obvious that this was not the way these characters would talk.

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  9. Very nice and helpful tips. Thanks for sharing, ma'am. :)

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  10. Good tips. I particularly noticed #5. I think if your characters' voices are clear enough, you don't always need tags, because it's easy to tell who is saying what. It all comes down to voice. And I agree that "said", "asked", and "replied" are often less intrusive than fancier, more dramatic tags.

    I do agree with Richard and Jim, though, about the use of slang, etc. In kid novels you wouldn't want swearing, but in a contemporary setting for MG or YA, you'd need slang or it wouldn't sound real. Again, it all goes back to your character having an authentic voice.

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  11. @ Richard and Jim, abuses and slang are okay when its a part of a character's persona, but racial slurs and stereotypes must be shied away from.

    Infact, to bring to life and realistically portray a pirate, murderer and a criminal,slang and abuses will work in a writer's favour. It will make the character more authentic.

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  12. Some really great tips on dialogue writing. Thanks Rachna.

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  13. Well said! It took me a while to learn all this stuff. I still have to work at it. :)

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  14. Total agreement on all you say. The difficulty with dialogues, I find, is that of pacing them.

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  15. EXCELLENT tips to keep in mind while writing dialogue!

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  16. This is a great collection of dialogue advice! Thanks for sharing it!

    Angela

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  17. Excellent post Rachna. Some great points. One reason why I disliked the novel Never Let me Go was because of your point 3.
    I think reading a book with mostly dialogue would be exhausting and as you say dull.I love good description and would miss it.
    Nick Hornby is great at writing just how people speak.

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  18. I like the tips you give. They're always helpful.

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  19. Mighty fine advice. I prefer dialogue over l-o-n-g blocks of narrative, but I get bored easily by too much dialogue. A balanced approach, as with so many things, is best.

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  20. Hello! Great post.
    I find it hard to write said after a question mark... But have been told to do so by several editors. Also.... I tend to write a lot of dialogue without any tags or beats... Then I have to go back and add in. Hehe

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  21. I love dialogue too, but I think I manage to keep the amount of it under control.

    My dialogue sin tends to be tags, but I find the he/she said becomes stale when there are five characters in a scene.

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  22. Great tips. I like to break up my dialogue. Too much of anything is, well, too much ;)

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  23. I tend to write too much dialogue most of the time - it comes more easily to me than description.

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