If there’s one thing I can write well, it’s dialogue. It’s probably the only thing I write well. Unfortunately, it’s also the only thing I write. Let me explain. Most of my Cupolian books were practically scripts before the details were added. I didn’t even have tags to tell me who said what. I had to either know, tell by the words used, or guess when I went in later to add what was needed. I’ve gotten better, but it’s still my main method at times.

Here’s the problem. You don’t want just dialogue. They say for your books to be mainly dialogue because that’s what readers like. I could go on as to why, but I shan’t for now. Let me simply say they don’t actually mean that. Dialogue should be less than half of your story. The other half needs to consist of tag lines and action (I don’t mean shooting fight scene action-I simply mean things happening, etc). If you have the same problem I do when writing dialogue, and you want your dialogue to read better, here’s my trick.

Dialogue has several purposes, and pacing your dialogue is extremely important. Slow a scene down by adding more words outside of the quotes-quicken the scene by having less. Use action tags when you can instead of regular tags. For example, if I have an argument between two people, I would set the conversation up with two tag lines, one after each has spoken the first time, and then have no more. This makes a 1,2,1,2,1,2 dialogue that reads fast. Obviously, you don’t want that all the time.

If your characters are talking casually, and you find there’s too many quotes and not enough action, give them something to do. Ever notice how Harry, Ron, and Hermione are always doing homework or knitting elf hats or some other thing you really don’t care about? There’s a reason for that. Take this section here:

“Excuse me?” asked Taika.
“Well, I came over here to prepare for our journey into the labyrinth, but Gevin here beat me to it.” Anya could feel her emotions rising again, but this time they were different, more edgy and with a pinch of anger.
Taika sighed deeply and stepped down from the shelf she had been balancing on. She dusted her hands off and faced the two of them. “Actually, I did most of that planning last night, and I came to the conclusion there is only one way in.”
Anya stared at her and said, “And?” after she didn’t continue.
“We’ll have to sneak back into Cupola.”
Anya peeked over at Gevin who was still busying himself by putting parchment markers into books. “I don’t understand. I thought we knew that already.”
“That part, yes, but not the addendum.”

I gave them something to do. They’re indexing books for Taika. Without this activity, it would read like this:

“Excuse me?” asked Taika.
“Well, I came over here to prepare for our journey into the labyrinth, but Gevin here beat me to it,” said Anya.
“Actually, I did most of that planning last night, and I came to the conclusion there is only one way in.”
Anya stared at her and said, “And?” after she didn’t continue.
“We’ll have to sneak back into Cupola.”
“I don’t understand. I thought we knew that already.”
“That part, yes, but not the addendum.”

See the difference? Now, the second part is great if you want a fast paced conversation, but you should only use faster paces if there’s a reason, like an argument or a quick discussion because the characters are running out of time and have to discover something fast. The opposite is also true. Do not draw out a conversation that needs to be fast. If two siblings are having a fight, don’t describe them at a quilting bee in the process, unless of course they are at a quilting bee and have to fight through the corners of their mouths so as not to draw attention which would be rather amusing. But-you get the idea.

Summary—if you need to draw out the dialogue, give the characters something to do. It doesn’t have to be relevant, although that helps, but find something, even if it’s knitting or poker. Anything.

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