Thursday, May 24, 2007

Writing Tip of the Week - #1: Dialogue

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received about writing came early in my writing "apprenticeship" and it had to do with writing dialogue. That piece of advice was, "write dialogue like people talk." That seems so simple and yet sometimes, it is so difficult for people to do. Often when I read someone else's writing and something just doesn't seem right about it, I find that it comes down to how dialogue is written. It's stilted. Too formal. Stops the flow of the story.

Just think about it. If we are writing dialogue for a New York attorney, the way he speaks will be reflected in the words you choose for him. If you're writing for a Texas cowgirl, it's going to be quite different. So keeping your character in mind is of upmost importance. If Cathy Cowgirl would say, "Well, hell yeah!" then don't have her saying, "Well, I suppose." Your New York attorney on the other hand, might say just that. Seems simple. But sometimes we don't let ourselves do it.

I think dialogue can be fun and interesting to write and keep the pace up with your story. I love writing dialogue and I think the secret for me is, just let her rip. Whatever thought comes to my head (or my characters head when I'm writing for him or her) I just let it flow. Grammar? Nah, I don't worry about it. Sentence fragements? Of course, leave them. We speak like that, don't we? I do. Often. And made up words? Sure. I use lots of helluvas and gonnas and omigoshes and the like. Would your character say it? Well then. Write it.

Now, how you represent how the character said those words, those darned tag lines, etc., is an entirely different matter. We'll tackle that one next time.

See ya then.



Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more! Thanks for posting this!

BTW, I LOVE your new layout and the new pic! You look GREAT!!

Maddie James said...

Thanks, Holly! If you ever have a tip you want to share, just let me know!


Cheryl Norman said...

Great post!

My dialogue pet peeve? Guys who talk like women. Long wordy speeches. Guys definitely have a different way of expressing themselves than women! They're rarely as chatty.


Maddie James said...

Great tip, Cheryl! And you are so right. Makes the phrase "Man of few words" ring true, eh?


Sloane Taylor said...

Maddie, thanks for the tips. You must have been reading my WIP and realized I needed help!

Maddie James said...

Sloane, dear, I can hardly imagine that....