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.

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