Writing Dialogue — Exercise and Lessons Learned

My critique group just finished our Discussion Week on dialogue. What fun when brilliant, creative minds brainstorm and also share links and other information. One thing we didn’t do, but which we will do, maybe during NaNoWriMo, is to each have a one of our characters meet in a social setting yet to be determined, like at a table of a wedding reception. We even might meet in a chat room to do this. The thought makes my heart bump around in chuckles, especially since we write stories from picture books to contemporary MG, YA fantasy, and adult thrillers.

Things learned this week:

* Condense your dialogue. Don’t write every “um” or repeat phrases which you may do in common speech.

* Using your children to roleplay your scenes can hammer out what works and what doesn’t.

* Taking an improv class may help.

* Dialogue should sound natural so it’s not a bumpy, interrupted read, like all in a dialect. A word or two of dialect thrown in, okay to give the flavor of the speech; all the talk, no. (And personally, I’d lie to add that while I’m on this creativity-sucking medicine, the interesting part is that I am now able to complete and easily comprehend the driest of stories or entire stories written in odd-to-me dialects.)

* That said, words your characters say should be unexpected. If the reader is surprised, the reader will read on.

* Dialogue needs to move the plot forward.

* Zingers in dialogue (including dialects) should happen only occasionally, just like the fine opening line of the story.

* Rose added interesting input from an ESL course about the rhythm and tone of language.

* And finally, reaction to dialogue speaks volumes about the character and/or the plot.

Happy dialogue writing.

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2 thoughts on “Writing Dialogue — Exercise and Lessons Learned

  1. I agree – our discussion weeks always produce little light bulbs of info. that haven’t come across before.

    I think it would be crazy fun to have our characters meet in a chat room.

    Loved the “unexpected” comment that was brought to the discussion. I think that’s a super cool way to keep the reader interested in what the character has to say.

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