Writing Dialogue (RWA 2010 Blog Series)

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Couple Talking

Today I’m talking about my take on the Doin’ It with Dialogue Workshop given by Karen Rose at the RWA 2010 Conference.

Dialogue is present in a novel to show character or present motivation.  It can also set your mood.  Karen had a few good tips on using dialogue effectively:

  • Use Tags to Create Your Mood

Dialogue tags can set your mood.  Consider the following:

“I knew when I met you,” he said. (Sounds more casual.)

“I knew,” he whispered, “when I met you.”  (The tone is deeper here.  It could be tortured, as if he’s admitting something he doesn’t want to, or romantic (a love scene).

  • Have Characters Say the Opposite of What They Mean

How many times do people actually say what they mean?  Not often.  So why would your characters say it?  If your hero is attracted to the heroine but she’s going to marry his best friend, instead of admitting it to her he’d probably pretend he didn’t like her.

  • Use Dialogue to Create Connection Between Characters

This is especially important if you write romance.  You want your hero and heroine to connect with each other on an emotional level, not just physical.

  • If You Have More Than Two Paragraphs of Narrative, Can You Add Dialogue?

White space is what draws a reader.  Many people instinctively flip through books to make sure there is a lot of white space (i.e. dialogue) before buying (I know I do this).  Why?  Because dialogue makes the book read faster.  Too much narrative can bog your story down.  And really, it’s the interaction between characters that readers want to read.

  • How to Perfect Your Dialogue

Find a character in a movie or television show who speaks the way you’d like your main character to speak.  Watch the movie or show over and over to get a feel for what he would say. 

  • Some Don’ts
  1. If you have a character with an accent (or stutter), don’t go overboard.  Just a little bit here and there is enough to make it clear to your readers that your character has an accent.
  2. Don’t use the characters’ names in every sentence.
  3. Don’t use dialogue to convey backstory if your characters should already know it.  For example, if the heroine is talking to her twin sister, you shouldn’t be saying, “Well, as you know Jenny, our mom died when we were eight.”  Jenny lived through it; she knows!

On Monday I’ll be talking about the Humor, Heat, and Hooks Workshop.



4 thoughts on “Writing Dialogue (RWA 2010 Blog Series)

    BonSue Brandvik said:
    October 15, 2010 at 8:42 am

    Excellent summary of a terrific workshop!

      rosalielario responded:
      October 15, 2010 at 8:44 am

      Thanks BonSue. It was a great workshop 🙂

    Tracey Livesay said:
    October 17, 2010 at 8:51 am

    It’s funny to read this. My husband and I were watching Property Virgins and the wife loved this house and each time she walked into a room she would say, “Oh Jeremy, this room is great.” And every sentence started with “Oh, Jeremy.” It drove us nuts! Other than the camera crew, he was the only other person with her!

    Great post, as usual.

      rosalielario responded:
      October 17, 2010 at 9:16 am

      Heh! I see it in novels every now and again (and yes, it drives me nuts), but I’ve never actually heard it before. I think I’d tear my hear out, LOL.

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