Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My, Um, Er, Ah, Post on Dialogue

Once again, this week's topic is very appropriate for me. I'm in the midst of editing my second book, NOT READY FOR MOM JEANS, and still have about 150 pages of edits to complete before, um, Friday. Eeek! Can you tell I was the kid cramming the night before finals?

Anyway, one of the areas that I'm focusing on in my edits is the dialogue. See, when I write, it's almost as though I'm transcribing a conversation. I don't focus too much on the "she said angrily" and stuff like that. I just write out the lines of conversation and then go back later and add in little tags and additional info.

I've found, though, that it's somewhat challenging to throw in the details after the fact. Like people drumming their fingers, sighing, things like that. Not to mention, I feel like my characters are always nodding their heads and smiling at each other. It feels so organic when written, but difficult to edit with a fine-toothed comb.

Not to mention, while dialogue should definitely sound real, it's kind of an edited version of actual conversations. When real people speak, there's lots of "um"s and pauses and "like"s throw in there. And trust me, nobody wants to read dialogue like that. So, it's a cleaner, more succinct transcript.

And, as Tracy referenced, your conversations should have an actual purpose--convey some new information, show an emotion, allow your main character to distill a plot point. It should never just be, "Oh, these two people are talking." Just as though every scene should have a reason for being in your book and advance the plot, so should every conversation--even if it's just to show where a character's feelings currently lie.

Of course, all of this is easier said than done--much like most of writing. Sigh. Time for me to run and start hacking away!


Tracy Madison said...

First off, I so love your title! You'll sail through the edits, I'm sure. :)

Great post, Maureen

Jillian Cantor said...

My characters are always nodding and smiling, too! And pausing. I tend to overdo it with the pauses!

Lisa Patton said...

I'm with Tracy! I LOVE your title. And it sounds like you and I go through the same thing re: showing movement during dialogue. Katie has taught me so much! I hope I'm better in book 2.

Lesley Livingston said...

Good points about book-talk being having to sound like real life --only better!