I have been informed that I’m quite good at writing dialogue. This was news to me, as I hate it. I never would have expected that detesting something would lead me to be good at it, but there we go. So why or rather how, has this happened?
When writing Chapters of Manuscript 1 – I’ve decided to name it this for the time being, as it’s getting rather confusing referring to other WIP’s and manuscripts. Anyway, when writing Manuscript numero uno, I would know that a dialogue heavy chapter would be coming up. Events had happened, results were due to come and discussions needed to be had. This would fill me with absolute dread. I started elongating the previous chapters so that I wouldn’t need to get to that particular hurdle. I’d rather write around and around in metaphorical circles than attempt the dreaded speech. Some of those sentences were okay, but most have been cut now.
But I couldn’t put it off any longer; I’m referring now to a particular chapter near the start of the story where a long and fairly complicated exchange took place – and it had to be written. Chapter named, headed…time to start the words. Excellent. I wrote several very very very long introductory paragraphs leading up to the impending conversation (my new cunning plan, have a long introduction and really ‘set the scene’ of the chapter – genius!) Or so I though, for about a week – until I realised that should actually just get on with it!
Facing my fear.
The benefit of disliking dialogue so much is that it somewhat improves my dialogue. It’s not exactly sparse, but the characters say what needs to be said in-character but concise. That’s quite accurate to how people speak though, right? Unless telling a story or anecdote with added frills of hilarity, we don’t tend to go on and on and on to make our point. Unless there is reason, or character quirk. For example
“Would you mind getting some milk from the shop? It’s on your way home and we ran out yesterday,” said Sam.
This is all very interesting; it reveals a lot of information. It sets a bit of character. But would you ask your flatmate to get the milk like this? Would you not just say:
“Can you grab some milk?” Sam asked.
The other information, although lovely, can be cut out. It’s all just bumph. Whoever Sam is addressing, will, I assume, know where the shop is. The fact that they run out yesterday? Wouldn’t they know that to? Also, what does the reader really gain from those tidbits. If the local of the corner shop on the way home from work, is important – then surely it deserves more than just an aside in a random conversation?
Let’s say that Sam was talking to Steph and the location of the shop is in some way, vital. The reader MUST know this. Well then, Steph should probably be visit the shop on her way home from work. The reader will remember that more.
That is my advice on writing for the month. I know I’m not particularly qualified to preach but I thought I’d share some of my own processes.
What I also learnt from facing my phobia of dialogue, was that I need to let myself breathe. If I have to write the dialogue – I really should just do it. If it’s awful, fine – I’ll re-write it. I might have to take hours and hours when editing to get written, what actually needs to be written, and the way I want it. But you can’t edit something that isn’t on the page. Sometimes you just need to put something down, so that you can carry on and not lose momentum. The first draft shouldn’t be perfect. Well, aim for perfection but accept that sometimes you won’t be 100% satisfied with every word that you drop, with pain staking care onto the page.
To recap then…
1 Get on with it.
2 You can’t improve on something that doesn’t exist
3 Remember to breath, first drafts are imperfect and they should be
4 Dialogue is evil – but it can improve over time
What do you think? Does anyone else have any hints or suggestion for writing dialogue?
- Writing Better Dialogue (crawfordwritingblog.com)
- Dialogue Tags (emilyramos.wordpress.com)
- Write dialogue cues like a bestselling author (onewildword.com)
- When to kill your manuscript? (richardgilbert.me)