Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"Writing dialogue is a piece of cake," she said.
But what kind?

“I don’t know the first thing about this subject,” the editor muttered as she typed the first sentence. “I really wish someone reading this blog would have contacted me.”

Here is something I copied and pasted from a site that will give us a taste of writing dialogue.

Some Dialogue Conventions to Consider*:

1. Each new speaker requires a new paragraph, properly indented and set off by quotation marks.

2. “Use double quotations,” the novelist ordered, “and remember to place commas and periods inside those quotation marks.”

3. “If a speaker goes on for more than one paragraph,” the count responded in his heavy Transylvanian accent, “do not close off the quotation marks at the end of the first paragraph.
“Simply place quotation marks at the beginning of the next paragraph, and carry on to the end of the quotation.”

4. Use “he said” expressions only when you must, to avoid confusion about who's speaking. You can signal increasing tension by moving from “he said” to “he snapped,” to “he snarled,” to “he bellowed furiously.” But the dialogue itself should convey that changing mood, and make such comments needless.

5. Action as well as speech is a part of dialogue. We expect to know when the speakers pause, where they're looking, what they're doing with their hands, how they respond to one another. The characters' speech becomes just one aspect of their interactions; sometimes their words are all we need, but sometimes we definitely need more. This is especially true when you're trying to convey a conflict between what your characters say and what they feel: their nonverbal messages are going to be far more reliable than their spoken words.

6. Speak your dialogue out loud; if it doesn't sound natural, or contains unexpected rhymes and rhythms, revise it.

7. Rely on rhythm and vocabulary, not phonetic spelling, to convey accent or dialect.

8. If you are giving us your characters' exact unspoken thoughts, use italics. If you are paraphrasing those thoughts, use regular Roman type:

Now what does she want? he asked himself. Isn't she ever satisfied? Marshall wondered what she wanted now. She was never satisfied.

9. If you plan to give us a long passage of inner monologue, however, consider the discomfort of having to read line after line of italic print. If you wish to emphasize a word in a line of italics, use Roman: Isn't she ever satisfied?

[* #1-9 excerpted from http://www.darkwaves.com/sfch/writing/ckilian/#13]

10. Once you've read this, write me something of the fictional nature and submit it by December 1--that's just a day away!

Again she wondered, Would anyone respond to this delicious chocolate cake kind of offer?


Jamie Jo said...

Sadly this is where my whole story fell apart. Dialog. If I can ever get away for a writer's weekend all by myself someplace, I want to finish my story. It's not going to happen before tomorrow, though.

Anyone else out there close to finishing your story?

(I still like reading more than writing.)

Women of the Harvest Blogs said...

@ Jamie Jo: Someday you will master the dialogue and then, watch out ladies, you may be one of her thinly-veiled characters talking words of wisdom mixed with a bit of craziness....

Linsey said...

Thanks so much for writing these posts about how to write fiction. I have really appreciated reading them. I particularly like the two about character building and dialogue. Thanks for taking the time.
Do you think we might be able to read the different fiction stories that get sent in for the competition? I would be interested to read what people have written.


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