Dialogue: 3 Ways to Make it Snap
This whole idea of what dialogue is and what it can do for a story came to me a few nights ago as I sat at dinner with my hubby. We were starving and so as we crammed food into our mouths we didn’t talk much. It was a great opportunity to listen to the voices around me.
The best part of dialogue is the interaction between the speakers. They can get pretty excited about what they say. The bad thing with WRITING dialogue is that we have to work hard to get that emotion on the page and not be melodramatic with it.
Here are 3 way to make your dialogue snap
1. Break up your dialogue with attributes. Attributes are those ‘he said, she said’ sort of beats. They tell the reader, well, WHO said what. This is useful for long passages of dialogue. We really should break up dialogue so that there are not long passages however, which leads me to point two.
2. Break up dialogue with beats. Beats are those great little tags that make the dialogue more dimensional by MOVING the characters with action. It is a way to help us see the surroundings of the characters. An example would be: “I didn’t say that.” She slammed the book against the table and stalked away. His eyes followed her for a moment before he shouted at her back. “Yes, you did, you…”
3. Make your dialogue matter. There is little reason for people to sit around talking about things that they already know. I have heard this called ‘maid and butler’ syndrome. It’s like the old-fashioned theater and early movie script where the maid and butler discuss their employers and tell each other things that they already know. You can tell this is what they are doing because they often say, “As you know, Mabel, Mr. Smith went to Washington.” And she says, “Yes, Herbert, and as you know, Mrs. Smith has a guest.” So this is not good dialogue. Don’t tell the reader something useless.
Dialogue is best used to keep the reader in the know about happenings in the story that are pertinent and to move the plot along. I hope you find something happy, and snappy in your dialogue today!