David A. Schwinghammer
· Soldier's Gap
· Fisher of Men, Chapter 8
· Honest Thief, Tender Murderer, Chapter Eight
· Mengele's Double, Chapter Eight
· Bereavement Blues
· Fisher of Men, Chapter 7
· Speed Dating With 'Janeane Garofalo'
· The Cynic
· Honest Thief, Tender Murderer - Chapter Seven
· Mengele's Double, Chapter 7
· Mengele's Double, Chapter Six
· The Nuclear Option
· Empty Mansions, book review
· Pilgrim's Wilderness, book review
· WWII Cartoonist, book review
· Write Yourself Into a Corner, book review
· Roanoke Island, book review
· Billboard Theology
· Baghdad Without a Map, book review
· Into the Wild, book review
· The Zookeeper's Wife (review)
· Alumni Game
· Girls Who Wear Glasses
· The Do Drop Inn
· Ode to Neve Campbell
· Jacks or Better 101
· Never My Love
· 3 O'Clock
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Blogs by David A. Schwinghammer
9/3/2009 8:54:07 AM
Suggestions on how to write effective dialogue.
1. Write like people talk. They use fragments, run-ons sentences, they interrupt each other, they change the subject. A possible field trip for you would be to go to a place where there are a lot of people and listen: a football game, the mall, a bar. Bring along a notebook and try to get a sense of how they talk.
2. Warning: Most conversation is stultifying boring; remember you’re writing fiction. Use the technique, but not the content: “How are you?” “I’m fine; how are you?” “I’m good, got a new leaf blower.” Establishing a conflict or a goal for your character early on in your scene will help your dialogue. A wife will give her husband the needle; a friend will tease his buddy about his lack of success with women.
3. Avoid long speeches. Try to write in rhythm. Robert B. Parker is really good at this. See his Jesse Stone novels. It works like this. One, two: a character talks, the other responds or at least nods his head. Save long speeches for scenes where they are absolutely necessary. Dialogue sequences should also be fairly short to avoid boring the reader.
4. I had a critique partner once who thought she was breaking new ground by using dialogue at the expense of narration. If that’s your thing, write a play. Mix it up with sequences of narration, active description (lots of action verbs and imagery) dialogue and action. Action should be on the heavy side.
Move your main character through the scene. He can be driving a car or just walking down the street, but move him through the scene as much as possible. You don’t want any talking heads.
5. Tag lines (he said, she said). Use “said” rather than synonyms for it; occasionally you can use something like “responded” but don’t make a habit of it. Readers don’t notice “said” but they sure do notice when something else is used, like “rebutted.” Fiction is a dream state of sorts and any fancy work wakes your reader up.
6. Beats: This is the action that goes with the tag lone. “Hi,” she said, turning in her chair to look at him. Don’t overdo the beats; they become monotonous if you use them with every snatch of dialogue; they also slow the pace.
7. Avoid using too many participial phrases (“ing” words that follow the tag line.) One every now and then is okay, but avoid using them on the same page.
8. Pace. For a past pace don’t use tag lines. Your reader will be able to figure out who’s talking by what the various characters say. For a slower pace use more tags and beats, maybe lengthen your sentences a bit.
9. Summary dialogue (Used to quicken pace. Be sure you have a good reason to use it, like avoiding boring the reader with mundane conversation.
Some editors don’t like to see summary dialogue at all.
10. Avoid dialect unless you’re really good at it. I’ve been driving myself crazy lately with Irish dialect. I found a site on the Internet that translates English into Irish, but it sounds awfully British to me. Anyway, odd spelling bugs your readers. You can tell your readers the character spoke with an Irish brogue or use the occasional Irish word like “paypul” instead of people.
11. Interior monologue. Your character is talking to himself in his head. Editors don’t like it. It’s kind of hard not to use this, especially if you’re writing in author limited point of view, but avoid it as much as possible.
Dave Schwinghammer's novel, SOLDIER'S GAP, is available
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