One of the things I really look for when I read a submission is how realistic the characters are in the story. The closer the writer can get the readers to reality (and yes this does deal with the futuristic, fantasy and paranormal) the better the connection you can make with the reader. It is that connection that draws us into the story. Shauna Summers from Bantam Dell once commented that she loves characters that seem like the person that lives on your street. It is that realism we are shooting for. For writers, one of the easiest ways to build that connection is to focus on the dialogue.
Too often, I see stories that have great premises, but in the end, the dialogue just fries the story. You, as the writer, needs to fully understand how your characters would talk and the type of words and sentence structure they would use. Unfortunately, many of the stories I see show writing that is out to “impress” instead of communicate. I feel as if the writers spent so much time word-smithing that they forgot who their characters were.
Think about Mark Twain. One of the things he was criticized for when he first started publishing was the language. It was just too real. But in the end, it is that realism that really shines through and has given him that staying power in literature.
So, let’s talk about some of the approaches to take. If your character is not that educated, the sentence structure might not be that long, there will be grammatical mistakes (not punctuation or spelling errors) and the language choice would be representative of where he or she comes from. I am reading a story right now where the hero is the head of a world wide corporation. In this case, the author screwed it up by having this guy not speak like an executive. This is a public role that commands respect, not just from action, but from words. Comments such as “Sure nuff,” isn’t going to work. And no, just because he is from
I don’t care if you have a great scene to play out in your head, think before you start having the characters talk. What would they really say?
Oh, and one final note for this one. This rule REALLY holds true when it comes to those intimate scenes in the bedroom. I seriously doubt that in the middle of all of it, he or she is thinking about a business deal. If that is the case, one or both of the characters really isn’t that hot hero or heroine we are wanting and certainly someone isn’t that good.
Scott C. Eagan