Thursday, November 14, 2013

Does Your Dialogue Match Your Character?

Dialogue is one of those things that can either make or break a book. Unfortunately, I see far too many projects where the dialogue just doesn't work with the book or the story. There is a huge disconnect between the characters, the plot and the scene.

I think one thing that many writers seem to forget is that dialogue is more than just the characters talking. Dialogue has a powerful role in the success of your story. It is used not just for passing on information to the reader, but also used for pacing, introspection and conveying emotions to the reader. When we have weak dialogue, we often end up making comments of the author telling and not showing.

Let's look at each of these elements of dialogue in your story through the scene a small scene For example, in Bronwyn Scott's story, HOW TO RUIN A REPUTATION.

"Maybe I can help. I can look over the books with you if Alex can't Who knows, there might be something I remember."

"You have too many other activities right now. I don't want to bother you." He was slipping away from her again. Genevra could feel it. The vulnerability of a moment earlier was vanishing."

I'm your wife. You can let me help. I want to help," she protested.

I'll manage it, Genevra," Ashe snapped making clear the conversation was finished.

In this case, we really see how she was able to keep the pace and the tension going in this scene. The dialogue is really the motivating force here. If you think about it, when people are arguing, there isn't going to be much room for narration and introspection.

Along the same lines, in these short lines, we can truly see that these characters are in for a rough time for the next couple of pages. Why? This dialogue tells us she is reaching out to him in the best way she can think about at this time and he is simply not going to open up.

Now, Bronwyn could have inserted narration into this scene with a lot of introspection as to what Genevra is thinking. She could have added in longer lines coming from Ashe explaining why he isn't interested in talking right now, but this would not only slow down the story, it would throw her into the "telling vs. showing" situation and all of the tension would be lost.

I started out this post also asking the question of whether or not dialogue matched your characters? It is crucial for you to know exactly who your characters are, what type of people they are, and most importantly, what would they say or do in these situations. For the above small scene, this dialogue truly matches the characters. Ashe is a take charge type of guy and is someone who really doesn't like to let his emotions show. Genevra is someone who is very giving and caring. She is concerned by what people think and do.

What happens to far too many authors is that they make the characters say things that they, as the author, would say, but not necessarily what fits with the actual character or the situation. They are so focused on getting their plot told that they forget to think about the characters.

So, go back and check that dialogue of yours. How are you using it?

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