This is one of my favourite subjects when it comes to books and writing, because I’m a fussy little twerp when it comes to dialogue. Bad dialogue can completely ruin a reading experience for me, and great dialogue can be the difference between a book I enjoy and a book I relentlessly recommend to others.
Writing dialogue is one of the easier parts of my own writing process. I spend more time mulling over the bits that go between lines of dialogue than anything else. One reason for this might be that I lean toward brash, smart-mouthed characters (I'm working on breaking the habit, I swear). My fictional darlings get to say all the snotty, impulsive stuff that I would love to say if I didn’t have a very real face that could endure very real punches.
Of course, some scenes are harder to write than others. It’s not always appropriate to have the main character toss out a pithy quip or smart remark. It’s most obvious in these situations — but true of all dialogue, I believe — that it's just as much about what the characters don’t say as what they do say. Subtext is a powerful beast, and great fun if you manage to wrestle a collar around its neck.
I'm not a fan of exposition in dialogue. I think it should be avoided like the plague. So much of human communication is non-verbal, but sometimes that goes right out the window in fiction. There are times when I cringe while reading, because the characters do so much talking to achieve the same amount of communicatingthat could have been done in a single gesture or quirk of body language.
But nothing is worse than the dialogue sin of interrupting a fight. This makes me weep. You’ve probably seen it: two characters are fighting, loudly or otherwise, and when the tension gets to be too much, something interrupts them. The phone or doorbell rings. Another character walks in. Something spontaneously combusts. You get it. Seeing this makes me want to take the author by the shoulders and shake them. It’s important to finish the fight!
Yes, it’s hard to finish the fight. It’s hard to wind down from the tension that has built up over the course of the scene, but you learn more about your characters by forcing them to work through it. Every day we non-fictionals have to reach compromises or suffer from the consequences of blow-ups that didn’t get conveniently interrupted. Finishing the fight is an accurate depiction of the human experience, and often more relatable — and satisfying — than a fight that gets cut off.
I’m probably asking too much, but it’s too much of a bother to lower my dialogue standards. First I have to get out the tool box, find the right drill bit, un-kink the measuring tape, give up and take a beer break…. You can see why it’s not going to happen. I’m a Fussy Dialogue Twerp for life.
Love Among Pigeons Synopsis
In this companion novella to Wake, Frank invites the Kirk family home to Smiths Falls for Thanksgiving weekend. Holidays are always a trial for the family that lost their daughter and sister, but Frank is hopeful that this Thanksgiving will be the exception. He has some happy news to share. If only he wasn’t so reluctant to talk about it.
Abria holds a Certificate in Publishing from the New York University Summer Publishing Institute and a degree in English Literature and Psychology from the University of Ottawa. When she isn’t writing she enjoys travelling, eclectic books, blogging, and baking. She lives with her fiance, Daniel.
Her debut novel, Wake, is about the struggle to redefine life after experiencing cancer and caring for an ill loved one.
|Brought to you by Writing Belle's 2013 Summer Author Program|