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10 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR DIALOGUE

I'm one of those people who finds it much easier to focus on what I'm doing wrong than what I do well, but if I had to pick something from the 'I do okay at this' pile, I like to think that dialogue is one of my writing strengths.

With that in mind, my regular column over at the Apex Book Company's blog today is about putting words in other people's mouths, and some of the ways we can put those words to the test.

If you'd like to read my thoughts on improving characters' dialogue, here's the link.  I hope you find them useful.
 

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( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
msstacy13
Aug. 30th, 2010 11:40 am (UTC)
"Yes," Stacy said to herself, "the dialogue in Fur-Face was pretty good.
Particulary when we consider how much of it was spoken by characters who couldn't
actually speak."
jongibbs
Aug. 30th, 2010 11:45 am (UTC)
Lol :P
msstacy13
Aug. 30th, 2010 11:56 am (UTC)
"As you know, Stacy," Jon concluded as he began.

Of course, Stacy knew.
The best punch lines are those that can remain unsaid.
Thus it was sadly wonderful that a conversation with her
was like being on the phone with Bob Newhart.
jongibbs
Aug. 30th, 2010 12:05 pm (UTC)
Good old Bob. I still listen to his Driving Instructor monologue from time to time :)
(Deleted comment)
jongibbs
Aug. 30th, 2010 12:01 pm (UTC)
Thank you :)

I'm a big fan of contractions and slang etc.

Me too, though I think some writers get carried away with it.

I remember giving up on Richard Adams's Plague Dogs years ago, because of all the phoneticly spelled out northern accents - even though I'm from the north of England myself.

Each to his/her own, of course, but for me, anytime I have to stop reading to figure out what was just said, it's too much.
peadarog
Aug. 30th, 2010 12:05 pm (UTC)
If the story’s not clear without dialogue

I'm not sure I understand this point. Surely if the story is unclear without dialog, then the dialog was necessary. If it were unnecessary, it shouldn't be in the story.

What am I missing?
jongibbs
Aug. 30th, 2010 12:16 pm (UTC)
If you take out all the dialogue and the storyline isn't clear, then you might have a case of the dreaded 'bobble-heads,' where the characters are 'telling' the story without the narrative to back it up eg: If two characters are arguing, the narrative should reflect that in some subtle way.

Does that make sense?

peadarog
Aug. 30th, 2010 12:17 pm (UTC)
yeah, gotcha now.
bogwitch64
Aug. 30th, 2010 12:46 pm (UTC)
Aroo-oo-oo-oo-OOOOO!

It's a partial crow, but I'll take it! Heading over to Apex.
jongibbs
Aug. 30th, 2010 12:56 pm (UTC)
Lol, I was hoping it wouldn't count :)
bogwitch64
Aug. 30th, 2010 01:00 pm (UTC)
It counts, indeed!
maryjdal
Aug. 30th, 2010 02:39 pm (UTC)
Very good and useful post. A problem I also have with dialogue is that my own "regionalism" strays into it all the time.
jongibbs
Aug. 30th, 2010 02:47 pm (UTC)
I know that feeling. Luckily, whenever I need to do a cockney accent, I just have to dig out the kids' Mary Poppins dvd and all's well ;)
clarionj
Aug. 30th, 2010 03:02 pm (UTC)
Great blog, Jon. Thanks for the tips. Creating distinct character voices is something I always have to work on. I never tried removing all narrative and letting the dialogue speak (except in my screenplay attempts!)--that's a great idea.
jongibbs
Aug. 30th, 2010 05:48 pm (UTC)
It really brings out the boring stuff, and not in a good way :)
asakiyume
Aug. 30th, 2010 06:34 pm (UTC)
That was a great post--it should go on jongibbs's Friday roundup.
jongibbs
Aug. 30th, 2010 06:37 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Francesca. I'm glad you liked it :)
lunalila
Aug. 30th, 2010 07:49 pm (UTC)
Helpful idea Jon,
I might use the one about taking narrative, or taking dialogue and reading rest of manuscript. Need to work a bit on my characters not sounding alike. I know they are not alike but.. I find it hard to show it on the page!.
jongibbs
Aug. 31st, 2010 06:33 am (UTC)
I know what you mean, Anna. It's one thing to know what we're supposed to do, but quite another to actually do it :)
(Deleted comment)
jongibbs
Aug. 31st, 2010 06:57 am (UTC)
Thank you :)
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )

Things What I Wrote and Other Stuff

No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there


No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there















 











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