Monday, July 25, 2011

Talking the Talk

So my last couple of posts have been from the Shelly Beach Writer's Workshop in Cedar Falls, Iowa. I came away with a wealth of knowledge, and will give my last set of notes from the workshop.  

Holly Miller, editor of The Saturday Evening Post Magazine for 25 + years, and a published author, gave a great overview of what you should consider as you write dialogue into your novel.

She warns that bad dialogue will make an editor, “groan, laugh, scratch their head, and then reject” your ms. Dialogue is important because it shows that you can write...

Here are the 5 big problems Holly has outlined that should be considered as you write the words of your characters:

1.Dialogue that is too correct. High impact moments that have unnatural dialogue will take away from the believability. Here is my example: “Oh no. My car has caught on fire. I must quickly make a phone call and inform the police.”

2.Put too much back story in dialogue. Here is my example: “My grandmother, who struggled financially during the recession, but made some very wise investments and now is comfortably retired, is coming in town for lunch.”

3.Too much dialogue. A good exercise to see if you have too much is to highlight all narration in one color and dialogue in the other. Imagine manuscripts that have intriguing dialogue, but no internal thoughts, descriptions of setting...picture talking heads in the reader's mind.

4.Too little dialogue. Some of my earlier manuscripts have pages and pages of narration and description, and only a paragraph of dialogue. Sounds like fun reading?

5.Inappropriate word choices for Christian fiction. And I will add my own to this, inappropriate words for the time period if you are writing historical fiction. I received a few criticisms on my contest entries because of this. Webster online shows when words came into the language, so check it out if you have questions on your historical writing.

Do you have examples of any of these in your own writing?

Some Tips from Holly:

1.Jerry Jenkins once said that his first draft always sounds like him, but his second draft takes on characters' own personalities. Be sure to take the time to read through and polish, polish, polish!!
2.Always read dialogue out loud. If you need to, get someone to read with you so you can see how the dialogue sounds.
3.Start a new paragraph every time you switch speakers! :)


Wendy Paine Miller said...

Great tips. I love dialogue and I'm trying hard not to have it covering every page of my work.

~ Wendy

Beth K. Vogt said...

I love to read my dialogue out loud. And it is one thing I edit over and over again. I also like to have my husband read my dialogue to make sure my guys sound like guys. ;o) I decided to do that after listening to a workshop taught by Randy Ingermanson.

Joanne Sher said...

Super tips - every one of them.

Mary Vee Writer said...

I have found so many dialogue errors simply by reading my story out loud. I listen to myself read and didn't write that!?!?! But I did.
Non only do I catch syntax errors that way, I also find flaws in what a character would actually say, as you pointed out in your post today.
Thanks Angie
Great post.

Mary Vee Writer said...

whoops...reread my comment and found an error: Gag, I always have to check.
I meant "Not only"

Ralene said...

Great tips! I love dialogue--it's my fav part of writing, which is probably why it is one of my strengths.

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Great post, Angie. I definitely need to work on the dialog and narration/description. I would probably have too much narration highlighted. Dialog still scares me a little. Trying to make sure my characters sound like themselves. :) This post is a keeper for me.

Sarah Forgrave said...

I love that first point from Holly. My first draft has dialogue that sounds eerily like me. Glad to know even Jerry Jenkins has to go back and un-author-speak the dialogue. :)

Pepper said...

Great tips, Ang.

I have a tendency toward too much dialogue - because that's what I look for when I read :-)
But I love lyrical descriptives too (I'm just not great at writing those ;-)

And, I do read my dialogue out loud. It's amazing what you catch from it.
And hearing myself in my characters...ooooh yeah! Gotta watch out for that.

Angie Dicken said...

Thanks for the comments! I am on vacation so not able to be at the computer as much. Happy writing!