Writing Tips & Tools

Monday, November 07, 2011

Lesson #12 - Dialogue Mechanics

by Bonnie Calhoun

Today we are continuing editing lessons from the book Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King.

These lessons will be shortened overviews of the chapters and by no means should be a substitute for buying the book. I'm rereading but not posting a lot of good stuff!

Let's continue. Today we'll start Dialogue Mechanics. I just recently learned that one of the first things an acquisitions editor looks for when they begin reading a fiction submission, is the dialogue!

If you're like most writers, you probably find that writing dialogue takes more thought than writing narration or action. And because it's such hard work, generations of writers have developed mechanical tricks to save them the trouble of writing dialogue that effectively conveys character and emotion...Techniques to prop up shaky dialogue, or to paper over holes and make second-rate dialogue serviceable without a lot of effort.

Once you learn to spot these creaky mechanics, all you have to do is stop using them. And once you stop, you may find that your dialogue...standing on its own...is a lot stronger than you thought it was when you wrote it.

Imagine that your at a play. It's the middle of the first act: you're getting really involved in the drama they're acting out. Suddenly the playwright runs out on the stage and yells, "Do you see what's happening here? So you see how her coldness is behind his infidelity? Have you noticed the way his womanizing has undermined her confidence? Do you get it?"

You get it, of course, and you feel patronized. You're an intelligent theater-goer, and what's happening on the stage is clear enough. You don't need the writer to explain it to you.

This is exactly what happens when you explain your dialogue to your readers.

To be continued...

1 Comment:

  1. Dan. M said...
    Interesting. I own the book, and my writing instructor is a friend of Renni Browne. I high recommend the book. Thanks for the quick lesson, Bonnie. I was having a problem writing out a dialogue scene between three characters....but that's cleared up.

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