Funny how the week goes by so darn quick. But here it is Monday again, and we’re musing on dialogue. That pesky, all-consuming character talk-talk…
“One of my biggest pet peeves as an agent reading slush is unrealistic dialogue. This is a huge indicator of skill for better or for worse. For me, this is a bigger red flag than any grammatical error…”
(Literary Agent, Carly Watters, on writing good dialogue; Source: 4 Ways To Write Better Dialogue)
Ms. Watters post on the matter got me musing alright! Dialogue, in its best state, is natural. When it flows like water and you can’t turn off the stream if you try, then you know, you’ve got something! When the characters interact and your fingers can’t seem to stop typing, as if they’re on autopilot, that’s when you’ve struck gold! Like that time I sat eavesdropping in an old leather booth at a local diner, jotting down everything the two old birds next to me were saying. One was practically mute while the other carried on the practically the whole conversation by himself, ping-ponging back and forth, asking and answering his own questions, and having a grand old-time doing it. It translated into a short flash, then a longer short-short for me. Nothing like the real thing!
But what about those days when the words feel more forced than anything else and reading it back, you practically choke on the sound it’s so stilted and vague! Don’t know about you but I have those moments. Never easy to write, one of the things I’ve found helpful is to have others read your dialog out loud. And not just in a workshop setting.
I’m talking about drama. Live, on stage actors, reading the parts. That’s where you’ll know for sure if it’s working or not. And the actors will probably be the first to let you know, in case you haven’t figured it out for yourself yet. If they feel funny saying it, chances are, it’s a pretty funny set of words to be spoken out loud!
What’s your take on the matter???
Luv to hear your thoughts on this one!
You’re right about that Coolerbs!
I took a playwriting course for that very reason…nothing like hearing your words out loud by skilled actors!
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I agree entirely! I know I’m onto something when I find my word count target disappearing just because my characters still have more to say. The way I go about it is to have a set target for the conversation to eventually get to, and then let my characters find their way there on their own.
In lieu of an actor, there are computer programs that read it to you as well, and even that catches some errors I find.
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