Got two minutes? Then check out this week’s quick tip ~ Giving your story more impact by giving your characters more dialogue
Hello and welcome…I am a freelance editor and an editor for The Wild Rose Press, as well as an author. I often struggle with my own writing, and I have found that sometimes, a little reminder of ways to improve the process can be helpful, so, I like to share these moments of brilliance with others :). But, in this busy world of ours, who has time for pages and pages of writing tips? That’s why I’ve condensed mine down to quick flashes you can read in (approximately) two minutes. Enjoy…
Disclaimer: All of my tips are suggestions, and are only my opinion. And, for the most part, there are exceptions when going against my advice will make your story read better. Take what works, leave the rest.
Everyone knows readers like to read dialogue, so be sure to capitalize on every opportunity to put more words in their mouths. Also, it can often bring a little more impact and depth to a scene. So, why have your characters think something when they can actually say it?
Here are a few examples from some of my stories, the first two being published works where it’s too late, but looking back, my characters should have said it, not thought it…
End of Lonely Street:
As it is:
“I’ll have none of this nonsense at a school function. Rock and roll? Are you out of your mind?”
No rock and roll? No Everly Brothers or Little Richard or Buddy Holly? No….Elvis?
“But, sir. The kids are really looking forward to it. We’ve sold more than three-hundred tickets so far, and we just know we’ll sell more. That’s over three-hundred dollars for Miss Murdock’s expenses—well, once we deduct the operational costs. Many of the kids will want their money back if we don’t have rock and roll music at the dance. Besides, Miss Murdock already gave her approval, before she had to retire.”
Mr. Rivers crossed his hands on the top of his desk. “It doesn’t matter how many tickets you’ve sold. I’m in charge now, and I’m not going to coddle students like Miss Murdock did. I won’t have my kids exposed to that devil music, especially that vulgar, immoral Elvis the Pelvis.”
“Vulgar? Devil music?” Toby clenched her fists. It made her so angry when older people spoke that way about rock and roll, especially about Elvis. He was a nice boy, respectful and polite. Kind to his fans, to his mother. And he was the dreamiest. “Rock and roll is not devil music. It’s just a way for kids to have fun, to have their own—”
As it could have been:
“Vulgar? Devil music?” Toby clenched her fists. It made her so angry when older people spoke that way about rock and roll, especially about Elvis. “He’s a nice boy, respectful and polite. He’s kind to his fans, to his mother.” And he was the dreamiest. “Rock and roll is not devil music. It’s just a way for kids to have fun, to have their own—”
There was really no point in only doing it in narrative. This gives her a little more backbone, I think.
From Death Notice:
As it is:
“I’m sorry,” he said softly.
I nodded. “It wasn’t their fault. Katie’s parents knew my parents were going out. Knew we were spending the night in the back yard. It was a safe neighborhood. They weren’t worried. But after…” I shrugged. “I guess they just needed someone to blame.”
“I’m sure they did,” Lane said, but I was barely aware of him speaking. I was lost in that time. Now that I had started, it all kept pouring out.
“Although Mom and Dad felt guilty, they were defensive when Katie’s parents accused them. It caused a huge rift, and they never spoke again. Funny, but Katie’s parents didn’t hold it against me or Josie. As a matter of fact, I became even closer to them as the years went by. Katie was an only child, and I guess it helped to have me around. My parents didn’t mind. They felt terrible about what happened. Almost guilty about the fact that they had four children left when the Broussards had none. My brothers were devastated. Especially Gabe, since he was left in charge. Coburn, as usual, was a rock, but Mitch and Gabe went to pieces. It had the opposite effect on each of them. Gabe, who’d been wild and out of control, settled down, became quiet. Wound up becoming a priest. Mitch went a little crazy for a few years. Got really heavy into drugs. Josie did, too. Only, Mitch came back.”
“Must have been horrible.”
We started junior high that year. It was miserable. I already had a reputation for being a little morbid since my dad was a mortician. After Katie’s death, rumors circulated about my family being cultists. About how we’d put some kind of curse on her. Some even said we’d sacrificed her in a ritual and eaten her flesh. Josie became a stoner and I became an outcast. My brothers, oddly, went unscathed. They were just too good-looking and had too much personality to let a little thing like ritualistic murder affect their popularity.
As it could have been:
“It was. We started junior high that year. It was miserable. I already had a reputation for being a little morbid since my dad was a mortician. After Katie’s death, rumors circulated about my family being cultists. About how we’d put some kind of curse on her. Some even said we’d sacrificed her in a ritual and eaten her flesh. Josie became a stoner and I became an outcast. My brothers, oddly, went unscathed. They were just too good-looking and had too much personality to let a little thing like ritualistic murder affect their popularity.”
I think this is not only less boring, being in dialogue, but it opens her up a bit to Lane, the guy she’s falling in love with.
Lastly, and very briefly, in my latest WIP, Evil Eye, I am writing a rough draft and I have a scene where my protagonist’s dad has been roughed up by some bad guys to whom he owes money. (He’s an addicted gambler/alcoholic). He wants Scarlet (my protagonist) to ask her estranged, criminal sister for the money. I wrote it like this:
Scarlet twisted a strand of hair and tucked it behind her ear. “I can cash in my retirement, but I’ll only get half of what you need. I’ll take that to them, let them know I’m a cop. Maybe I can convince them to settle for that. At least for now.”
Her dad groaned out a sound that was something between a laugh and a cry. “These people don’t make deals and they aren’t afraid of cops.”
“Do you have a better idea?” Irritation sharpened her voice.
“Yeah, I do. You can ask Ivory. She’d as soon spit on my corpse as to look at me, but she’d do anything to connect with you again.”
Scarlet would rather take a beating from Hector’s goons than speak with her sister, but was she willing to let her dad be killed? She let out a weary sigh. “Fine, I’ll talk to her, on one condition.”
Then I realized that it might play better, have a little more impact and get across to her dad just how reluctant she is, if I turned it into dialogue:
Scarlet snorted. “I’d rather take a beating from Hector’s goons than see Ivory.” But, was she willing to let her dad be killed? She let out a weary sigh. “Fine, I’ll talk to her, on one condition.”
What do you think? Is dialogue often better? We can’t always apply this. After all, we don’t want a story with nothing but dialogue. Plus, our characters often think things that definitely shouldn’t be spoken aloud. But, perhaps keep this in mind as you’re polishing, even if you don’t do so in the first draft. Are there things your characters can think that they’d be better off saying?
Until next time…happy writing!
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I am releasing an e-book with a collection of Two-Minute Tips I have shared on my blog. Now, you can have them in one convenient place for easy reference. Pre-Order price is 99¢ – Regular price will be $2.99.
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How to write a novel? That is the question. There are probably as many answers to that question as there are people who ask it.
Wanting to write and actually doing it are two very different things. I am well acquainted with the sometimes grueling process of churning out a story. Over the years, I have tried many methods for creating and completing manuscripts, and have tweaked and honed it down to a workable (for me) process.
Using specific examples from one of my own novels, Without Mercy, I share my method in this mini how to book. The first eight steps actually deal with plotting while the last two are designed to help expand your outline into a well-developed draft. There is no one, perfect way to create a story, but there will be a method, or methods that work for you. I’m not sure if this is the one, but it works for me. Only you can decide if it also works for you. Fingers crossed that it does!
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12 responses to “Tuesday Two-Minute Writing Tip – Don’t Think It, Say It”
So true. Dialogue rocks a story. My characters never shut up…
Haha, that’s one way to put it! Yes, dialogue is awesome. 🙂
Good illustrations! You can get so much more across through dialogue and non-verbals like body language or facial expressions. A good way to show your reader– have them draw the conclusions–rather than tell them. Good reminder! Thanks for sharing!
Very true…you’re welcome…thanks for stopping by!
All great examples of improvement. I especially liked the difference in the “End of Lonely Street” example. It definitely portrayed her as being gutsier to say it out loud. Thanks, as always!
Thank you, Leah. I appreciate your support, as always. 🙂
I use dialog as often as possible. Immediacy! Readers relate and so much characterization is derived from speech. Thanks again.
Exactly…you’re welcome and thank you!
Indeed, all great examples. And I think it’s so admirable when you use your own work as the “sacrificial lamb.” (What’s wrong with you anyway?) Lest we not forget…page count. All that beautiful white space that dialogue provides. 🙂
Thank you! 🙂 Ha, I guess I’m not exactly normal. Yeah, I like using myself to show writers what NOT to do. 🙂 I tell you, when I was going through Death Notice I about died seeing all the filter words. Sheesh! Give me another crack at that book, for sure. Last year in a workshop I presented in Vegas, I actually used passages from Nothing to Fear to give attendees examples of poorly written passages. I guess I’m a masochist maybe????
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Uh…maybe. But for Heaven’s sake, Alicia Morticia, Leticia, Militia Dean, when did you write Nothing to Fear??? If you don’t remember, I sure do! As I’ve reminded all of those who could truly care less what I had to say, writing is a life-long process of learning. So, go forth and keep on learnin’! 🙂
PS: I loved Nothing to Fear.
Hahaha, that is the BEST name ever! I’m having mine legally changed. Uh, yeah, it was a while back. You are correct. I hope I never stop learning. 🙂 Thank you!
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