Saturday, February 14, 2009

That's what she said...

Here are a few tips on Writing Dialogue that I shared on a panel at the San Francisco Writers Conference.

The purpose of dialogue is to:
1. Move the story along
2. Make the story come alive
3. Show, instead of tell
4. Increase the pace
5. Reveal character
6. Reveal information
7. Add reality
8. Create drama

When using attribution:
1. Use tag lines sparingly.
2. Use "said," not variations on said - exclaimed, sputtered, announced.
3. Substitute action instead of using attribution - "I love you." He kissed her.
4. Avoid “said” substitutes – snarled, snapped, interjected, declared
5. Avoid “Swifties” – adverbial modifiers, such as He said hotly.
6. Use props that can be fiddled with instead of using "said."
7. Use body language and motion – eyes, hands, etc.- instead of "said."

When writing different types of dialogue:
1. Use a local or telling word, such as "Chirren” (New Orleans) for “children”
2. Consider the syntax, such as “You want, yes?”
3. Tell us how he spoke, such as "in a slow southern drawl."
4. Distinguish the style of speech, such as, “Sorry. Don’t know. Want help?”
5. Use individual character tags, such as "Hypers!" said, Nancy Drew.
6. Watch stereotyping – it’s offensive
7. Watch heavy dialect – it’s hard to read and slows the story

Learn by listening to other speak, then condense it so it's readable

Finally, read your dialogue aloud to see how it sounds.


Blogger Alaska Author said...

Can we borrow some of this for our writers on Alaska Sisters in Crime? Great advice!

February 14, 2009 at 7:13 PM  

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