I’ve been asked to add a few craft posts to #WriteLikeAChampion – so here’s the first one, and it pertains to dialogue. Dialogue is my absolute favorite thing to write. (My least favorite is clothing descriptions as I have zero sense of style.) To me, dialogue is where I truly connect to my characters as a writer. Usually I just let them speak, and love it when I’m surprised at what they say. When it feels like I’m transcribing a conversation I know I’ve hit the sweet spot.
Okay, okay okay, I know. I’ve read the studies that most human communication is non verbal – and everyone who’s lived with a teenager knows this is very true. Our words don’t always convey what we’re really thinking and feeling. Your characters will also spout off things they don’t mean, and while character expressions and tone of voice and other body language adds layers to the scene, too much will drag your dialogue down and slow the pace.
Dialogue should sound like a conversation between people, and to make sure it rings true, you have to read it out loud. Over and over. Cutting out the things that don’t sound natural or are just plain boring.
And yes, people will catch you talking to yourself. They might even tease you. I’ve been so involved reading a scene I’ve called a kid by a character’s name. “Just a second, Breena!”
At the revision and final edit stage of a manuscript, read the whole book out loud. Anything that trips you up or makes you pause – reevaluate whether it should stay in your manuscript.