Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tuesday's Inspiration - Reminders about dialogue

Before I became a writer, I was a reader. I tended to be a binge reader. I would either choose a writer and read all their books or I would hone in on one kind of book. I remember doing this with mysteries and a read just about any kind you would find. This helped me when I turned to writing mysteries because I knew what kind to write. Some parts of writing became almsot instinctual but other parts were learned slowly and some of them I'm still learning though I've been a published writer for many years.

While leafing through The Writer's Handbook, I came across an article by Bill Pronzini. I remembered reading his books years ago and thought back to what I remembered. He wrote crisp, short dialogue. Though I admired that style I try to fit the dialogue in my stories to the character. Some people are crisp speakers and others tend to go on a bit. Trying to find the happy medium can be difficult

This article says a lot about dialogue but one of the things I've tried to remember and apply to something beyond dialogue and put into the scenes. Each piece of dialogue or each scene only needs to be there if it does one of three things. Advance the plot, define character or give needed information. Otherwise cut it. Hard to do. Of course but it's necessary.

Another thing gleaned from this article is about tags. Always nice when I really successful writer agrees with you. "Words are spoken." They're not rasped but voices can rasp. This is just one example from the article. There are many more. Most of the time said is perfectly good to use. It's kind of a word that people overlook. There are other good tags like asked, answered. Actions by a character to identify the speaker are also ways to keep the reader from being confused as to who is speaking. That's the reason for tags to keep the players straight. Then there are adverbs. She said sadly. He shouted angrily. Most of the time these aren't needed and can run into the Tom Swifty sort of thing. Not something a writer wants to do in a serious scene.

Re-reading this article set me off to look at the dialogue in my WIP and to make some kind of changes. For me it's looking at the characters and deciding what kind of dialogur is natural to them.


Pat Dale said...

Dialogue, for me, is what defines a writer's style. As you say, it has to fulfill one of those three functions or it is probably better left out. I think the most definitive dialogue writer I've ever read is Robert b. Parker. He could say more about a character or the character's attitude with three or four words than most can with three or four sentences. His use of tags drove me crazy, however. Like you, I try for somewhere in the middle ground. Nice post.

Kitty's Blogspace said...

Dialogue I feel is one of the two most important elements of every writer's unique style.

If done well it shows the writer has progressed a long the patch and passed being a newbie writer.

Thanks for sharing. You may like my post on dialogue as well, it points out some of the key elements to it and was featured int a writer/editor collaboration a couple months back.


Janice Seagraves said...

I love writing a good lively banter between two characters.

I've been working on using description instead of he said she said, but when in doubt that's the tag to use.