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D Is For Dialog

If you are here for the IWSG, please see this post.

For the Blogging From A to Z Challenge I’m doing you all a huge favor and filling you in on the 26 Things To Hate About Writing.** I’m hoping by the end of April, I will have convinced all of you not to indulge in the wild insanity of becoming a writer. If I can save even one person from offering themselves up in sacrifice to the mad and fickle word gods, I will have done some good in this world.

Check out each letter’s post here.

DIALOG

As we discussed yesterday, the worst thing about any story is the characters, but if you insist on having some, they’re going to have to talk. I mean, they don’t have to, they can communicate exclusively through interpretive dance and eye blinks, but they’re probably not going to do that the way you want them to either because characters never behave themselves. You want one blink to mean “yes” and two blinks to mean “no,” but then someone blinks three times and a world war starts.

If you created characters, against all my caution, you dingus, and now they have to talk, here’s what you’re going to have to put up with:

– Lines of dialog that don’t sound natural and in fact sound as if they’re spoken by someone who learned English as a fifteenth language, because you somehow forgot how English works.
– When you read the lines out loud to see if they flow, you have to be careful how loud you get, because if you’re reading the scene where your characters are discussing a murder your neighbors might call the cops.
– If you have more than two characters talking in a scene, it’s going to turn into a mess of he said, she said, and the dog said that will make your head spin.
– Someone always has an accent or dialect in your head that’s impossible to write.
– Unique voice? Everyone has to have a unique voice? How do you manage that?!

One of the worst things about writing is trying to make your characters have a sensible conversation that flows well and conveys everyone’s special snowflake uniqueness. You write it out and think it’s brilliant, but when you go back over it, it reads like cats yowling at each other. It’s totally not worth it to keep practicing until you create a strong voice for each character, witty and snappy dialog that moves the story along, and engaging conversations that sound natural and brilliant. I mean, you could keep trying to make that happen, but that just proves how crazy you are.


**Disclaimer: If you haven’t figured it out, these posts are pure satire and simply a humorous way to vent my writing frustrations. No offense is intended to anyone. Please, become or continue being a writer. It’s awesome, I swear. It’s super…duper, awesome…heh heh.

Megan Morgan View All

Urban fantasy and paranormal romance author.

53 thoughts on “D Is For Dialog Leave a comment

  1. Yup. I’m crazy. ~grin~ And one character sounds like Adrian Paul from “The Highlander” television show. Yowzers. Thanks for the laugh!

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  2. And let’s not forget how the pets think you’re talking to them when you’re reading the dialog out loud and refuse to leave you alone. Personally I think communicating in eyebrow movements is the way to go, although that can devolve into a circular round of arching one brow if you’re not careful 😉
    Tasha
    Tasha’s Thinkings – Shapeshifters and Werewolves

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  3. I once wrote a short story without dialogue that worked really well. I’ve debated trying a longer piece but I don’t think it would flow well.
    Am I the only one who usually gives up trying to read a book if the author tries to add an accent to the dialogue to the point where it’s just nonsense unless you read it in the accent?
    Debbie

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    • Absolutely not! I was just saying in another comment how annoying it is to read something totally written in an accent or dialect. If you write it masterfully enough, the reader will be able to hear it without you writing it out anyway!

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  4. In a multi character scene, dialogue tags are essential, but not always he said/she said. There are plenty of other words available that give a sense of what’s happening as one of the other commenters said. My pet peeve with dialogue? When the speaker’s words don’t fit his character. For example, not everyone needs to say gonna, wanna, and shouda. Some characters can use the English–or whatever language –properly. I agree with peppering dialogue with colorful words that fit the occasion, but not all the time, and not all the characters. Still loving this. Great job.

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  5. The above – so true. But I would wish to take it a step further:

    “I have a pickle,” he said.
    “Not fair, I want a pickle!” she said.
    “You can have my pickle,” he said.

    to

    “I have a pickle,” he proclaimed, holding it up in front of her nose.
    “Not fair, I want a pickle!” She grabbed at the dripping pickle in his fist.
    “You can have my pickle,” he giggled, as he tossed it over her left shoulder.

    You get dialogue and action at the same fell swoop – or “swell foop”, as I call it.

    But speaking of “swell”. This was.

    Donna Smith
    Mainely Write
    DAM

    Liked by 1 person

  6. That one bothers me too, Christopher. It really bothers me in my own writing, because I know I do it myself way too often, but when I’m first writing out a scene I just go ahead and do it that way so I can hurry up and get the words onto paper, and then go back later and change it as much as possible, because otherwise I’d be sitting there agonizing over what word to use instead and interrupting the flow of my writing. I’d rather get the words on paper while they’re still flowing out of my pencil, then go back later and make the needed changes, and then type it up (at which time I’ll probably make even more changes anyway, so at some point the right words will pop into my head). Of course, then I run the risk of over-using words instead, such as “replied,” “answered,” or “asked.” I really need to invest in a hard copy thesaurus to keep next to me while I write, especially when my brain refuses to work properly (which is most of the time, actually…) 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It would make for an interesting experiment to write a novel without dialogue. Someone’s probably already done it. Either the characters can’t speak or don;t want to. It might not work for anything longer than a short story. I understand some writers trying to capture and project authenticity with their dialogue, either by writing an accent or using ungrammatical English, but the former irritates me,and the latter only works if the speaker is uneducated. I think I write dialogue pretty well. Another ‘D’ word is probably my weakness: description.

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    • That WOULD be an interesting experiment. Like you said though, probably better suited for something shorter. I wonder if anyone has ever done it before?

      Writing an accent or dialect is really difficult. You definitely don’t want to irritate the reader, but if you do it well enough, they can hear the accent anyway without having to spell it out in the words. Stephen King comes to mind when I think of this, he usually portrays the Maine dialect in his characters without beating you over the head with it. You can hear it without needing to read it.

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  8. I’ve even read books were three characters speak together. To be honest, I’ve even read books where four characters speak together. I’ll go as far as saying that I’ve read books where sever characters speak together and you are never confused about it.
    Some authors are really crazy.

    @JazzFeathers
    The Old Shelter – 1940s Film Noir

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I once beta-read a short story that was mostly untagged dialogue. Drove me nuts, because not only did the author not let me know who was speaking, I couldn’t even infer what dialogue belonged to whom because it all sounded like the author was having a conversation with themself.

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  10. Dialogue is by far something that I contend with as an author. But I must say I do love getting into a character’s head. The best advice I ever found about dialogue is to use contractions (unless you are writing maybe historical or something where you can’t) to make the flow sound more natural.

    (AC)
    Decadent Kane Visiting from the A-Z Challenge
    Paranormal Romance Author

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  11. My next story will revolve around a town of mimes. I just have to make sure my climbing along a building ledge descriptions are authentic. Don’t want angry or insulted mines to yell at me now, do I?

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  12. My pet peeve with dialogue I see most writers do is the overuse of the word said.

    “I have a pickle,” he said.
    “Not fair, I want a pickle!” she said.
    “You can have my pickle,” he said.

    How about use other dialogue tags for a change.

    “I have a pickle,” he stated.
    “Not fair, I want a pickle!” she exclaimed.
    “You can have my pickle,” he offered.

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    • That can be overdone as well. A minimalist approach is best I think. If it’s pretty obvious who’s speaking then ditch the tag. “Not fair, I want a pickle!’ for example, already has an exclamation mark so the word ‘exclaimed’ is redundant, and too ‘show’ instead of tell.

      Liked by 1 person

      • There’s a time to show, not tell, and a time to tell, not show. You are right about exclaim, I just couldn’t think of another word and didn’t want to take out my big list of dialogue tags.

        I do take a minimalist approach to it though. Once I can establish a pattern of speakers, I stop using dialogue tags, but will use one as a reminder of who is speaking, to maintain the pattern.

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    • Even better is not using dialog tags at all, but action beats. Like:

      “I have a pickle.” He smirked and bit into it with gusto.

      “Not fair.” She pouted. “I want a pickle!”

      “You can have my pickle.” He held it out to her, half-eaten already, and laughed.

      I think it tells you so much more about the characters and the story that’s taking place!

      Liked by 2 people

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