Sunday, February 26, 2012

Writing dialogue

  Dialogue should have one of these two functions:
1) Reveal character.
2) Move the story forward.
This is what Catherine Ann Jones states in her book "The Way of Story".
 When I edit my stories I keep those functions in my mind. I ask myself, " Do these words have a purpose?" I get rid of unnecessary chatter. I also read the dialogues aloud to know if they sound natural and realistic.

Dialogues can help us  show the reader something about the character. They can also contribute to shed light on the theme in subtle ways. Words sometimes lead to something that is not expressed but can be felt or intuited.
Catherine Ann Jones mentions that we can use dialogue to offer some back story about the characters. She sets Shakespeare as an example of this. Interestingly, I'd read some advice against using dialogue to reveal back story. I don't take this piece of advice seriously. The best lessons in writing are always learned by reading other writers' work.
  What are the challenges you face when you write or edit dialogues in your stories?


  1. Good post, Julia.

    I find that I have to be careful - when I'm reading - to check that all my characters don't use the same phrases. Also, some conversations can be condensed.

  2. Good point J.L. Campbell. I will bear that in mind.

  3. Thanks for posting this, Julia. Dialogue is very important.

    Like J.L. I tend to have the same problem so I always have to keep that at the back of my mind. Also, I have to remember to differentiate a male and female voice. For example, one of my male characters won't say, "That's so cute." Or something else women love to say.You know what I mean?
    Just dropped by to say hi and wish you a great weekend.

  4. Thanks for stopping by, Liz. Have a lovely Sunday.

  5. I take notes, jotting things down regarding dialog for each character. I have one, for example, that doesn't use contractions. So I make a note of that and make sure to keep it consistent throughout (which can be tough when you're talking about 100,000 words).

    I'm constantly not only making sure the dialog has real value and purpose, but that it's consistent and within character.

    I know a lot of people that will use dictation software so they can have their manuscript read aloud to them. You catch so much stuff (if you're an auditory type).

  6. The challenge I focus on most in dialogue is making the characters' voices distinct from one another. My goal is that, if you didn't have any attributions, you'd still know who was speaking. That's what I strive for, anyway.

  7. Jay and Elizabeth: Thanks for the suggestions. They are all very helpful.

  8. my challenges are editing my husband Rick's stories!

  9. Jilda: Rick is so lucky that you do that! My hubby never reads my stories. When he does, he is thrilled. (He really enjoys them, but he rarely reads them). Enjoy your editing.


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