Dialogue is the heartbeat of a novel. It defines the flow and energy of your story. Narrative will guide the reader through events, but it will be the dialogue that brings these things to life for the reader. A conversation must have energy of action and drive the story for the reader. In other words, avoid having a bunch of blather going on between characters in your story. The one caveat to this is, of course, it lends itself to your story on the whole. Here is a selection of my current story that I am writing. This is a scene were our main character is finally waking up from a near death battle with a panther-like creature with a most distasteful attitude. He saves someone’s life in the process. Unfortunately, our little hero took a serious hit in doing so.
Opening his eyes, Patrice looked around his empty hospital room. The sound of his vitals could be heard from the vid-wall above his
bed. The smell of the disinfected air hung in the room, and the windowless walls offered a very sterile feel. Looking next to his bed he
noticed a stuffed animal, a kitten to be exact, with a sign hung around its neck hastily written on a torn piece of paper, held by a
string. “To our great galactic hero and killer of kittens. Thanks!” He croaked out a laugh. Coughing he tugged at his neck looking for
water. There was none. Swallowing he found the nurse call and activated it. A nurse appeared in his room moments later pushing a
trolley of food and water.
“I see you are finally awake. You gave us quite a scare for a while there.”
“How long have I been here?” He asked as he took a long pull of water from the container.
“Total time, three weeks.”
Almost spitting his drink, “THREE?!”
“Yes. That was no ordinary animal you killed.” She said placing three fingers to her head.
“I guess not.” He said wiping his mouth.
“I will leave you to your food. Please do not eat it all at once. Your stomach has been feed through a tube for a while. The doctor will be in shortly”
“Thank you.” Watching her leave the room, he took another swig.
While this is a first draft, you can still see how the dialogue carried the story forward advancing the perception of what is going on. Our MC now has a better understand of just how dangerous the situation was. We also gain a feel of the medical practices of the future. How much is still the same and what is slightly different. This example also provides an opportunity to demonstrate a measure of unity and friendship among his peers, and what their attitudes toward him are.
Dialogue develops relationships, and well as offers the opportunity to develop your character’s personalities and breathe life into each of them. So, I will leave you with five quick tips about dialogue:
1. Relations are a huge deal. You wouldn’t talk to your postman the same way you would talk to your lover. Unless you’re really hot for your postman.
2. Provide your character with their very own voice. I do not speak the same way as my buddy Matt, or you. Why would your
characters have the same style and mannerisms when they speak?
3. Do NOT make dialogue perfect. No one speak perfectly. We all have our own slang, examples and such. Your characters should be the same, unless they’re a damn android with a Kings English subroutine.
4. Don’t name drop every other sentence of dialogue. I do not say your name every time I say some to you, your character shouldn’t either. For example:
“John, you pretty much suck at writing.” Said Everyone.
“Everyone, I give two shits.” John said.
“John, no really. You do.”
“Everyone, no really. Kiss my butt.”
‘Nuff said. See what I did there. ‘’Nuff said’…I kill myself.
5. In the immortal words of John Steinbeck, “If you are using dialogue- say it out loud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech.” This works!!!! It goes a long way in ensuring your dialogue will sound the way you intend it to the reader.
I know this was supposed to be out on Wednesday, I hope you can forgive me as life will sometimes get in the way. And by life, I mean YouTube, and episodes of West Wing. Have a great day and thank you for dropping by my little cafe on the internet highway.