Sunday, January 18, 2009

How to write dialogue

As usual, I write about the areas I struggle with the most. While reading back through my first draft, I have become keenly aware that my narrative passages far outweigh the dialogue. So here are my thoughts on what I'm doing wrong, and what I think I need to do about it.

1) Understand and accept your natural style - What I have noticed about my first draft is that as I am trying to tell the story that is in my head, or that is coming to me as I type, due to my natural style this comes out as narrative which is fine. Some people will naturally write a first draft with an abundance of dialogue and very little narrative. I think it is a matter of personal style and playing to your strengths when you are in creative mode.
2) Work twice as hard on the part that is not natural - For me that is dialogue, but for you it may be narrative passages. The important thing is that you don't just lean on your strength and leave the rest behind.
3) Dialogue provides insight you would hear in person - While narrative can show thoughts and feelings, dialogue is a much more effective way to show the personality of a character. Why? Because it is the way we interpret personality every day in real life. It is a skill that everyone has mastered, listening to voice and understanding sub-text. Showing personality through narrative is far less dynamic and engaging as well.
4) Narrative provides insights that you would see in person - I try to put myself in the character's place, walking down the street. What do I notice? What about the smells, sounds, and sights come to life? Narrative is a great place to explore these experiences.
5) Balance is key - This is a lesson I need to learn. When you read a well balanced page, it propels itself forward, flows to the reader, and keeps you involved. The dialogue and narrative text are weaved together in such a way that the story never becomes too stale or too wordy. I think it is an important goal to be conscious of balance because it may make the difference between a good story idea and a well crafted novel.

As usual, I continue to scour the internet for good resources to help me, and you, write our novels. I found a good post on Deep Genre titled How to Write a Novel (Part 1). It was written by two time author David Louis Edelman who is writing his third novel as I type. If you enjoyed part one as much as I did, you can followup with Part 2.

On my writing update, I worked through the movie script with my family and we hammered out a second draft. Still more work to do, but it is coming along. On the novel, as you can tell from this post, I am still reading through what I have written of the first draft to get me back into the characters and the plot. I am more than half-way through so hopefully I will be writing again in the next week or so.

Until next time, lets all keep on writing.

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