I read a lot. And I mean…a lot.
I’m aware that it’s common for many Kindle/Nook/<insert-e-reader-here> users to have tens if not hundreds of books queued up on their “to be read” (TBR) lists, and I’m no different. However, I tend to not pick one, whether random or not, and just read it from beginning to end; moving on to the next to repeat the cycle.
No, I read about ten books simultaneously. No really, I do. On average, I tend to read about three chapters per book, per night. Meaning that in the span of about two weeks I end up getting through sometimes fifteen to twenty average-sized novels. Whew, that’s a lot of reading. And, as you would imagine, I’m exposed to a rather diverse palette of authorial styles.
Everyone has their own style, their own perspective, their own way of painting their grand picture for the reader. Sometimes it’s a terse, tell-it-like-it-is chop. Other times, I get slapped in the face with a thesaurus. And that’s all well and good; I can handle a good read, even if it is tougher than average.
But what makes me stumble the most, and just outright ruins the flow of a good book? Dialogue.
To the point I started with, I read a lot. And in those towering, virtual stacks of books that I get through, it’s a very small percentage that I look back on as I finish and say ‘that was great dialogue’. Sorry to say, but it’s true. It’s a rare feat for an author to truly master writing dialogue to the point where every character feels organic in what they have to say.
Why is that?
I know that when I started writing all those moons ago, dialogue was the bane of my existence. I simply did not know how to do it. Sure, I could write it. But it always seemed forced and unnatural. That just wasn’t how people spoke, and it showed.
Then I realized – just listen to the voices in my head! Huh? Before I’m fitted for a straight jacket, please let me explain. I run through the scene in my head, most often times in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep or when I’ve just laid down for the night. I put myself in the scene as an observer, and I toss a line to one of the characters. From there, I simply try to predict the reaction from the other character(s) given their background; and the conversation ensues. It works – really well.
The other thing that peeves me a bit when reading dialogue is the stiffness. For example, ‘I do not know what I am having for dinner tonight’ would be much smoother as “I don’t know what’s for dinner”. Unless your character is known for being stiff and formal, then to me it feels more natural, and flows better as a result, to use the latter. Colloquialisms are fine, too; as long as they aren’t overdone to the point that it disturbs the flow of the story.
See the pattern I’m getting at here? That’s it. Flow.
So, the next time you are working on dialogue for your story; put yourself into that scene and have that conversation you just wrote with your imaginary protagonists/antagonists. You’ll quickly find out how good, or bad, the dialogue really is.
I am going to go and do some additional writing. Wait. I’m gonna go write some more.