A Writer's Journey

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

Maya Angelou

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.

Victor Hugo

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Writing Wednesday: Dialogue

One of my favorite things to write is dialogue. This is where I get to show how the characters interact, it's how I develop the characters' individual voices, and frankly, I'm a big fan of snark and anywhere I'm given a free pass to let it out, I take it with eager fingers. LOL Also, sometimes the characters steal that free pass from me and run with it. I'd be a fool not to jot that down.

Certainly, there are other ways to show character interaction besides dialogue and other ways to show a character's personality, but there's just something about the way dialogue is phrased that can completely change the tension in the story, or add certain emotional reactions that you can't get with just action and character tendencies.

Don't get me wrong - not all dialogue is good. There are some that are just laugh out loud ridiculous. Serious moment ruined by a cheesy line, anyone? I'm not going to give any examples of those because frankly, it's not nice. LOL I mean, I've written some pretty shotty dialogue myself and I would be mortified if I found it as an example on some random person's blog somewhere in interwebville.

But I digress.

Dialogue, if written with the right touch, can turn even the cheesiest of lines into gold. Here are a few examples:

Scarlett: Cathleen, who's that?
Cathleen Calvert: Who?
Scarlett: That man looking at us and smiling. The nasty, dark one.
Cathleen Calvert: My dear, don't you know? That's Rhett Butler. He's from Charleston. He has the most terrible reputation.
Scarlett: He looks as if... as if he knows what I look like without my shimmy.

I loved this exchange between these two characters because even though Rhett isn't in this conversation, the insinuation that is built in and the references that are shown in these six lines gave a great set up to what you would expect from our dear Captain Butler.

Anne: She is out foolin' around with that boy until two o'clock in the morning and it has got to stop! I didn't spend seventeen years of my life raising a daughter and giving her EVERYTHING so she could throw it away on a summer romance!
Young Allie: DADDY!
Anne: She will wind up with her heart broken or pregnant! Now he's a nice boy, but he's...
Young Allie: He's WHAT? He is what? Tell me!
Anne: He is trash! Trash! Trash! Not for you!

This dialogue is great because I could absolutely feel the tension between these characters. The repetition of some of the phrases amplified their meaning, as though the characters were trying to ingrain what they were saying into the other person.

How do you guys feel about dialogue? How important do you think the right phrasing is to the flow of dialogue in a story?

SIDE NOTE: I might be holding my very first contest soon. The prize is yet to be determined, but it's just something fun I wanted to do that relates to dialogue. Possibly for next week's Writing Wednesday post. :D STAY TUNED!!


  1. You writing dialog like a WINNAR! :D (misspelling deliberate)


  2. Dialogue used to always be my weakest link. I used to always worry if something was "too romantic" or "to offensive". Once I just let go and allowed my characters to do the talking I started seeing some really good stuff!

    Great post - looking forward to a contest!!

  3. @Lori LOL! Even without your side note, I had already pictured you twitching with those deliberate misspellings. Bahahahaha!

    @Bonnie I used to worry about those things too, but then when I read the dialogue back over, it sounded forced. I sort of just sat down one day and let the characters take the reins. Now they won't shut up! LOL

  4. I have no idea if I'm good or bad at dialogue. Haha. I think I've written some pretty good exchanges, but I always worry about whether or not my characters sound distinct enough. There are a couple with very distinct speech patterns and/or word choice, but I'm afraid everyone else blends. :P

    Excited to hear about your contest!

  5. @Krispy I always have very distinct voices in my head when my characters talk to each other up there, but I don't always know if it translates on paper. LOL Hopefully they all don't sound like the same person once everyone's had their say. :D

  6. I love writing dialogue, but I'm afraid that I'm terribly bad at it. I keep telling myself that it's hard to write dialogue that sounds natural when you're writing something set in a time period you didn't live in, but really, I'm just as awkward with real dialogue as I am with writing it... ;)

  7. @Jess Hey, I talk to you all the time and we have great #waachats! LOL There's an awesome in there somewhere. But yes, I get what you mean about it being hard at writing dialogue that doesn't sound affected and unnatural. I always reread my dialogue when I write a rough draft of a chapter, but sometimes that backfires because you spend so much time trying to make it sound authentically natural that it had the opposite effect. Does that make sense? LOL

  8. Thanks so much for you congrats on my book sale. This is a great blog post!

  9. I've heard a lot of people say they think dialogue is hard, but I like it best! I'm like you, sometimes my witty banter totally gets away from me. Okay, no, a lot of the time it does :)

  10. @Mindee Thanks so much! Glad you enjoyed it! :D

    @Jeigh OMG WOMAN, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?! I've missed you! <3 And I agree, sometimes the banter does tend to get away from me, too. LOL And you just made me think of your WIP (which I'm still waiting on *taps foot impatiently*). :D

  11. I love dialogue! Recently, I read a book that was just aweful. I couldn't stand the writing, but I went through and read all the dialogue still because I wanted to know what happened. haha :)