Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Let's Talk About Dialog - continued - by Rita Karnopp

Keep in mind that silence is a great way to give dialog a breather – yet speak volumes.  Here’s what I mean.

            “I don’t give a flying leap how you feel,” she glared at the man she thought she knew.
            “Maybe you should.  I can make or break this deal.” He slammed his hand on the wicker table, sending her drink flying across the room.
            “That’s what you think.  I expected my brother’s support.”
            “That was your first mistake.”
            She turned her back to him, her gaze settling on the fragmented glass - like their relationship it had shattered beyond repair.

Also, remember when there is dialog mix it up.  Yep, you don’t use the same tone, infliction, or mood when you talk, and neither should your characters.  Use humor, sarcasm, play on words, anger, sensitivity, etc.  Use this change sparingly or it will also become dull.  If you’ve ever watched my favorite movie, Last of the Dogmen, with Tom Berenger and Barbara Hersey,(if you haven’t watched it – it’s a movie must), there are fantastic sparks of dry-humor throughout the move that make it special.  For instance, the hero (Tom Berenger – my hero any day) hands Barbara an arrow he found in the Oxbow . . . and asks;

“Do you know what that is?”
            She takes the shaft and looks it over for a few seconds then says, “Let me guess, an arrow.”

The entire story is filled with snappy comments that add flavor and personality.  I find this movie is a great study on dialog usage!

Arguments are another good way to give the reader information – and change the mood of a chapter.  Many times arguments serve as a way to make a character face the facts, his fears, and even the truth. I love arguments because they give weight to your dialogue; they increase the pace of your story.

Dialog should be smooth . . . and written how we speak.  Say what?  Yep, I hate reading a story where each word is perfectly spoken.  You must give characters a voice that’s recognizable throughout the story.

I know that me and Jimmy should be Jimmy and me.  I also know that I ‘didn’t seen it’ but rather ‘saw it.’  And they didn’t ‘come over’ last night – they ‘came over.’  But people do speak with ‘bad grammar’ and sad as it may be, so should characters in our books.

I’ve been chastised by a reviewer because my characters were not speaking proper English – I wanted to respond by saying; “They were illiterate mountain men and they spoke that way.”  Personality in dialog can also be revealed by using a character ‘tag’ – most famous would be “Fiddle de de.”  Just be careful not to overuse them – they’ll become annoying.

The way we speak isn’t necessarily the way we would type a sentence.   For instance:
            “I expect you to call me tonight.”
            “What if I don’t?”
            “Well, I’ll be angry with you.”
            “You couldn’t get angry with me, you love me.”

We’d most likely say it this way;
            “Call me tonight, right?”
            “If I don’t?”
            “You really have to ask?”
            “Come on love– you can’t get mad at me!”

Think about - how would you say it?  Here is a trick I learned early on – and is a great way to check my dialog flow.  After I finish my book’s first re-write – I read my book out-loud to my Cockapoo, Gema.  She loves listening to my stories!  You’ll be surprised how many dialog faux pas you’ll find.  It’s strange how we hear unnatural dialog when we say it out loud. 

I firmly believe you can never write too much good dialog.  Information is no excuse for paragraph after paragraph with no dialog.  Dialog is action and it’s propelling your story . . . forward . . . page after page.  We should be surprised when we read ‘the end.’  I love it when I’m sad a book has ended.  It haunts me days after I’ve closed the back cover.  That’s when I know it was a good book.


Paula Martin said...

Great post, Rita. I've read a lot of stilted dialogue in novels, and I so agree about reading your work out loud to catch the unnatural dialogue.

Rita Karnopp said...

It's amazing how many errors I catch that way. Thanks for commenting. Rita

Kathy Fischer-Brown said...

Rita, Well done and on the mark. I ALWAYS read aloud, but my dogs don't have the discerning taste of your Gema :-)

Rita Karnopp said...

Too funny, Kathy. It's hilarious when she lays in front of my desk as though I have her undivided attention. I think she likesthe sound of my voice! Rita

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