Tuesday, September 9, 2014


Being aware of gender-specific dialog is important no matter what genre you write.  Dialog written in a female tone just doesn’t work if the intended speaker is male.  Give that some thought.

Dialog must reflect the speaker – female, male, teen and even child.  I’ve heard it said that it becomes more important when writing romance.  I’m not sure why, since I truly believe no matter what genre you’re writing – the gender specific dialog must be correct or you’ll lose believability – then the trust of your reader.

It’s actually a good idea to have a male and female edit your book – the best way to catch errors in gender specific dialog. 

Women and men think differently, so we all can understand why it’s so difficult to write convincing dialog for a character of the opposite sex.  Let’s be honest, we might know who a guy thinks (and vice versa) but do we really?  I tend to think not or so many writers wouldn’t be discussing this aspect of writing so often.

In an excerpt from On Writing Romance by Leigh Michaels, the author discusses a starting point for developing the skill set essential to writing a best-selling romance novel.
If You’re a Woman - Here’s how to make your hero’s dialogue more true to gender if you’re a female writer:
·         Check for questions. Men tend to request specific information, rather than ask rhetorical questions. If your hero’s questions can’t be answered with a brief response, can you rephrase them? Instead of asking questions at all, can he make statements?
·         Check for explanations. Men tend to resist explaining; they generally don’t volunteer justification for what they do. If you need him to explain, can you give a reason why he must?
·         Check for feelings. Men tend to share feelings only if stressed or forced; they’re more likely to show anger than any other emotion. They generally don’t volunteer feelings. If you need your hero to spill how he’s feeling, can you make it more painful for him to not talk than to share his emotions?
·         Check for details. Men tend not to pay close attention to details; they don’t usually notice expressions or body language; they stick to basics when describing colors and styles. Can you scale back the level of detail?
·         Check for abstractions. Men tend to avoid euphemisms, understatements, comparisons, and metaphors. Can you rephrase your hero’s dialogue in concrete terms?
·         Check for approval-seeking behavior. Men tend to be direct rather than ask for validation or approval. Can you make your hero’s comments less dependent on what the other person’s reaction might be?

If You’re a Man - Here’s how to make your heroine’s dialogue more realistic if you’re a male writer:
·         Check for advice. Women tend to sympathize and share experiences rather than give advice. Can you add empathy to your character’s reactions and have her talk about similar things that happened to her, rather than tell someone what he should do?
·         Check for bragging. Women tend to talk about their accomplishments and themselves in a self-deprecating fashion rather than a boastful one. Can you rephrase her comments in order to make her laugh at herself?
·         Check for aggressiveness. Women tend to be indirect and manipulative; even an assertive woman usually considers the effect her statement is likely to have before she makes it. Can you add questions to her dialogue, or add approval-seeking comments and suggestions that masquerade as questions?
·         Check for details. Women notice styles; they know what colors go together (and which don’t); and they know the right words to describe fashions, colors, and designs. Can you ramp up the level of specific detail?
·         Check for emotions. Women tend to bubble over with emotion, with the exception that they’re generally hesitant to express anger and tend to do so in a passive or euphemistic manner. If you need your heroine to be angry, can you give her a really good reason for yelling?
·         Check for obliviousness. Women notice and interpret facial expressions and body language, and they maintain eye contact. If you need your female character to not notice how others are acting, can you give her a good reason for being detached?

Writing Realistic Dialogue: Exercises
1.     Eavesdrop (politely) as real people talk. How do two women speak to each other? How do two men speak to each other? How do a man and a woman speak to each other?
2.     Can you guess the nature of each relationship? For instance, do you think the couple you’ve listened to is newly dating or long-married? On what evidence did you base your opinion?
3.     Read your dialogue aloud. Unnatural lines may hide on the page, but they tend to leap out when spoken.
4.     Listen to someone else read your dialogue aloud. Better yet, get a man and a woman to read the appropriate parts. How do the lines sound? How do they feel to the speakers?

How to Craft a Novel That Sells - By Leigh Michaels - More romance titles are published every year than any other genre and more writers try writing romance first because the demand for the genre is so much greater than any other. For those new to the genre or writing, this book provides a starting point for developing the skill set essential to writing a best-selling romance novel.
In This Book You'll Learn:
·         Detailed descriptions of more than 20 subcategories within the romance genre
·         Tips for avoiding clichés
·         How to create the perfect romantic couple
·         Guidelines for drafting those all-important love scenes

·         Submission information for breaking into the genre 


Carmen Stefanescu said...

Very interesting and informative. I was just wondering how to write a dialogue of a character , a 4 year old girl.
Thanks for sharing!

Rita Karnopp said...

Thanks, Carmen . . . yes . . . a child can be tricky because you'll have to keep in mind 'what or how would a four year old speak.' :) Rita

Romance Reviews

The Romance Reviews

Manic Readers

Manic Readers

She Writes

Historical Fiction Books

Readers and Writers of Distinctive Fiction