Thursday, June 28, 2012

Checklist for Dialogue

Credit for picture


1. Read it out loud. Does it sound natural? Silted?
2. Be careful not to overuse character's names.
3. Especially in conversations with more than two people, is it always clear who is saying what?
4. Do your characters speak their thoughts? Most people don't. And not all people mean what they say or say what they mean.
5. Keep dialogue tags simple and don't overuse them. Use said or asked. Limit the use of explained, demanded, complained, yelled, etc. If someone is explaining something, it should be obvious they are. The reader won't need to be told that so-and-so explained it. Use the words of your dialogue to show that they are demanding or complaining or yelling. Make your dialogue strong enough to stand on its own.
6. When possible, use an action tag instead of a dialogue tag. For example: "I'm going to walk the dog," he said, picking up the leash. becomes "I'm going to walk the dog." He picked up the leash. (Simple example, I know, but hopefully you know what I mean.)
7. Eliminate small talk and filler words such as how are you? so, like, um, well...

12 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Good checklist!

Tonja said...

I agree.

Cherie Reich said...

Great checklist!

LTM said...

These are super great dialogue tips--especially the one about reading it aloud. That always helps me when I'm feeling stuck. Thanks, Nicole!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great list of things to check for. Thanks Nicole.

Annalisa Crawford said...

Good list - off to check!

Angela Brown said...

I've been trying to use more of number 6 so I don't have a whole lot of stilted tags. I was also told, on a couple of occasions, that when I'm using an exclamation point in dialogue, that the reader may be able to discern that the character is shouting or yelling so may not have to add that tag.

Patty said...

When I was working with a Harlequin editor, she told me to put some small talk back into my conversations. She said that it helped things to look more natural to have conversations progress they way they do in real life. And that includes some small talk. But I find that depending on the editor/publisher you work with, they like different things.

For example, one press likes my writing to be more descriptive, and even asked me to up the flowery content a little. Another press ruthlessly cut all the fat...

So hard to tell which way they're going to go! :)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Reading out loud is one of the best ways to find out of the dialogue flows properly.

Crystal Collier said...

Exactly, treat it like a script and act out the scene, right? #6 is THE best advice here I think. Actions often speak louder than words--as 60% of our communication is nonverbal, or body language.

I nominated you for the Kreativ Blogger award. =)

http://crystalcollier.blogspot.com/2012/06/procrastination.html

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I like your list. I always change tons of my tags on the first edit.

Ms Saba (aka Teacher007.5) said...

Great list! Thank you for sharing it!