April 4, 2013

Discussing Dialogue = D: Blogging from A to Z

I was torn on picking a literary device for D. Denouement is such a critical piece in any work of fiction, while deus ex machina is an important element for an editor to highlight. (deus ex machina = a machination, or act of God--resolving the primary conflict by means unrelated to the story, or an act of God)

But ultimately I had to go with dialogue.

Effective dialogue must...

1) Sound like people speaking
Nothing is worse than reading dialogue that sounds like prose. I want to feel like I'm listening in on a private conversation.

2) Defines characters
Think about it... how do people get to know you in real life? Is it through a series of well-written, poetic journal entries? No, people get to know you through what you say. A speaker's dialect is an indication of where he/she is from, slang can suggest age/generation, and tone can say a lot about personality.

3) Quickens the pace
Too many paragraphs of description lose me every time. I'm a fast reader, and dialogue stays with me much longer than prose... and it doesn't slow me down, especially well-written, naturally flowing dialogue.

Dialogue can also be a road block. 

For example, I don't want an author to spell words like a character says them. If it's clear that a character is from the deep South, for example, I don't need the words to reflect that. Think The Help. I'm from the South, and I could barely get through the first fifty pages of that book. Granted, I did get in the groove and ultimately loved the book. But don't tempt your reader to quit.

Second, writers should read their dialogue out loud. If you stumble, so will the reader. Unnatural dialogue is a death knell for story.

Will well-written dialogue make a book for you? Can poorly-written dialogue make you put one down?

Check out the other D posts here.


Anonymous said...

I know what you mean. I read The Help just fine, but another choice from my book club was a non-finisher because the dialect took over the whole page.

Great dialogue can make or break a book! I think you picked the right D-word. :)

M.J. Fifield said...

I love dialogue, both writing and reading it (well, when it's done well, anyway).

And I can't stress enough how important reading dialogue aloud is.

Dani said...

My favorite part about writing is the dialogue. Dialogue is key!
Dani @ Entertaining Interests

Vikki T said...

Just stopping by from the A-Z List to say "Hi" and good luck with the rest of the challenge!

Great post honey xx

Barbara White Daille said...

Yes, dialogue can really help hold my interest in a book, and stilted dialogue makes me start skimming.

On the other hand, sometimes it's necessary to have introspection scenes, and a skilled writer can make them read as easily as a good conversation.

D is for: Deadlines
The Daille-y News

Kate said...

So true! Unrealistic dialogue can be a deal breaker for me. But it's funny because fantastic dialogue flows so easily that it often goes unnoticed.

Carrie-Anne said...

I love dialogue, and prefer it to boring pages of pointless description of clothes, furniture, and gardens. As I've learnt from my own growth as a writer, and seeing poor examples in other books, real dialogue needs to sound like it's spoken by actual people. The way we would express ourselves in writing, or reflect to ourselves, often isn't the way we'd actually speak.

Michelle Wallace said...

Deus ex machina - that's a new one for me...
"Unnatural dialogue is a death knell for story." That is a scary thought.

Anonymous said...

Good D word. I enjoy writing dialogue, but sometimes I worry I make my characters talk too much.

Anonymous said...

I don't care for dialogue that rambles or is unrealistic. Great dialogue does everything on your list.

Jaleh D said...

I can't help spelling some things out like gonna, but for the most part I try to get the flavor by words chosen and the syntax.

My dialog passages are sure to need some work, but I use them as a gauge for character motivation. If they start talking about the wrong things or talk when they should be doing something, I know there's a significant problem.

Unknown said...

I agree with all your points. Good dialogue takes talent. It takes a real ear for how people talk.

Julie Jordan Scott said...

Slightly off topic - I love throwing out words like "Denouement" to non-writers. Especially after a play that had none, or a movie that had none... drives me nutty but not nearly as bad as funky dialogue.

The worst for me is when dialogue gives information the writer thinks the reader doesn't know. Its so obvious when that happens. And then - the dialogue where people are always using one anothers first name. How often do you drop someone's name into conversation when its one-on-one?

Thanks for a grand blog post. It is always a pleasant day when I visit here!

Happy A to Z-ing!
Julie Jordan Scott
Our Literary Grannies from A to Z: D is for Denise Chavez
tweet me - @juliejordanscot

Jo Michaels said...

I hate stilted dialogue. Where every other phrase is short and choppy or feels forced. Amen to D! :) WRITE ON!

Tia Bach said...

Loving A to Z this year! Now if I could only get around to comments BEFORE 11pm each night. :-)