Dialogue is a very important part of telling a good story. It’s ok for the narrator to take us through the happenings and mis-happenings of our characters and plot, but if no part of the story is related to the reader straight from the characters themselves, then an important component of connecting with the reader on an emotional and personal level may be lost.
Dialogue is also a way of showing the reader what is happening rather than telling them.
There is a lot of work that goes into creating a good marriage between your narration and dialogue and entire posts could be dedicated to these trappings, but today I would like to concentrate on one of my pet peeves when it comes to dialogue…authenticity.
I know…there it goes again…that word…authenticity. It’s in just about every one of my posts. That’s because it’s such an important part of good writing and a part that in so many ways, big and small, can be compromised without knowing it. I would bet, if you polled a population of both agents and editors, you would find authenticity is at the top of their lists too, because it is a smoking shotgun when it comes to why your audience may use your book as a paperweight rather than a treasured story they read again and again.
Poorly written dialogue is one of those things that can break the spell your writing puts your reader under and takes them out of the world you created and puts them back on the bus, at their desk, on their couch…with a book in their hand.
So, how do you create an authentic piece of dialogue between your characters? Speak it don’t write it. This is no place for proper language- this is the place where your characters have a voice.
Your character’s voice is not your narrator’s voice. Even when you are writing in the first person, your main character would speak very differently in a conversation with another character than they would when they were telling their story to the reader.
My process- I don’t write my dialogue-I record it. I don’t think about what my characters would say, I say it out loud for them, then I type it; that way I can hear what they would say and how they would say it and see if it rings true.
The main character in the novel I am working on is a thirteen year old girl named Lucy. I don’t speak thirteen- I speak…well, let’s just say older. So, I have to make a conscious effort when I am speaking for her to speak the way she would. Lucy would never say, “Yes,” she would say, “Yeah”. She would never say, “My, how curious,” she would say “Wow-that’s weird”. She would never say, “Have a good afternoon,” she would say “See ya”.
How do your characters speak?
Do they have an accent?
Do they sound educated when they speak?
Are they sarcastic, always rattling off a wisecrack?
What do you do to make sure your dialogue is authentic and true to the characters you have created?