published on my
Amazon Kindle blog
Living, Breathing, Writing [Kindle Edition]
on March 16, 2012...
If you are writing dialogue into your story, it
should sound like real people actually talking to one another. Say the words
aloud – if it feels awkward to say, it probably is.
Your character’s way of
speaking should sound like a person of their class, background, ethnicity and
style. That doesn’t mean that every word (or even every sentence) needs to be
personalized to the point that the words become unreadable, but insert a word,
phrase or accent every so often that is unique to that character
Think of a popular TV
show or movie and the catch phrases that were always associated with a
particular individual, like Joey Tribbiani in Friends and “How’re you doing?”, or Ricky Ricardo in I Love Lucy and “Lucy, I’m home.” Let your readers
identify the person speaking by their style and not just “so and so said”.
If the character is
uneducated, or crude, or drunk then they should sound different from the person
who is well educated, prim and proper, and possibly snobbish. If they have an
accent remember that it would probably be too confusing for your readers to
decipher every word, but throwing in the occasional “accented” word will get
the point across.
You can even use an
occasional foreign word, but try to keep it simple so that your readers are not
“Si senor, I do know that yoo can not see…”or “Sir, I can tell that it is not in your view…”or “Hey dude, ya ain’t seeing it…”
The same sentiment, but
as you read those three lines, didn’t you get a vision of a different person
Your narrative should be
short and simple as well. Don’t use a thesaurus to write just so you can use
multiple words to say the same thing. If it doesn’t sound natural, it will
likely distract your reader.
You can add expression
to your words by using descriptions rather than excess adjectives or needless
“Are you in here?” He whispered through the open door. or “Are you in here?” He yelled as he kicked
the door open. or “Are
you in here?” He spoke haltingly as he looked around the room.
Writing exercise: Write a few paragraphs about any subject. Now see if you can re-write each paragraph with no more than one to two sentences (not endless run-on sentences, please). Include all of the pertinent information by cutting out unnecessary descriptive terms and redundancy. Although your final words may sound dry because you are so limited, it is a good way to learn to tighten your thoughts.
Writing prompt: Describe the room you are in and your actions from your point of view (first person: I see, I hear…); then describe the room from the viewpoint of someone standing in the doorway and watching YOU (third person: She sat rocking in the chair…) Remember that in third-person the person describing the room cannot be in YOUR head, they cannot know HOW you feel.