Dialogue: Common Mistakes Part 4

In this series on dialogue, I’ll cover several common mistakes that writers make in dialogue.  For a more thorough study on dialogue, I suggest picking up a copy of Gloria Kempton’s Write Great Fiction – Dialogue

In a previous post, I discussed the He Said, She Said Merry-go-round.

Today’s Topic:  Perfect English Syndrome

Okay.  Sometimes when you’re writing, do you hear your fourth grade English teacher’s voice in your head?  You know what you’re writing is not perfect.  Perhaps you cave to the voice and decide to remove all contractions from your dialogue.

WAIT!  Before you give into that voice, let’s look at the following example of the Perfect English Syndrome:

“I am serious.  You are going get hurt if you keep pursuing her,” Marcy said.

“I am not pursuing her.  I am just being friendly,” Kyle replied.

“I will bet.”

As she pulled to a stop behind his townhouse, she turned to face him.

“Please, listen.  Neither one of you is ready for the type of relationship you have in mind—”

“I do not have anything particular in mind.”

“You do.  It is written all over your face.  I am just saying that I think you have enough to deal with right now.  You are still going through a ton of physical therapy.  You are still grieving.  You still have to deal with what it means to have a role in your daughter’s life.  You are just getting familiar with a new job.  I think that is plenty for now, do not you?”

Gross.  No, really.  This is just gross.  Even though the conversation was written in 2011, it sounds like it is crossed between 1811 and 2011.  The lack of contractions feels very stiff and off putting.

Now, let’s look at a less-than-perfect-English, but much-better-flowing example:

“I’m serious.  You’re gonna get hurt if you keep pursuing her,” Marcy said.

“I’m not pursuing her.  I’m just being friendly,” Kyle replied

“I’ll bet.”

As she pulled to a stop behind his townhouse, she turned to face him.

“Please, listen.  Neither one of you is ready for the type of relationship you have in mind—”

“I don’t have anything particular in mind.”

“You do.  It’s written all over your face.  I’m just saying that I think you have enough to deal with right now.  You are still going through a ton of physical therapy.  You’re still grieving.  You still have to deal with what it means to have a role in your daughter’s life.  And you’re just getting familiar with a new job.  I think that’s plenty for now, don’t you?”

See contractions aren’t so bad, are they?  The second example flows much better.

I hope this has encouraged you to use less-than-perfect English in your dialogue.

How would you rewrite the example?  Please leave a comment below.

 

Karen BaneyBest-selling self-published author, Karen Baney, enjoys sharing information to help authors learn about the Business of Writing.  She holds a Masters of Business Administration from Arizona State University and has worked in various business related career fields for the past 20 years.  She writes Christian Historical Fiction and Contemporary Romance novels.  To learn more about her novels visit her website:  karenbaney.com.  Authors can find tips and information on self-publishing and marketing at:  www.myauthorservices.com.

Karen and her husband, Jim, also run several online businesses.  They make their home in Gilbert, AZ, with their two dogs.

Her latest book, 10 Keys to eBook Marketing Success, is now available on Amazon.

Connect with Karen on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

Dialogue: Common Mistakes Part 3


In this series on dialogue, I’ll cover several common mistakes that writers make in dialogue.  For a more thorough study on dialogue, I suggest picking up a copy of Gloria Kempton’s Write Great Fiction – Dialogue
In a previous post, I discussed the Unspoken Interjections.

Today’s Topic:  He Said, She Said Merry-go-round

We’ve all seen it—dialogue that lacks luster because of a “he said, she said merry-go-round” issue.  Let’s take a look at the following example:

“Niki!  Get up!” Kyle exclaimed.

“What time is it?” Niki asked.

“It’s after seven,” he said.

“Shoot!” she exclaimed.  “Can you grab me a cup of coffee?”

He said, “Got it right here.  It’s the perfect shade of tan—just the way you like it.”

“Thanks.  You’re the best,” Niki said.

Oooo.  I totally cringed as I wrote this.  The thing that gets annoying to the reader is the over use of tags.  First, we don’t need the first “Niki asked” because Kyle already used her name.  Then, we don’t need each and every line of dialogue identified, especially when the conversation is bouncing between two people.  It may be necessary to tag the dialogue if the scene involves more people, but that is a judgment call for the author.

Here’s an example of the above dialogue cleaned up:

“Niki!  Get up!” Kyle exclaimed.

“What time is it?”

“It’s after seven.”

“Shoot! Can you grab me a cup of coffee?”

“Got it right here,” he said.  “It’s the perfect shade of tan—just the way you like it.”

“Thanks.  You’re the best.”

In this cleaner example, I removed several of the unnecessary tags.  It flows better, helps the pace move faster, and the reader can still keep up with who said what.   As a general rule, I don’t like to go more than a few volleys before adding a tag back in.  This helps the reader stay on track with who is speaking.  (As a reader, I’ve found that I get lost after two or three volleys.)

I hope this example helps you find more balance in your dialogue by getting off the “he said, she said” merry-go-round.

Would you write this example differently?  If so, please leave a comment.

In my next post, I’ll discuss the Perfect English Syndrome.

 

Karen BaneyBest-selling self-published author, Karen Baney, enjoys sharing information to help authors learn about the Business of Writing.  She holds a Masters of Business Administration from Arizona State University and has worked in various business related career fields for the past 20 years.  She writes Christian Historical Fiction and Contemporary Romance novels.  To learn more about her novels visit her website:  karenbaney.com.  Authors can find tips and information on self-publishing and marketing at:  www.myauthorservices.com.

Karen and her husband, Jim, also run several online businesses.  They make their home in Gilbert, AZ, with their two dogs.

Her latest book, 10 Keys to eBook Marketing Success, is now available on Amazon.

Connect with Karen on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

Dialogue: Common Mistakes Part 2

In this series on dialogue, I’ll cover several common mistakes that writers make in dialogue.  For a more thorough study on dialogue, I suggest picking up a copy of Gloria Kempton’s Write Great Fiction – Dialogue.  In a previous post, I discussed the Overuse of Character Names.

Today’s Topic:  Unspoken Interjections

What?  Okay, I couldn’t think of a better way to describe interruptions in the dialogue with a character’s reaction.  Specifically, I’m talking about the misuse of “He smiled.”

I’ll admit, I’ve made this mistake a time or two (or more, especially in a first draft).  I’ll drop in a “she smiled” as if words can be smiled.  Here’s an example:

“How was your date?” Marcy asked.

“It was awful,” Niki cringed.

“Why?”

“Chad is an accountant,” she frowned.  “You know I hate accountants.”

“Hate is a pretty strong word,” Marcy smiled, knowing Niki loved to over-dramatize everything.

At first glance, the errors might not be very noticeable.  It reads well and we get some insight into Niki and Marcy’s reactions.

Let me ask you this, can you cringe words?  Can you frown them?  Can you smile words?  If you figure out how to do so, then please let me know.  Until then, I will suggest the following changes:

“How was your date?” Marcy asked.

“It was awful.”  Niki cringed.

“Why?”

“Chad is an accountant.”  She frowned.  “You know I hate accountants.”

“Hate is a pretty strong word.”  Marcy smiled, knowing Niki loved to over-dramatize everything.

Notice the subtle differences?  It’s all about the punctuation.  Look at the new version of the second line.  See the period at the end of the spoken words.  Since Niki can’t cringe words, she must first speak them (ending in a period) then she can cringe.

I hope this example helps illustrate how proper punctuation can right issues with unspoken interjections.

Do you have an example you would like to share?  Please leave a comment below.

In my next post, I’ll discuss the He Said, She Said Merry-go-round.

 

Karen BaneyBest-selling self-published author, Karen Baney, enjoys sharing information to help authors learn about the Business of Writing.  She holds a Masters of Business Administration from Arizona State University and has worked in various business related career fields for the past 20 years.  She writes Christian Historical Fiction and Contemporary Romance novels.  To learn more about her novels visit her website:  karenbaney.com.  Authors can find tips and information on self-publishing and marketing at:  www.myauthorservices.com.

Karen and her husband, Jim, also run several online businesses.  They make their home in Gilbert, AZ, with their two dogs.

Her latest book, 10 Keys to eBook Marketing Success, is now available on Amazon.

Connect with Karen on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

Dialogue: Common Mistakes Part 1


In this series on dialogue, I’ll cover several common mistakes that writers make in dialogue.  For a more thorough study on dialogue, I suggest picking up a copy of Gloria Kempton’s Write Great Fiction – Dialogue.

Today’s Topic:  Overuse of Character Names

This is best illustrated in the following example:

“Why are you here, Kyle?” Niki asked.

“Well, Niki, I’m here because Marcy asked me to come to dinner with her and her boyfriend,” Kyle replied.

“That’s not what I meant, Kyle.  What are you doing here, in Arizona?  Out of the Air Force?”

“Why is it so important to you, Niki?”

“Why are you avoiding the question, Kyle?”

“Look, Niki, I’m just not ready to discuss it yet.”

Did you notice the extreme overuse of the character names (Kyle & Niki)?  Is it clicking yet?  If not, try reading it out loud.

Think about this, in real life, how often do you use someone’s name when you are speaking to them?  I think I can actually get through an entire day conversing with tons of people without using their name once.  Can you?

Back to my point.  The better way to write this dialogue would be to use the character names sparingly.  I like the first line as is, since it identifies who Niki is speaking to.  After that, I would drop all remaining uses until my dialogue looked like this:

“Why are you here, Kyle?” Niki asked.

“Well, I’m here because Marcy asked me to come to dinner with her and her boyfriend,” he replied.

“That’s not what I meant.  What are you doing here, in Arizona?  Out of the Air Force?”

“Why is it so important to you?” he volleyed back.

“Why are you avoiding the question?”

“Look, I’m just not ready to discuss it yet.”

Even without the repeated use of names, the reader can follow who is speaking each line.  This flows more naturally.

I hope you found this example useful.  How would you rewrite the dialogue to make it better? Leave your comments below.

In my next post, I’ll discuss Unspoken Interjections.

 

Karen BaneyBest-selling self-published author, Karen Baney, enjoys sharing information to help authors learn about the Business of Writing.  She holds a Masters of Business Administration from Arizona State University and has worked in various business related career fields for the past 20 years.  She writes Christian Historical Fiction and Contemporary Romance novels.  To learn more about her novels visit her website:  karenbaney.com.  Authors can find tips and information on self-publishing and marketing at:  www.myauthorservices.com.

Karen and her husband, Jim, also run several online businesses.  They make their home in Gilbert, AZ, with their two dogs.

Her latest book, 10 Keys to eBook Marketing Success, is now available on Amazon.

Connect with Karen on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.