Life is never how we expect it, is it?
I learned long ago to not say, “Things are going well.”
“Hey, we’ve had no real troubles lately.”
“Yup, life’s running pretty smoothly!”
A recipe for disaster, those comments. An invitation to the Universe to look a little more closely at my house.
In writing, there are things our characters shouldn’t say, too. Not because they may pull the heavens down on themselves but because they may lose readers.
“He writes teens like they’re adults. No kids talks like that.”
“She was way too smart. Too political. If felt like the author was talking, not the character.”
“It was like reading the story of a 40-yr-old woman, not a teen.”
“Not one line of dialogue sounded real or had depth.”
“I thought she was a stalker.”
These are all things I have heard about books out there on shelves. Ack! Don’t let that be about my writing, please!
When writing dialogue, you shouldn’t imitate ‘real speech,’ as we are boring. I’ve seen this plenty when teaching, talking to my girls, hanging out with my buddies. Not everything I say is that great, and people wind up with their eyes glazed over.
However, this isn’t a good idea for a writer.
You don’t want people skimming your work, looking only for great kisses or funny lines. You want them to read each word. No eyes glazing over! No 40-yr-old shining through! No political agenda! In writing dialogue, our characters should get to the point. No hemming and hawing. There isn’t time for that in a novel for kids or teens.
Every word must count. Every word should carry weight. No wasted words. None. Dialogue can show who a character is, can reveal information about the story, can move the plot forward and plenty other amazing things–and you should use dialogue for just that.
Look over your dialogue. Is it doing work or is it just a way to fill white space?
Are your characters saying things they never would?
Is the story moving because of the dialogue?
Are you trying to preach through your characters?
Are you letting the story just shine though?
Without looking at your work, rewrite a scene of dialogue. Change the characters so a secondary character is now the MC. How does the dialogue change? Motivation should change the scene.
Wanna read a professional’s dialogue?
Check out the Blossom family by Betsy Byars. We’re reading WANTED . . . MUD BLOSSOM aloud. (Yes, all my kids are grown, but we still read out loud over here. Does wonders for storytelling.)
Want to learn more? Here’s this great article: