K. D. Dowdall

Pen and Paper

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(Being not very familiar with Fan Fiction I decided to take a look at what makes fan fiction popular and well, writing is writing so I had to read about it. One website in particular caught my attention because it seemed to be a good place to start. I am always willing to read about dialogue and everything else about improving my writing.)     https://www.howtowritefanfiction.com

The following is an excerpt from the above linked site:

Dialogue is one of your primary story telling tools; it is how you move the story forward and how you reveal things about your character. If you write your story dialogue the way you talk every day, your reader will be bored in no time flat.

Have you ever had a heated discussion with someone, and then hours later, upon reflection, thought of the perfect witty retort?  The best way to describe written dialogue is what you wish you’d said in the heat of the moment. It’s clever, witty, and sometimes misleading.

Dialogue Defined

Speaker Attributions tell the reader who is speaking. He said and she said are the most common variety.

A Beat is a description of physical action that can be used to indicate the speaker instead of an attribution.

How to Write Dialogue

Don’t explain your dialogue.  When you follow dialogue with phrases like “he said angrily” or “she said harshly” you are explaining how the character feels. Instead, their feeling should be obvious by the words they say as well as their actions.  Use of an adverb (ly) almost always catches you in the act of explaining dialogue. Instead of an adverb, use a beat of action to convey your characters feelings.

When you are writing speaker attributions, said is always the right choice.  Do not saddle your characters with impossible actions; you cannot beam, smirk or grin a line of dialogue.  Said is akin to punctuation. It disappears on the page. For the sake of variety, you can use beats of action in place of said.

Always place the character’s name or pronoun first in a speaker attribution. Use ‘Sam said’ instead of ‘said Sam’. This is the professional standard for dialogue.

Choose one way to refer to a character in a scene and stick with it.  Don’t use “Detective” the first time and “Jane” a few paragraphs later.  This is one case where shaking it up for the sake of variety can be confusing.  Please note that this is within the confines of single scene, not the entire story.

Avoid ping ponging dialogue by having your characters refer to each other by name in order to eliminate speaker attributions.  This is just plain awkward. Use the speaker attribution or a beat of action.

Use sentence fragments and contractions to make your dialogue sound real.  Dialogue is the one place you can play fast and loose with grammar.

Do not use dialogue to data dump. Having your characters speak like an entry in Wikipedia is not natural. If you have a chunk of background information to reveal, do it piece by piece through both dialogue and exposition.

Let your characters lie to each other, argue and misunderstand each other. Allow your characters to be suspicious of each other, to wonder what the truth is. Real life is never wrapped up in a neat package, so give your characters the chance to disagree and they’ll sound more human.

Do This:

Read your dialogue out loud. Listen to see if it sounds natural, and if you can differentiate the characters in your scene by the words they say. As you listen, you should be able to find places where you stumble over words or places where you need beats of action. If your dialogue sounds stiff, make sure it isn’t announcing information that could be imparted through exposition.

My take on this short informative writing about dialogue:

Well, yes, a couple of good reminder points for the absolute beginning writer (oh wait – that’s me) with two books written and a third being written as I speak, I still consider myself a total beginner. I have actually found a few of the writing lessons interesting. For instance, the Seven Point Story Structure, All About Dialogue, and Revision. I found I was actually committing a few sins in my dialogue that I was not even aware I was doing.  I found this site very to the point with few flourishes of dialogue because, frankly, I need to write.

4 thoughts on “FANFICTION: ALL ABOUT DIALOGUE

  1. frenchc1955 says:

    As you stated, this piece provides useful information, and all writers can always keep learning!

    Like

  2. I agree absolutely. Thank you Professor French. 🙂

    Like

  3. jlfatgcs says:

    Reading out loud what I have written is a ‘must do’. Otherwise it just doesn’t flow. It’s a natural editor. Your advice is excellent.

    Like

  4. Thank you Jennie. I too must read out loud what I have written. I experienced this lapse in judgement, once, a terrible mistake, by not reading out loud my first novel. It was pointed out to me and I redid my manuscript as a result for the errors I later found and what a difference it made.

    Like

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