Saturday, November 8, 2014

Tips for Dialogue and an Elmore Leonard interview

I love this Elmore Leonard http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1651959  interview because the king of writing dialogue is insightful and because he says a lot of things I think about dialogue. I love the part where he says his characters who can't talk well don't make it.  How's that for giving characters incentive to say interesting things in interesting ways? I think he creates interesting complex characters by listening closely to how they talk and what they say. He figures them out through dialogue and I do this, too. Maybe you can or if not at least make dialogue more important to your stories. Another thing I love about this interview is how he says he keeps trying to get better. The guy is close to 80 at this point and has written--I don't know--forty novels. He's still trying to get better and it still interests and excites him. He's one of my role models in how to keep writing and keep having fun writing and still try to write stories that are entertaining and still about something.

So here are a few tips for writing dialogue:

1. It should have the appearance of real conversation without being real conversation. Transcriptions show how boring most real conversation is. Um, a, um...

2. Use mostly he said, she said... avoid using a lot of different taglines or adverbs to "show" how the person is feeling. He said dejectedly OR she said happily. MY thoughts on this is you probably haven't done a good job of showing how your characters feel in their dialogue if you have to resort to these kinds of descriptive adverbs. True most of the time.

3. DIALOGUE is showing. It's not telling. Readers are in a scene and this is one reason it can be so effective and engaging. Good dialogue can do many things. Move a story forward. Reveal character.

4. Don't dump info. "Remember how when we were younger we always went to the City Park and how you..."

5. Real conversations are often indirect.

6. This sort of goes with indirect but isn't exactly the same. There needs to be subtext in order for the dialogue to do  MORE and be MORE in your story. Something should be going on underneath whatever the conversation is about on the surface. Showing this opens up opportunities to give depth to characters and plot.

Of course reading writers that are good at dialogue like Jane Austen, Elmore Leonard, John Green and many others will help.

Also, my giveaway of five Signed ARCs of Utopia, Iowa (Candlewick, Feb. 2015) is still going on over at Goodreads. Sign up to win a copy if you're so inclined--  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22747808-utopia-iowa

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