Monday, September 26, 2011

Today's Writing Tip Is on Realistic Dialogue

Some of you may know that I was raised in New Jersey, and when I get very tired or sloppy, I revert to Jersey speak. The other day I said to my mother, "Why you gotta get so upset?" This is a great sentence for many reasons.

First, often writers create stilted dialogue in their novels. Characters say things that they would never say in real life, such as "I am going out now. I will call you later. Thank you for understanding." Someone is much more likely to say, "Going out now. Call later. Bye." Note that credible dialogue often has sentence fragments; it's not composed of whole sentences or whole thoughts.

In my Jersey sentence, I make at least three grammatical mistakes, but they are believable in dialogue. You can create a character who talks that way, especially if it sounds right for him or her. Tony Soprano might say that; Tom Brokaw would not.

So, look carefully at the conversations you've created in print. Make sure that a grandmother's vocabulary sounds age-appropriate and a teenager sounds like a kid. And don't forget to add contractions. Say I am or I've instead of I am or I have. The best way to write plausible dialogue is to listen to people when they talk. And it's the polite thing to do anyway!

Happy writing

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