April 21, 2021-We only have about a week left as we continue this month’s theme of pushing the envelope in your writing and our series wouldn’t be complete without touching on dialogue. Dialogue is one of the most important driving forces in your writing and there’s nothing that kills a story more than bad dialogue. Dialogue (talking between characters) can make or break your story (especially for publishers) for your audience. We know that characters have to speak how people do in real life (except while writing fantasy, there can be some slack given here especially if the characters have their own language that they use sparingly throughout) and most writers make the mistake of being too formal, boxy, or choppy when writing dialogue. Here are three ways that you can push the envelope in your writing through character dialogue.
- You can use expletives. I’m not talking about being gratuitous with swear words, I’m talking about having your character use them if the situation calls for it. How would you act in a certain situation? Would you utter a curse word under your breath when you see you’ve got a flat tire and are already having a bad day? Would you mutter a swear when your idiot boss walks away from your desk after you’ve just received a bad work review? Use expletives where needed and be sure that they fit in the genre that you’re writing in.
- Get familiar. If your book is set in the Australian outback your characters will speak differently than if they were from New York. An excellent example of this contrast is the movie Crocodile Dundee. Mitch speaks a specific way native to where he’s from; mate means friend, crikey means holy s*it, brekkie means breakfast, and the list goes on. Be careful not to overuse slang (especially slang that is trendy and new) because it will age your book. Write your characters to speak in such a way that you feel as though you were having a conversation with them in real life. WRITE HOW PEOPLE TALK! And be sure to do your research on places that are foreign to you, if you’re writing this way, so that you get it right and don’t lose any credibility with your readers.
- Throw in another language. Let’s say that you’re writing a novel set in Moscow that has a British character and a Russian character working together to foil a museum robbery; use words in Russian intermixed with English to make your dialogue more believable. For example, my grandmother was Dutch, and she used to speak to us in English and Dutch intermixed, often within the same sentence. This is a normal thing for most people who immigrate to a different country or when speaking with people who are non-native tongues of the place where the story is set. Sprinkle in foreign words that fit in the situation that you’re writing about. Don’t overdo this because you don’t want your reader to have to stop and translate what you’ve written and lose momentum in the story.
I hope that you’ll continue to push the envelope in your writing by changing up the dialogue between your characters! Make it real and make it believable.