Writing Tip: The Clunky Dialogue Fix

Afternoon!

Today has been one of those days. I sat down at my husbands desk instead of replugging the computer in at mine. That was mistake #1. Work spaces are important. I opted to power through catch-up work instead of my usual ritual of going out to do something in the morning and then working the afternoon and evening. That was mistake #2. I did the catch-up work, but it took me many more hours than it should have. Oh well. Distraction, you have been my master today. You shall not have tomorrow.

BUT! There is this one thing on my to-do list that I can check off: Writing a blog post on how to not write clunky dialogue. So here goes. (This isn’t going to be a long blog post. I’ve only got two points. Two good ones, but two points). Its a massive pet hate of mine when the dialogue in a book is clunky. Hate it, hate it, hate it. Fortunately, the fix is nice and easy.

1. Don’t over-use names. Next time you are with friends, have a listen to the way they talk to each-other. They don’t use each-others names all the time. If the conversation is one on one, they barely ever use names. It just isn’t a thing we do. We already know who we are talking to, so we don’t feel the need to address them all the time.

“Edward, blah blah blah blah.” “Yes, Jen Blah blah blah” “Well Edward blah blah blah.” It just doesn’t happen. It would sound very odd if it did! Hence, a wise writer is best to stay clear of name over-use.

2. Read your dialogue out loud. This is a nice little fail-safe to incorporate into your dialogue writing. It may sound weird, sitting at your desk talking to yourself and answering back (a sure sign of madness so I’m told. Apparently only the answering back is the problem), but it means you pick up on the unauthentic sounding dialogue as it happens. When you go through the edits, its not a bad idea to read out loud either. What sounds right when you are riding on the wind of inspiration may not sound right when you are sweeping in with your red pen/scalpel to rip your manuscript to shreds.

So those are my two dialogue tips. Enjoy!

4 thoughts on “Writing Tip: The Clunky Dialogue Fix

  1. Kimberly says:

    Great points, Clare! I tell my creative writing students the same thing. I also tell them to keep an eye out for dialogue where contractions should be used but haven’t–or *have not*, depending on a character’s tone and voice. Thanks for the reminder; now, kick that distraction out the door!

    • clare1983 says:

      Contractions! I knew I forgot one! I’m working on kicking the distraction – I think it happens when I have to get to that golden zone of concentration in order to get through a roadblock. It’s at that point Facebook, Bejewelled Blitz and various other time wasters become my Achilles Heel.

      So you teach, huh? Where? What? Obviously you’re a smart cookie 🙂 I’ve just intermitted my Masters Degree so I can have a long think about what I want to do as a thesis!

  2. Kimberly says:

    I’m in a master’s program for communications, too, here in Florida! It’s so time consuming. I teach creative writing at a for-profit entertainment university. It’s fun, but the focus in on visual media–film, television, animation–and my love is the novel! Good luck deciding on your thesis, and let’s make a pact: no Facebook during writing time! 😉

    • clare1983 says:

      Wow! That’s so cool! Are you doing a thesis? What on? So many possibilities but none I want to commit to yet.

      And yes. Though I know it will be hard, I’m in that pact with you. Death to Facebook distraction! It needed to happen.

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