Good dialogue makes a book read as smooth as silk, allowing the reader to turn each page with ease and anticipation. When there's stilted or awkward dialogue, it forces the reader to stop, re-reading paragraphs over and over trying to get the feel of the scene and it drags them down. If the dialogue catches them too much, then most likely the book will never be finished.
I’ve had many people ask me about how I am able to write smooth dialogue and my answer is relatively simple…read your manuscript aloud. If the characters aren’t engaged in natural conversation then
it’s off. Borrow your kids or husband, or best friend and enlist them in helping you with sticky dialogue areas so that you can immediately troubleshoot the problems.
And yet other folks ask me how to create dialogue that has the right feel for the manuscript. I tend to think the concept of writer’s “voice” comes in to play when taking this into consideration, for you must be able to breathe life into your characters, not just giving them mere words to say, but making them jump off of the page and seem completely real. That’s what I believe is capturing the right “voice”. If you can achieve this, then the reader can effortlessly fall head- over- heels in love with the book, and creates what I call a "soul connection" connection between author and reader.
Now here’s something I wasn’t sure how to approach, but I can’t skirt this issue and it's time I got it off of my chest. Do me a favor, please take the time to create characters who converse with true authenticity. Now here comes a confession where I am brutally honest about something that's bothered me for years.
Warning: Rant Ahead!!!
As a southern writer, I feel great disdain for authors obviously not from the
south who create stereotypical dialogue for their faux-southern characters, forever clutching
on to outdated cliches.
|Take this hint...|
Here's a big hint...if you want avoid infuriating or insulting readers, and want your dialogue to feel true and organic, then go to the actual place you’re writing about and listen to people talk, all the while being careful to avoid falling into the pit of stereotype. Example: I may be a southern woman who actually drinks iced tea each day, but it doesn’t meanthat I’m constantly peppering my speech with “y’all” or “bless your heart”. Nope, life here doesn’t work that way, and if you want your writing to actually work for you instead of against you, then get out of your comfort zone, and go do some feet-on-the-ground recon and actually visit the places you’re writing about, and get to meet the real-life characters who call that place home.
About ten years ago, I read a book I found so insanely mesmerizing, that I found myself hopping in the car and driving all the way from Atlanta to Savannah, Georgia all because of “The Book” (as it’s
affectionately known in Savannah). Do yourself a favor and learn from John Berendt, who truly captured the southern heart and soul of Savannah in MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL.
Heck, it was such a wild success that it threw Savannah into the national spotlight as a top tourist destination. Isn’t it fabulous to imagine a little book having so much power? But it did happen and it
still draws in hundreds of thousands of tourists each year, and "the book" was so intoxicating to read, such a joy, that it made me gas up the car and go for a long ride down to where the Spanish moss hangs
from the trees.
So what’s stopping you? Get in the car, buy a plane ticket and go! There’s nothing more fun than exciting new life experiences, except for maybe writing about these new life experiences. Give your readers an
experience they’ll never forget, and take the time to do the research, get friends and family to read aloud, and create such meaningful dialogue that it becomes a beautiful memory that will stay with your readers forever.
Happy Fourth of July friends!