This is the second step in my dialogue series, How To Write Fabulous Dialogue In 5 Easy Steps.
Step 2: Layering
Last week in Step 1: Talking Heads, I wrote a draft and asked you to add your own version in the comments to demonstrate what happens when you leave details to chance and don’t fix your talking heads. Thank you to the brave souls who were willing to share. Your examples are great. Please take a look at how different each scene is. Genders, settings and even income-levels have changed.
Please use the list below to evaluate your version. My example is below.
Before I rewrite:
- I read it aloud.
- I make sure I skip the polite stuff. Only your mother cares about your manners. I want to drop you in the middle of a conversation. No pleasantries required, unless your character is hedging.
- I make sure I know where I am and who is speaking.
- I check that I have used contractions and have varied, even incomplete, sentences. If your character is a well-spoken, posh university professor, he or she will speak in full sentences without contractions. The rest us, well, we don’t speak as well. We leave out words, use contractions. Your dialogue must sound real. Most of the time our speakers and their sentences are fragmented, distracted, interrupted and unsure.
- I don’t use dialogue tags and if I have used them, I cover them. I want to see if the sentences look different, because that means they will sound like two different characters. The words must fit the age, profession and background of the speaker.
- I make sure there is conflict, confrontation or compromise. We shy away from conflict in real life; in fiction we don’t have to.
- I fix any talking heads by adding setting, description, and body language.
- I format the dialogue so that it looks like dialogue. I’ll be discussing formatting and punctuation next week.
Now here’s my example:
I hope this exercise and the rewriting list will help you. Don’t over-think it and have fun. In the following weeks I‘ll be discussing formatting, adverbs, and punctuation in dialogue in more detail.
Look out for Step 3: Keeping Up Appearances next week when I’ll write about punctuation and formatting.
by Mia Botha
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