Let the dialog speak.

I LOVE dialog. No really, really, love it.

I think most readers feel the same. It says so much, so easily, about who your character is, what they believe, what they feel and what their faults are. Dialog is moving and touching and scary and brilliant. Let it speak for your characters, after all, it IS their voice you’re going for right?

This is one of my all time favs. If you haven’t seen Tombstone, I suggest you do so. (Warning – It’s addictive.)

Wyatt Earp is fighting, none too successfully, an attraction to a woman who lives outside what was considered decent for women of that time.

Josephine: I’m a woman, I like men. If that means I’m not “lady-like”, then I guess I’m just not a lady! At least I’m honest.
Wyatt Earp: You’re different. No arguin’ that. But you’re a lady alright. I’d take my oath on it. 

TWO lines. That’s it. TWO lines and I know so much about these people it’s almost ridiculous.

Here’s another, and I hope Stephanie Perkins doesn’t mind me using her novel Anna and the French Kiss as an example. It’s a brilliant read with one of the best character voices I’ve heard in a long time.

St. Clair: “Definitely not.” He laughs. “Second lesson, the words on the chalkboard. Listen carefully and repeat after me. Granola.” I narrow my eyes as he widens his in mock innocence. “Means ‘granola’, you see. And this one? Yaourt?”

Anna: “Gee, I dunno. Yogurt?”

See! So much can be gleaned about a character from simple sentences of dialog. I  know they both have a sarcastic, witty personality. I know she’s somewhat outspoken and that he’s a flirt. This one gets SO much better. It’s a must read, btw. I read it in an evening.

Okay, I won’t beat this one to death, but it’s pretty important. I know we’ve all seen it. What could have been said with dialog, instead is written out for us. Can you see it? He’s being sarcastic, of course, so I search for a witty response. As if I can’t figure out the simple translation…

We tend to over-explain, whether by author intrusion or internal thoughts. When in doubt, let your characters speak it out. It’ll keep the pace humming and let your readers get to know so much about them and connect on a personal level.

🙂 Candi

4 Responses to Let the dialog speak.

  1. jbrayweber says:

    “I’ll be your huckleberry.” ~ LOVE Tombstone!
    I agree, Candi. The right dialogue can say volumes about the characters.
    I happen to be partial to good ole fashioned bantering, myself. 😉


  2. Hi Candi. I just spent the day fixing up my MS with notes from several different critiques. When they all say “Let your characters speak” you know it’s time to listen!!! Your post today just made me smile for that reason.


  3. Jenn, I LOVE your dialog! I can always get a feel from them very quickly when they talk!


  4. Hi Carlene,

    Gotta love those critiques. Sometimes they make you cringe, but there’s nothing like an honest opinion!

    I’m guilty of speaking for my characters. I joke all the time with my hubby that most of my blog posts come from things I DO in my writing that I know better than to do. 🙂

    Good luck with the edits!


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