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UPDATE: Enough of you have shown interest (thanks!), so the blogfest is ON! I'll put together details and post them Monday. :)
--Regional dialects can add authenticity to your story, but too much becomes tiresome to read.
--"Are you ready to go to school today?" vs. "Ready for school?"
--Yes we pause a lot and say um and uh in real life, but you don't need to put that in your writing, unless you are trying to show nervousness or something.
--Think about how many times you actually say the other person's name when having a conversation--hardly ever. (I used to do this is my writing ALL the time.)--"I don't know, Bob. Those pants make you look fat." "But Helen, they match my shirt."
--If three women are talking, be careful of saying "she said" and not defining which she it is.
--"As you know, your boyfriend cheated on you."--"You're never going to catch me. As soon as I kill you, I'm going to escape to my secret house in Seattle where no one will be able to find me."
--Telling in dialogue is STILL telling
--In many cases, we're told to use a stronger verb instead of the standard one for verbs such as walked, looked, stood, etc. However, this does not apply to "said". Said is considered invisible to the reader. The shouted/muttered/expressed/pontificated stand out to the reader and remind them that they are reading a story instead of experiencing it.--This goes for tagging that said with adverbs as well--try to avoid it.
--Even without speaker attribution, you should be able to tell most of the time who is talking just by how and what they say.--Your male lead and female lead should not sound identical. Men and women talk differently. Men, typically, use fewer words to get a point across.
--Avoid the exclamation point except in rare circumstances--it's melodramatic.--Semi-colons and colons are not for speech.--Em-dashes can be used to show a break in thought or an interuption.--Ellipses can be used to indicate a pause or speech that trails off (use sparingly)
Dialogue should be in one of the following structures:Dialogue(D)-->narrative(N)-->dialogue"Hello," she said, smiling. "What's your name?"N-->DShe smiled. "Hello, what's your name?"D->N"Hello? What's your name?" she asked.Don't do what I used to do all over the place:She grinned at the boy. "Hello, what's your name?" she asked.--see how the dialogue is buried in the narrative? This slows down your pacing and gives the dialogue less impact. Think of dialogue as a book end--it shouldn't be hidden amongst the books (narrative).
--She hugged her mother. "I love you." (It is assumed that the person doing the action--the beat--in the sentence is the speaker.)
--This doesn't have to be for every statement uttered, but people move while they are talking, they sip drinks, smile, adjust their skirt, play with their hair, etc.--Imagine you are writing a screenplay, the actors would need stage direction to tell them what they should be doing during that dialogue.