Fiction that explores the monsters and strangers among us.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

What Real Dialogue Sounds Like

Read Like a Writer Series #4

Feature novel: Steel Pennies for $0.99.

Have you ever become frustrated by a story’s dialogue? It sounds stilted. No one really talks that way. If the gang banger was that ticked off, why didn’t he use cuss words?

Dialogue may be the most difficult lesson for a writer to learn, yet it’s the thing that throws you as a reader right out of the story and onto another book.

What does real dialogue sound like? Writers imitate the speech they hear around them, but often forget or never learned that in weaving a well-told tale, the dialogue moves the plot forward. The challenge is to make it sound like real people while leaving out unnecessary verbiage.

As a reader of dialogue, you can sharpen your ear the same way you hone your ear for music – by listening. Next time you’re out and about, pay attention to the speakers around you. Yes, I want you to eavesdrop. Where are the best places for this nefarious activity? Try the obvious like your local coffee shop. Sit on a bench at your local mall so you can listen to the tidbits of conversation you pick up as people pass you by. Listen at work or school. What are people saying and how do they say it? TV and movies also provide a base for dialogue, but be careful to listen to good TV or films.

One of the fun things with movie dialogue is to listen to the characters in the old movies from the thirties and forties. Listen for slang that is no longer used or sappy romance dialogue that wasn’t believable then and is plain laughable today. When was the last time you heard someone say, “Oh, you big lug?”

This month’s full-length feature novel is Steel Pennies. “I contemplated how my hand had been up inside Cynthia’s skull.” Check out Steel Pennies, a noir thriller coming of age novel set in 1960. Read a chunk free on Amazon. Hey, it’s only $0.99 today.