Let’s talk dialogue!
It’s Not You, It’s Me
When it comes time for two characters to have an important conversation, writers be warned — you have entered a minefield. There are so many places to trip, from clichés to character distinction to info dumps. In my own work, I often find myself plowing ahead without thinking through the purpose of the dialogue and it ends by blowing up in my face. Not pretty, and it’s a headache to fix. Problems in dialogue could be an indicator of underdeveloped characters, but more often than not, it’s not them, it’s me.
Thou Art Distracting
Using realistic dialogue is another area where I struggle, especially when I’m working in fantasy or another genre in which the diction and syntax are different from today’s jargon. I used to go too formal with lots of “thees” and “thous”. However, as a reader, I often find formal dialogue distracting unless it’s historically accurate. Since shaking that habit, I now catch myself throwing something like “dude” into the middle of a swashbucklers’ sword fight (I exaggerate, but you get the idea). Research for period pieces is essential. Dialogue should balance and reflect the characters and time period accurately, or there is a risk of loosing the reader’s attention.
Consistency, Consistency, Consistency
We all have certain words and phrases we use, like a verbal finger print. Our vocabulary is a large part of our personality, whether it’s influenced by our word choice or takes part in shaping it. The same goes for characters. Expressing characterization through dialogue is huge. The words they use says a lot about them, and so it’s important to keep their word choice consistent. In my initial writing, I often don’t keep track of this concept and, upon revision, find that defining each character’s vocabulary can really polish the piece.