I have to guess that there are entire blogs devoted to the creation of effective dialogue and I’m sure that this will be the first of a series of posts that I write on this subject.
Think about what dialogue can do to make or break a piece of fiction. Through dialogue the reader can get into the mind of the protagonist but also can come to a greater understanding of other-than-point-of-view characters. Dialogue is an effective tool in pacing your narrative. Consider the difference between short, clipped sentences and those that are pondering, reflective. Dialogue enables the reader to understand a character’s motivation and emotional responses to persons and events. The writer can use dialogue to set the mood and the setting of the story.
Today I want to consider only one factor that contributes to effective dialogue: the importance of remaining true to the personality of your characters. The manner in which a character expresses his thoughts and feelings must be consistent with his temperament, background, education and occupation. Take a sample of dialogue from a novel or short story that you have written and use these criteria to evaluate the believability of your character. Then rewrite the scene from the point of view of a character who is:
- A white woman raised in a wealthy family who completed law school but never went on to practice because of her shyness;
- A black police detective who escaped the ghetto of his childhood in his altuistice desire to help his community rise above the culture of crime;
- A neurotic 60-year-old divorcee who has no family or close friends;
- An immigrant from Mexico who has worked hard to achieve success in spite of a lack of education;
- An artist living in New York who’s creativity is fueled by alcohol.
If you prefer, use this scenario: The character learns from a sibling that his/her estranged father has died. If you want, use comments to post all or one of your characters and I will select some to add to this blog. More on dialogue next week.
Happy writing. Enjoy the process.