1. Don’t explain the spoken words. “Show, don’t tell” is crucial in dialogue. Don’t tell the emotions.
For example: “It’s the queen scow crow!” Gordon shouted in terror.
“In terror” is a telling phrase. Instead, show the terror.
Gordon’s knees knocked together. “It’s the queen scow crow!”
2. Avoid using adverbs to dress up speaker tags.
This is not a hard-and-fast rule, just something to watch for.
“The engine is a goner,” Gordon said grimly.
“Grimly” tells that he is grim. Instead show that he is grim.
Gordon held the charred rotor in his greasy palm and shook his head. “The engine is a goner.”
3. Make the spoken words match the character.
A prim and proper character’s speech would differ greatly from a character who tends toward street talk.
“I find it hard to believe that you stooped that low” versus “Dude! What were you thinking?”
4. Avoid dialogue designed for the purpose of informing the reader. This is called “contrived” or “informational” dialogue.
“Maggie, I know you were my student for three years at Eagle Academy, but you shouldn’t be so familiar.”
“But I lived next door to you for five years before that. Without you there in the Martian underground, I would have gone crazy.”
Since both characters know this information, they wouldn’t remind each other about it. This comes about when the author is trying to inform the reader. People don’t talk like this.
5. Show interruptions with a dash. Show pauses or trailing off with an ellipsis.
“Maggie! Get the—”
“I have it!” Maggie lifted the slingshot and aimed at the queen crow. “Ready … aim … fire!”
That’s all for now. If you have any questions or comments, please post them.
Categories: Writing Tips