Recently I was given some great notes by my editor. I love that editors are there to work with you and to really push you to be a better writer. It does translate into future works as well. You find yourself writing something down and then you rethink because it’s one of the things the editor dinged you on last time. So it all works to making you better and more successful at your art.
One of the best notes I got though was about my ability to write dialogue and how it really sounded natural. I know that sounds strange because we should all be able to write how we talk, right? Well I found out that some people really struggle with what the characters will say in a given scene. In fact sometimes I fear that I’m too dialogue heavy. It’s a balance, but there are scenes that really lend themselves to people “talking it out.”
So how do you develop this skill? Well I don’t know…LOL. OK, I’ll tell you what I do. I eavesdrop on the people around me sometimes when I’m in a crowded place whether it’s the grocery store, football game or just before a public meeting that I have to attend for my job. I listen to how people talk to each other when they are familiar with each other and when they aren’t so familiar with each other.
We really do speak differently to people that we might know in passing, but don’t have a real history with and there isn’t a real shared history. I know it sounds strange because usually people all speak the same, but they don’t.
You can see it in your own life as well. You might talk one way to a co-worker, but when the boss is around, you probably chose your words a little more thoughtfully. Or maybe you don’t and I’m just crazy.
Another thing that helps me with dialogue is talking to people, which I do all the time when I have to interview them for the newspaper. You learn how people answer the hard questions and what kinds of words they use when they are heartbroken or in love (which is handy for my romance writing endeavors).
I’m not the be all and end all of advice for writing dialogue, so don’t think I’m trying to say that just because I got some nice notes from an editor. I’m just saying this is the way I grow my dialogue writing because yes, sometimes it’s a struggle to make your characters speak, especially when they are mad about the situations you stick them in.
Until next time, eavesdrop!