Writing Misconceptions – Dialogue
- Said is a word to avoid in dialogue.
A common mistake people seem to make when writing dialogue, is never using the word said and instead replacing it with obscure words such as ‘whimpered, proclaimed, concluded etc. Although the intention may be to make your writing sound more sophisticated and to add some variation, it can often break up the flow of a piece of dialogue. It’s something that’s often taught to a person at a young age in school and it can be a hard habit to shake off. Of course, alternatives to ‘said’ can be used; but the point is you don’t need to avoid the word ‘said’ completely.
- Dialogue must start at the beginning of a conversation and finish at the end of the conversation.
“Hello, Mary.” Said Francis.
“Hi, Francis,” Mary replied.
“What have you been up to?” Francis asked.
“Oh, not much, how about yourself?” Mary responded.
Right, I’m sure we can all agree that that was painfully boring to read is. To shorten my point, just skip all the obvious. That whole section above could be shortened by, “Mary and Francis greeted each other,” or something of the likes. You don’t need to include the entire conversation in your writing, just the important parts. The main use of dialogue is to show characterisation, so as long as you’re revealing enough to add dimensions to your characters, it should be fine.
- Dialogue needs to be completely realistic.
A common misconception writers seem to make when writing speech is that with the aim to create realistic sounding dialogue, they add too much and it ends up ruining the flow. For example, adding in ‘umms’ and hesitations. A piece of dialogue isn’t supposed to be completely the same as a real life conversation, but it’s supposed to create the impression of a realistic conversation- there is a difference. So be wary when you’re writing not to be too realistic, as it can make for some awkward reading.
- Dialogue should be used to explain a situation.
Now this final point doesn’t really apply to all situations. Sometimes, a writer will make their character say a chunky paragraph which explains the situation of the story. You must ask yourself, ‘would a person actually say all of that?’ and the answer is usually no they would not. In an attempt to avoid an information dump, a writer tends to make a character say all this information; however what essentially is happening is that it’s just being passed on and still has the same affect. If you’re going to use dialogue as a way to explain something, keep it short and make sure it fits into the scenario of your character, not just to the convenience of the writer.