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Over at Writers Digest, Arlene F. Marks has some great tips about writing and editing Dialogue. Check it out and tell us if you have any handy tips for managing dialogue.
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5 Tips for Editing Dialogue
Here’s a guest post from Arlene F. Marks, author of From First Word to Last: The Craft of Writing Popular Fiction and The Accidental God, in which she shares her tips for editing dialogue. If you have a great idea and would like to contribute a guest post of your own, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: Guest Post Idea for No Rules.
Dialogue is the writer’s equivalent of the Swiss army knife. What other storytelling tool lets you reveal character, advance the plot, establish the setting, and deliver a theme, all at the same time? Well-written dialogue is a fast and easy read. Ensure that the character conversations in your story will hum right along by catching and repairing the following “dialogue fumbles” at the editing stage:
1. Wooden dialogue
It’s important to read dialogue aloud while editing it, because the words you put into your character’s mouths need to sound natural and spontaneous coming back out. At the same time, unlike real people who often stammer and repeat themselves when conversing, fictional characters are expected to “talk edited.” Here are two culprits in particular that make dialogue sound stiff and rehearsed:
Radio talk: In the heyday of radio drama, scriptwriters peppered the actors’ dialogue with narrative details to help the listener picture each scene more clearly:
“Lucinda, why are you raising that hammer over your head?”
As you go through your manuscript, remove or revise speeches in which a character is doubling as narrator.
Unnecessary naming: Unless there is a good reason for doing so, including the name of the person being addressed can also make dialogue sound wooden:
“Congratulations on your promotion, Bob.”
“Are you planning to celebrate with your wife, Bob?”
“Yes, Janice. We’re going out for dinner.”
As you read through scenes of dialogue, be alert to excessive or unnecessary naming and trim it out.
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