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How Not To Write Dialogue
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Throughout history, characters have said some many memorable lines. Each character is unique and their uniqueness should be demonstrated through their dialogue. You'll have to use your best interest and when in doubt, read your lines out loud. Do they impact you emotionally? Does the line make you laugh? Or does your line bring you to tears and does it move the plot forward while revealing something about your characters?
Not every novel can change the world like an Earnest Hemingway story and not every line of dialogue is going to move your readers. Still, your dialogue must have an honest and fresh approach, genuine to your characters and interesting for your readers.
The first step to improving bad dialogue is removing cliches from your story -both characters, dialogue and narrative. In dialogue, some of the most commonly used cliches are:
"It was blacker than pitch outside."
"... hotter than an oven."
"When life gives you lemons... "
"... happy as a clam."
"When in Rome... "
"Party like it's... "
"... high as a kite."
"... over hill and dale... "
"... as blue as the sky... "
The cliches don't end there. There are literally hundreds if not thousands more cliches that you really need to avoid. Avoid them in dialogue. Avoid them in your narrative. Just don't use them no matter how good you think they sound.
Writers may argue that using cliches will make your characters sound realistic because that's how people talk in real life. Readers may also tell you they understand what your cliches mean, but if you avoid cliches all together, your work will sound more original, unique and fresh. Also, without cliches, you'll be able to write something more clever and witty that truly reflects your character's persona, rather than use some tired idiom we've heard of hundreds of time before. Remember, being original in every aspect from dialogue, narrative, and to plot and characters should be your goal as a writer. Being original will keep your audience focused and increase your chances of selling your manuscript.
Now that you can identify one particularly annoying attribute of bad writing, here are some tips to help you improve the other attributes. First, keep in mind that if you are just starting your manuscript, the first several chapters (or pages if you are writing a movie script) are going to feel awkward and forced. Dialogue is perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of writing anything. It takes time, effort and lots of practice. Don't give up! Every line of dialogue that you write is an opportunity for improvement. No author has ever sat down and wrote great dialogue their first time. It just doesn't happen. Just remember, the more you write the easier it gets.
Dialogue moves the story forward. It reveals information about the characters. Just like real life, your characters have a history. Dialogue communicates facts to the reader, establishes relationships, gives your characters depth, motivates your character to reach his or her goals, causes conflict and reveals your characters emotional boundaries.
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