Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Writing Tips- Dialogue

Is there anything more difficult than dialogue? In my opinion- no! Characters need to sound realistic and dynamic. They have to make sense and they must be captivating. Gerrrr...

I found this image here.

The Issue
Let's just talk about my most resent clash with dialogue. I was at crucial place in the plot. My H (Othniel) and h (Lan) needed to meet a new and integral character to the story (not yet named, I need a good one). When they met him, they needed to reveal through conversation a bit of information to him (that the Elders had basically kicked them out of the city). So here is the problem:

•H & h have never met this man nor heard of him. Not only that, but they recently had a bad experience with strangers, so they will not just hand over information. That would be unrealistic.

•The reader needs to care about what is being said so I need something interesting to be said, even though the reader would already know who these characters are and what is happening in their lives.

•This new man is known to the reader by name only. Now he has to reveal his character and personality.

So what did I do? (the following examples are exaggerated)
 First I made sure that no one said anything normal and boring:

"Hello, I am Othniel and this is my wife, Lan. It is nice to meet you"
"Nice to meet you too. I am (insert name). Welcome to my home."

"Why, thank you."
   blah- gag.

•Or confusing:

"Nice day in this near miss."
"Great fish! Eating ants for birds?"

And This Was What I Ended Up With:

This is only a small snippet, not including everything that I spoke of before because it is a rather long scene. It is also only a first draft, I wrote it yesterday.

   “Here and there.” The man returned to his spot on the bed. “These herbs grow all over the mountain side.”
   “Perhaps you can show me sometime.”
   “That sounds like a good time, -.” The man laughed. “I just realized that we did not exchange names. I am Molgam.”
   “Othniel and Lan.” Othniel reached a hand across the table to grasp his wife’s.
   “And you’re married?” Molgam asked.
   “Over a month now.”
   “I can’t imagine newlyweds wanting to move up here.” Molgam stood as the tea began to bubble. He wrapped his hands in cloths and moved the pot from the stove.
    Othniel squeezed Lan’s hand to ensure she let him speak. After Master Vindrew’s questions, he did not feel right about telling everything. “You live here,” he said, more to state the fact then ask why.
    “I am neither newly married or young enough to need the constant company of others.” With his back to them, Othniel could not see Molgam’s expression. The man removed two cups from the shelf and set them next to the pot. “Nor did I choose my exile.”
    “Exile?” Othniel shifted so that his sword was in easy reach, no longer comfortable with sitting there.
    “Yes, I had a bit of a disagreement with the Elders.” Molgam poured tea into the cups, all the while straining out the leaves. “They didn’t like my interference in ‘city’ matters.” Holding the cups by their sides, he gave one to each of them. “Though, last I checked, Vanor was not yet a city.”
     While Othniel studied the contents of his cup warily, Lan clunked hers onto the table. “You’re from Vanor?”
      “It’s been about thirty years, but yes.”
      Othniel sat straight. “Thirty years? But then all the Elder’s you knew are dead. Why have you not returned?”
      “This is my home now. I would not know what to do with myself in the hustle and bustle of such a large place.” Molgam nodded to them. “You should understand, you’ve found yourself here as well.”
      Lan took a sip of her tea. “We’re not staying.”
      “There goes my hope for neighbors.” Molgam frowned and stared out the window. “Why are you here at all then?”

If you are wondering more about dialogue, this is a great post by author, Jill Williamson, on the topic. It goes a bit more in detail and has more examples.


  1. Great points and examples! Dialogue is such an crucial part of the story, but it can be difficult to keep interesting and important.

    The excerpt was great!

    1. It is one of the things I struggle with the most, that is for sure. And thank you!