20 May 2008 ~ 0 Comments

Dialoguing

“As we both know, I’m here to learn good dialogue. Is this good dialogue, Susan?” Brandon posited quizzically.

“No, no,” Susan said. “You don’t need to say what we both already know. Also, people don’t posit, they say.”

“What?!” Brandon questioned loudly. “But all those ‘said’s will get repetitive! Won’t they, Susan?”

“Actually, no. ‘Said’, unlike most other words, is nearly invisible to the reader, even if its repeated. And try to cut back on your exclamation points, too. You’re going to give yourself a hemhorrage.”

“But I’m upset, Susan!!” Brandon countermanded huffily. “I have to use exclamation points!!!”

Susan shook her head. “No you don’t. If the dialogue’s written well enough, the tension of the words will come through to the reader. If you use too many exclamation points, people will accuse you of trying to inject tension in with punctuation instead of writing it in. And multiple exclamation points at the end of a single sentence is a sign of a mentally unbalanced individual. Ask Terry Pratchett.”

“There’s just so much I don’t know,Susan,” Brandon moped depressingly.

“You can’t ‘mope’ a sentence. Stop trying. Even if you don’t stick to ‘say’, you still can’t stick just any old verb back there. Are you trying to do everything wrong or is it just coincidence?” She put her hand to her head. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that. I’m just frustrated. Why do you keep saying my name in every sentence? Real people don’t talk like that. Why are you putting a speaker attribution after every line? There’s only two of us, so a few lines without an attribution won’t be confusing, especially since our manner of speaking is unique from each other. Have you ever heard of beats?”

“I don’t think so, Susan,” Brandon cogitated placatingly.

“They’re actions you insert between lines of dialogue. You can use them instead of saying ‘said’, to show who’s speaking.” Susan sipped her coffee. “And it adds some pauses to the dialogue to give the reader a feel for the intended pace, while giving a bit of characterization at the same time by showing the speakers actions.”

“Now I understand, Susan!!” Brandon roared intricately.

“I don’t think you do.” She sighed. “And could you PLEASE stop using so many -ly adjectives? If I can’t tell how you said something, the dialogue is probably weak and you should work on that instead.”

“Look at me, Susan! I’m dialoguing!!!!” Brandon ejaculated profusely.

The door slammed shut.

“Susan? Susan? Where’d you go?” Brandon queried querulously.

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply