Critique: 10 Ways to Write Excellent Dialogue by K.M. Weiland - Usa
For many people, dialogue is the heartbeat of fiction. As arguably the only true form of “showing” in written fiction, it offers an inexhaustible source of energy for dramatizing characters, catalyzing conflict, and enhancing every available opportunity for entertainment. That’s why it’s so important to take full of advantage of dialogue, and that’s why we’re going to be taking a look at ten ways to write excellent dialogue.
The essence of dialogue is familiar to any of us old enough to have exchanged words with another human being. It is communication. It is expression. Sometimes it’s comfort. Sometimes it’s anarchy. Often, it comes easily. Usually, it’s interesting. Sometimes, though, it’s boring.
You know how it goes—both in real life and on the page. Boring conversations are those in which one or more participants isn’t hearing anything that interests them. That’s simple enough on its surface, but the most important takeaway for novelists is that the reasons dialogue might fail to be interesting are sometimes counter-intuitive.
Sometimes the problem is the content (i.e., the characters really aren’t saying anything interesting). Other times, it’s the delivery (i.e., the characters are saying important things, but the words feel stiff or forced). Still other times, the problem is that the dialogue is too on-the-nose (i.e., it spells out too much for readers instead of creating subtext) or perhaps it’s that the scene itself lacks forward drive within the overall story.
When all these problems are recognized and corrected, what you end up with is dialogue that captures readers’ full attention and drags them through the story, one fast page flip after another.
Learning From Each Other: WIP Excerpt Analysis
Today’s post is the fifth in an ongoing series in which I am analyzing the excerpts you have shared with me. My approach to these critiques is a little different from those you normally see on writing blogs. Instead of editing each piece, I’m focusing on one particular lesson that can be drawn from each excerpt, so we can deep-dive into the logic and process of various useful techniques.
Today’s post is inspired by Lenna V.’s excerpt from her historical novel. She wanted to know if she succeeded in her first attempt at writing dialogue:
This is the only full scene I’ve completed so far, and honestly, I can’t recall ever writing dialogue before… I would love any feedback you’d be so kind as to give!
Before we get into the excerpt, let me just say that for a first attempt, this is excellent! Lenna has also got a good handle on staying in POV and creating an engaging narrator voice for her child character (something even more evident in the earlier portions of the excerpt, which I won’t be sharing since they’re not pertinent to today’s topic of writing entertaining dialogue).
So let’s take a look! (The bolded entries and superscript numbers will correspond with the tips I’ll talk about in subsequent sections.)
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