Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Writing Tip Tuesday

Let's talk about talking.

Dialogue, that is.

Knowing how to write dialogue is one of the best tools you can have in your writer's toolbox and, in my opinion, one of the easiest to master because it's very specific and concrete - unlike those big ole scary things like structure and pace and plot.

No doubt about it, good dialogue is critical to children's books.

  • Sections with no dialogue = narrative. Too much narrative bores young readers and slows the pace. Dialogue adds white space and breaks up the narrative.
  • Dialogue helps show the story. Narrative tends to tell the story.
  • Dialogue brings the characters to life.
  • Dialogue quickens the pace.
  • Dialogue moves the story along.
  • Dialogue contributes to voice and style of both the writer and the speaker (i.e., the character).
I think that part of writing good dialogue can't be taught. It's a talent, an art, an EAR - much like writing voice. Sometimes a writer has it and sometimes she doesn't. Sometimes she has it but hasn't honed it, discovered it, experienced her dialogue voice yet.

That skill can be sharpened by listening - really listening - to real people talking - and by reading good dialogue.

Remember that post from last week? The quote from Alison Smith about focused reading? I think that's a great way to study good dialogue - to read a book you love and focus only on the dialogue.

Another part of writing good dialogue that can't really be taught is mastered by knowing your character. Nobody can teach you to know your character. You have to know your character. If you do, you'll know how he talks.

But there are also part of creating good dialogue that can be learned - some simple, concrete, easy-to-master techniques.

So - next week - some tips on dialogue.

No comments: