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How Do You Talk?

By Bonnie S. Calhoun

I have found a home in YA (Young Adult) and one of the important elements of writing successful young adult stories is the dialogue. They do not speak as we adults do!

Listen to the kids, and how they talk, listen to your teens with the text speech…IDK. Dialogue is nothing more than having a conversation. How hard can that be?

“Yo G, it is, what it is!” Well it depends on which character you’re talking to. “I beg your pardon. Do you happen to be addressing me?” Let’s discuss common mistakes we make writing dialogue, and learn how to avoid them. “Neener, neener, I don’t mess up!” And at the same time we’ll learn how to use dialogue to build our characters. “Cool, that sounds like a plan, dude.” LOL…and expand their traits. “Well bless your li’l heart.” How many people do you hear talking here? Come meet them!

One of the easiest ways to write effective dialogue is to listen to people talk. Let’s look at a few mistakes that are the easiest ones to slip by as we’re writing. With a little practice we can decrease the frequency of these mistakes.

1.) Biggest Cuprit: Name Repetition…ad nauseum!

“Well excuse me Fred, I didn’t know you were coming home this early.”
“But Barbara, I always come home at this time on Wednesday.”

In a normal conversation unless you’re a mother scolding a teenager by using their proper given name, you wouldn’t keep referring to the person by name. Dialogue needs to reflect the same way we talk.

Have a conversation with someone and tape it so that you can write it down just the way it comes out. Even using “he said, or she said” is not necessary. You could use an action beat like a facial expression to tighten the tension in the passage and let it be know who was speaking.

“You don’t have to yell at me.” Barbara rolled her eyes.

2.) Adjectives, Adverbs, and Dialogue Tags, Oh My!

“Don’t forget to bring the hotdogs!” Bob exclaimed as David walked away.
“I told you I remembered them.” David reiterated as he swiftly approached his car.

This can be solved by using action sentences instead of adjectives or adverbs to show how the character speaks.

“Don’t forget to bring the hotdogs!” Bob watched David walk away.
“I told you I remembered them.” David approached his car.

And when you use a mode of punctuation, don’t reiterate it in the action beat. You don’t need ‘Bob exclaimed’ when you used an exclamation point. Or ‘David questioned’ when you used a question mark.

3.) Perfect Grammar.

“I do not understand why you have that knife in your hand,” Roy said. “Is murder your intent?”

Perfect…but no one talks like that.

“Hey, man put the knife away!” Roy screamed. “Why you trying to kill me?”

4.) Yawn Moments

Conversation that does absolutely nothing to furthers the plot.

“Barbara, this is Susan.”
Susan extended her hand. “Hi Barbara.”

If the conversation doesn’t move the plot along…leave it at home!

Lightning-booksBonnie S. Calhoun’s YA dystopian series with Revell is titled Stone Braide Chronicles. Thunder published in 2014 and the second book Lightning published Oct 2015. There are two FREE e-book short stories. Tremors is the prequel to Thunder, and Aftershock comes before Lightning. You can find Bonnie on her website, Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest and Amazon.

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2 Responses to How Do You Talk?

  1. Melodie says:

    Great examples.

  2. Peggy says:

    Great post! It’s really made me think my dialogue through, take out the constant “naming and exclaiming,” and make sure I’m moving the story forward with the conversation, or…I take it out. Good advice! Let’s see if I can follow through.Thanks, Bonnie!