Join ACFW |  Forgot Password |  Login: 

October 2012

Reporter: June Foster

June FosterJune Foster is a retired teacher with a BA in Education and MA in Counseling. She is a member of ACFW and two Scribes groups. She has written four books for Desert Breeze Publishing and has a contract for her novel Ryan’s Father with WhiteFire Publishing. Visit her blog and her website.  See her Amazon listing.

Presenter: Rene Gutteridge

Rene GutteridgeGutteridge is the award-winning author of eighteen novels, including Heart of the Country, her upcoming novelization release with director John Ward and Tyndale House Publishers. She is teaming with screenwriter Cheryl McKay for the romantic comedy Greetings from the Flipside from B&H and releasing her new suspense title, Misery Loves Company from Tyndale.

Workshop 6: Dialogue: The Craft Of Teaching Your Characters To Speak

Award-winning author Rene Gutteridge defined what dialogue is and isn’t, what it can and shouldn’t do, and how to use it to your advantage in her ACFW conference workshop Dialogue: The Craft of Teaching Your Characters to Speak.
Dialogue bubble 1

The myths of dialogue

All dialogue should involve conflict, conflict, conflict. Gutteridge outlined four myths about dialogue and set her audience straight on each.

  • Myth 1:For dialogue to sound realistic, we must write it exactly how we speak in real life.
  • If this were the case, our characters’ speech would be boring and dull.
  • Myth 2: Dialogue must include the entire conversation in a passage when our characters speak to each other.
  • Gutteridge used an expression from screenwriting to make her point. “Get in late, get out early.” Trim your beginnings and endings. Summarize a character’s words rather than write everything he might say.
  • Myth 3:Dialogue doesn’t have anything to do with character development.
  • In fact, the opposite is true. Dialogue should multitask, doing many jobs at once, including revealing information about the characters.
  • Myth 4:Dialogue is a good place to sneak information into the story that would otherwise be boring.
  • Wrong. This is called an information dump. Adding in a lot of back-story at one time is worse than dumping too much salt in a stew.

Dialogue bubble 2

Internal dialogue

One interesting use of dialogue is when it is combined with inner dialogue—the character’s inner monologue. What the character thinks versus what she says creates excellent interest, especially when it greatly differs.

Dialogue tension

Dialogue can and should create tension in your story, but beware of the tension killers.

  • An info dump: This results in unrealistic conversation.
  • Realistic dialogue. Rene reminded her audience of the phrase “Fiction = Friction.” A good rule of thumb: Would someone want to eavesdrop on this conversation?
  • Relying on circumstances or topics to carry your dialogue. Characters should speak with their emotions, not on a topic.

Dialogue bubble 3

Cut the fat

Rene presented her audience with some tips to ramp up dialogue.

  • Watch for junk words such as well, uh, and oh. Use them sparingly.
  • For dialogue tags, use only said and asked. Others weaken your writing with telling as opposed to showing.
  • Keep each section of the character’s dialogue brief.
  • Don’t repeat information that has already been given in the story—whether in dialogue, actions, or characters’ thoughts.
  • Trim realistic dialogue, such as “How are you today?” and “I’m fine.”
  • Convey spontaneity in dialogue. Make your character say something crazy, if necessary.
  • Dialogue should always propel the plot forward.
  • Dialogue should always reveal something about your character.
  • Dialogue must always fit the character’s personality.
  • Dialogue should be essential to the story.

Dialogue bubble images courtesy of digitalart/

back to ezine