Common Dialogue Problems

After years of reading manuscripts from new authors, there is something in common with all of those books. Most of the authors have a terrific narrative voice, which comes from their original gift of being a writer.

However, new authors have major problems in three areas:

~ Writing Mechanics

~ The books starts off great, but fades with each chapter until it becomes unreadable.

~ Weak Dialogue.

Today, we will work on the third problem: Weak Dialogue.

If you can talk, then you should be able to write conversations in a book. Conversely, new authors have a tendency to think, “How should a conversation sound in a book?” By asking that question, the inexperienced author is already doomed.

Here is a bad example of dialogue:

“Kevin, you are late again,” Alice said angrily as Kevin walked into the door. “What is your excuse!?!”

“Listen Alice,” Kevin said instinctively. “I am doing the best that I can at this job! You are trying to get blood from a turnip!”

Alice stood up from her desk. “The deadline is looming large on the horizon,” she said irritably.

“Alice, I have no training in this area!” Kevin responded. “It’s not really my responsibility!”

“Well, Kevin. There is no time like the present,” she said sarcastically.

“Alice, I’m just getting my feet wet with this important project,” Kevin said more calmly. Was this a nightmare!?! he thought.

Alice looked very frustrated. “So Kevin. I guess it is back to the drawing board.”

# # #

That dialogue exchange shows common problems with inexperienced writers:

~ Using character names inside the dialogue.

~ Using “LY” words.

~ Using “said” in every response.

~ Overuse of exclamation marks to show anger, or frustration. (And using exclamation marks with question marks!?! I’m starting to see this more. Who started that!?! It must stop.)

~ Using cliché dialogue.

~ Using the word, “very.”

~ Forced character observation.

~ Telling, rather than showing.

Here is that same conversation. I will BOLD the problems.

Kevin, you are late again,” Alice said angrily as Kevin walked into the door. “What is your excuse!?!

“Listen Alice,” Kevin said instinctively. “I am doing the best that I can at this job! You are trying to get blood from a turnip!

Alice stood up from her desk. “The deadline is looming large on the horizon,” she said irritably.

Alice, I have no training in this area!” Kevin responded. “It’s not really my responsibility!

“Well, Kevin. There is no time like the present,” she said sarcastically.

Alice, I’m just getting my feet wet with this important project,” Kevin said more calmly. Was this a nightmare!?! he thought.

Alicelooked very frustrated. “So Kevin. I guess it is back to the drawing board.”

# # #

Here is the conversation, which has been fixed by a content editor.

Alice banged her fist on the desk as Kevin walked into the office. “You’re late again. What excuse do you have this time?”

Kevin locked his eyes on her. “You don’t seem to realize that I’m doing the best job I can.”

“The deadline is in two weeks.” She sprung to her feet and marched around the desk. “Do you even realize how important this project is to the company?”

“I haven’t been trained in this area. How can you possibly hold me responsible?”

“Well,” She gave him a sly grin. “It seems like you should devote more time into learning your job. I would start that today.”

“I’m just getting my feet wet.” Kevin heaved a sigh. “I understand its importance. I’ll get it done.”

Alice eased down, sitting on the edge of her desk, staring at him for a long moment. “I suppose we can start fresh and see what happens.”

# # #

The fixed dialogue actually sounds like a real conversation.

Ron Knight

 

Untraditional Publishing: The Third Option http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/92130

 

 

Ron Knight

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Comments

  1. I’ve not had a problem in the past with my dialogue, my problem was with the tagging. I still catch myself using them when i don’t need too. This was a good blog…informative.

  2. WOW! This is helpful! Thanks Ron!