Thursday, October 7, 2010

the sound of dialogue, or thoughts on dialogue, part two

more than any other part of a story, my experience as a reader is that i "hear" dialogue spoken aloud in my head, even if i'm reading silently (as i usually am.) consequently, one of the ways i use dialogue is to introduce and maintain each character's individual "sound" in the reader's mind.

the best way i've found to do this is to read your dialogue sections aloud. i actually recommend you read ALL your writing aloud - to see if you've captured your unique "voice." but when it comes to dialogue, this step is one of the most important. just the words the character uses, and the way in which the character chooses to express her or himself will reveal a lot about the character, for example.

it's also important to get the "sound" right because dialogue mimics conversation. you want the words to flow in the reader's head as naturally as a line of conversation flows off a person's tongue. having someone else read your piece, especially if they read it aloud, can be even more helpful when it comes to capturing the right tone of "voice" for each character.

in terms of when and how to use dialect, my feeling is to use it sparingly. people dont think they have accents, first of all - no one hears their own. dialect is like pepper - sprinkle it judiciously but don't let it overpower the stew. you don't want your reader wading through paragraphs of 'dinna's' and 'fashes' and 'lassies' for example. establish your character as whatever it is she or he is and then allow the reader to fill in the accent. accent is as much a question of cadence as it is of funny words and spellings- capture the cadence of an irish brogue, for example, and you will never have to use tortured english again.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

4 comments:

Wendy said...

I just read a blog post about how a character speaks and that using a phrase or a quote that they like to say here and there adds dimension to the character. Very good advice in your post...

Robin Larkspur said...

I am not sure I quite agree about your comments on dialect. I am writing here as a reader only--I have read the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon and feel I know the characters better from their dialects as Ms.Gabaldon writes them. And it is loaded with Scottish brogue. The story was very real to me.

annie kelleher said...

actually, robin, i think gabaldon uses dialect extremely well, and she would be a good example of someone to emulate. if you carefully analyze the words in her lines of dialogue, you'll see that most of the words are standard english. she sprinkles in just enough for flavor.

Kathy said...

I agree that Gabaldon uses dialect well. I feel as if I hear them, but I'm not distracted by the funny words. On the other hand, although I like Andrew Greely's stories, his dialect drives me bonkers, whether it's Irish or one misguided attempt at "southern."
You also use dialect well, and I really enjoyed the Silver series.