Let’s talk about good dialogue

I’m currently ghostwriting a romance novel and I have to send it off to the editor of the project about once a week. I’m really enjoying doing it – but that’s for another blogpost.

Anyway, the editor gave me some constructive feedback on my last addition to the story. She said that the dialogue between the two main characters is great and she likes that the story is very dialogue heavy but it’s lacking some description.

I completely agree with the feedback. 

Because, as I said to her: 

I’m a sucker for good dialogue.

So what ends up happening is, I focus way too much on the dialogue and trying to get it right and trying to make it good that I end up neglecting other parts of the story like, oh, the description and creating imagery and the plot all those other creative writing things I spent years learning about. 

I used to write fan fiction. Specifically, Twilight fan fiction (don’t judge). And I wrote a story that became pretty popular within a little segment of the Twilight fan fiction community. I haven’t finished it though, and I say used to write fan fiction but I actually updated it a few months ago after about a four year hiatus (my fanfiction.net profile, however, remains frozen in time).

The story is very dialogue focused. I have little description of the characters’ surroundings, but I focus a lot on descriptions of the characters themselves: their facial expressions, their body language, their emotions.

I discovered that this way of writing is just my writing style. Most of the stories I’ve written follow a similar pattern.

I got a review once that said, when they picture my story in their mind they only see the characters, and it’s like the characters are standing in a white void with the odd object, like, a sofa or a TV remote, around them. It wasn’t a criticism and I didn’t take it as a criticism. I thought it was a pretty cool description of my style, actually. 

But, yeah, dialogue – good dialogue – is an important part of a story for me, whether I’m reading it or writing it. Very often, books, films and TV shows with great dialogue end up becoming my favourites. 

That’s partly why I enjoy Rainbow Rowell’s books so much. She has awesome dialogue between her characters. It’s usually funny, clever, and reads very natural and realistic. J. R. Ward (author of The Black Dagger Brotherhood series) is another author who has great dialogue in her stories. When I was younger I used to adore Meg Cabot’s books (still do, actually). She has funny characters with great dialogue. And, for a more classic author, I really enjoyed Raymond Chandler’s dialogue style when I read The Big Sleep during uni.

When it comes to films, my absolutely favourite screenwriter/director is Quentin Tarantino. I love the style of his films in general, but his dialogue is always so distinctive and interesting. I often watch his films thinking, how the heck does he come up with this stuff?! 

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Gilmore Girls, known for their fast paced talking and witty dialogue, is also one of my favourite shows. 

I suppose I like the overall styles of these authors, films and TV shows, and the dialogue is just a part of that.

But you can see a pattern. I like witty, well thought out, distinctive dialogue styles – realistic or stylised – which tell us, not just something about the story or plot, but also shows us the characters’ personalities and gives us an insight into how their minds work. 

I just hope my own dialogue style embodies these characteristics! 

How important is good dialogue to you?  

 

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