Darlene Jones has agreed to be my guest today to talk about the value of good dialogue in a novel. Here she comes on her famous camel. Welcome, author Darlene Jones.
Dialogue is an integral part of any novel. The verbal exchanges between characters add zip and spice to the story.
Good dialogue sounds natural. Characters don’t repeat each other’s words. They don’t speak in full grammatically correct sentences. When writing dialogue, the author must always ask him or herself what the person would really say.
The author must also consider dialogue tags. The general rule is to only use “said” or “asked.” And, if possible, avoid a dialogue tag by using an action of the character to let the reader know who is speaking. For example: “No, please, don’t go,” Yves said. Or “No, please, don’t go.” Yves reached out to stop her. The second version clearly identifies the speaker and creates a better picture because of his action.
Generally action precedes speech. He smiled, but the mirth did not reach his eyes. “It’s my job.” is more natural than, “It’s my job.” He smiled, but the mirth did not reach his eyes.
There are also times when dialogue can go back and forth for a bit without tags.
Used skilfully, dialogue is a tool that can provide tension and emotion, something every good novel needs. Here is a sample from my novel EMBROILED.
“I’m driving home from the conference when the slough catches my eye. I’m mesmerized by the damn thing. I feel an insane urge to walk on the thin fall ice, to explore the fishing holes, to lie spread-eagled to distribute my weight. I know full well I’ll break through and drown, but I’ll be warm and taken care of. What I find down there will make it worthwhile.” Emily felt her chest tighten. Each time she came to David’s office, each time she spoke of her greatest fears, she felt the strings to sanity loosening. Am I crazy, Doc?
Emily sighed. “I was such a fool back then, Doc.” High school life was filled with great gobs of loneliness. No amount of wishing took that away.
“Yeah, Doc, I’ve dated some since then. If going out even though I don’t really like the guy counts as dating.”
“Why do you go then?” David asked.
Emily shrugged. “Why not? At least it gets me out.”
“Do you enjoy those evenings?”
“Do any of the dates lead to sex?”
“Why not?” David paused. “Emily, you’re a normal healthy human. You must have a sex drive. Why not fulfill it?”
“Just because everyone else does?” Emily shook her head. “Not my style.” She waited for David to ask her if she was a virgin.
David tapped his empty pipe in the empty ashtray. Pins and needles prickled at Emily as she waited for his response. She was scared of what he might say and yet she desperately wanted to hear his words.
“Waiting for Mr. Right?”
“Something like that.”
“I don’t think that’s it.” David hesitated. “What are you afraid of, Emily? What is holding you back from loving and being loved?”
Emily sucked in air. “Whatever is under that ice.” Her voice was barely a whisper. “That’s what.” An ache deep inside almost made her cry.