Good dialogue does a number of things. This week's exercise emphasizes differentiating the dialogue between two characters. The idea is that someone should be able to know exactly who is saying what. This can be done through attributions, however, more importantly and naturally it can be accomplished with the following techniques as well.
- Accents and or phrasing. Accents can be a way to make a character sound different from other characters and this works well if you have characters from different places. However, it can be difficult to do well and may annoy some readers. However, the more subtle forms of this can be fairly useful. Especially if approached from a dialogue perspective. For example, in different parts of the US people refer to carbonated beverages as pop vs. soda. However, it can go much further whereas we always use language the same, some individuals may say "hi" and other's "how's it going" where they are actually just greeting you and not asking you how it's going.
- Speaking patterns. Some people are more formal in the way they speak than others and might tend to speak in long sentences vs. someone else taking in shorter sentences. One might be more liable to string ideas together in a certain way. I as a reader won't consciously notice this difference, but subconsciously I may. Similarly, word choice in English allows one to have one person use more latin-root words vs. germanic-root words (Michael Stackpole used this approach in "Once a Hero").
- Vocabulary. A character who is a mechanic and knows about cars isn't going to say that rubber pipe that attaches to the engine, but will know the correct word to describe that. Additionally, they may have a tendency to focus on a certain set of words that can be used within the writing and vocabulary of their dialogue that will fit well for them.
- During editing remove the attributions, shuffle the lines and see if you can pick out which lines are said by which characters. Where it isn't clear, revise until it becomes clear.
The Challenge: write a scene of 1000 words or less where the dialogue uses one or more techniques discussed above to differentiate the speakers. The theme for this week is: sand.
This week's Writer's Weights participants: