Dazzling Dialogue—Part III

One thing that readers can’t abide is slow-moving, wordy, dull dialogue that doesn’t seem to go anywhere or do anything. We’re looking at creating sparkling, dazzling dialogue that keeps readers interested. When writing dialogue, don’t use the character’s name in every line. Don’t overuse. We’re tempted to do that to keep straight who is speaking. But that’s lazy writing. Click to Tweet #dazzlingdialogue #amwriting

It’s not natural to use names in everything we say. When we talk to others, we don’t say Mike this, or Sally that in everything.

Here’s what that looks like, and you’ll see how strange that looks.

“Hey there, Sally. How are ya today?”

“I’m fine, Mike. And, how are you?”

“Just great, Sally. Did you hear about the snow forecast?”

“Yes, Mike. We’re supposed to get five inches.”

“Sally, will you stay inside, or go out in it?”

“I’ll stay inside, Mike. It’s better for me. I don’t like getting out.”

Do you see how ridiculous that looks? There’s got to be a better way. To use the characters’ names in the first two lines would be acceptable, but the rest of them would have to be removed.

Here’s a better way.

“Hi Sally. How are you?”

“Just fine, Mike. How are you?”

“I’m great. Did you hear about the snow?” He rubbed his hands together.

She hugged herself. “Yeah, the weatherman said we’re supposed to get five inches.”

“Will you stay inside or go in it?”

“I’m staying inside. I don’t like getting out. It’s better for me.”

What I did was to add “beats” to the dialogue to assure readers know who is speaking. I’m guilty at times of overusing a character name in my scenes, so when I’m self-editing my WIP (work in progress), I make sure to take out a lot of the extras.

There is one exception. If you’re trying to establish a new nickname, or to provoke a response (good or bad) out of another character, the character could overuse the name. But have that character know what they’re doing, and it’s purposeful.

Example: In my WIP, Rose Rhodes is trying to keep Jake Thomas enamored, by overusing a nickname she gave him months ago. A nickname he loves. Here’s a few lines. It’s Rose’s POV.

“Aw, Jakey, can’t ya tell me where we are?”

“I love it when you call me that. No one else can.”

Good. She was on the right track. Maybe she could lull him into talking, into a half-sleep where he’d divulge all to her. Just like Samson revealed everything to Delilah. She knew he loved her nickname for him.

“Let’s go sit on the bed, Jakey.”

They moved to the bed and he pulled her down beside him. “Rosie…”

“Jakey, Jakey, Jakey…”

Normally, she would have only used the name once. When we speak, we don’t use the other’s person’s name near all the time. That’s the effect you want in your dialogue. It should sound like real speech, but is in fact, stylized to be concise and efficient. Click to Tweet #dazzlingdialogue #amwriting What about you? If you’re a writer, have you seen this in your own work? Leave a comment and let me know.

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