Getting Inside the Romantic Hero’s Head—Part III

Have you ever wondered what the opposite sex is thinking while you’re thinking? Men, as a rule, think in fewer words, phrases, emotions, than women generally do. The key to dialogue in romance writing is to keep it natural and consistent. Click to Tweet #InsideHerosHead #donnalhsmith #writingromance101

The “modern” way of writing is now to keep dialogue tags, or speaker attributions, to a minimum. Tags are things like, “he said,” “she said,” “he exclaimed,’ “she cried.” But with the advent of deep POV, where we really are inside a character’s head, the character won’t be “thinking” that way.

So comes the beat. Think like a movie director. Dialogue in a movie (or a play) has only what the character says. The “beat” then, is describing what the character is “doing” just before or after they say their line, so to speak. Let’s look at the opening dialogue between Judah and Tovah — just after the service is over. We’ll put it in Judah’s POV.

The lady rabbi greeted everyone as if she were at a wedding reception and she was the bride. Judah wiped his hand on his pants. The last thing he wanted for his sweaty palm to touch the rabbi’s in a welcoming handshake. Almost immediately, Judah’s palm moistened again. Was he nervous? There seemed to be something pass between them when he handed her the papers that had flown from her podium.

Uh oh. He was next in line. His heart began to beat faster. For the life of him, though, he didn’t know why.

“Hello. Welcome to synagogue today.” Her voice was just as natural as it had been while speaking the message.

He swallowed. “Shabbat Shalom.”

“Shabbat Shalom.” The lines around her mouth crinkled as she smiled. A sweet little smile that seemed to light up his heart. Where’d that thought come from?

“I—I wanted to thank you for picking up my papers today. I—I can’t imagine what happened.” Her lip quivered a bit.

“You’re welcome. Anyone else would have done the same.” Was she as nervous to meet him as he was meeting her? How could that be? She’s a rabbi. He’d never known a lady rabbi before. He’d grown up conservative in Israel. But he knew things were changing little-by-little.

I bolded the “beats.” Instead of saying he said, she said, or she said, he replied, you “show” (remember show v. tell? Always show, don’t tell), what they’re thinking or doing. Like a camera close-up in a movie.

Dialogue in a romance, especially from the male point of view, should give clues as to what the romantic hero is thinking. Click to Tweet #InsideHerosHead #donnalhsmith #writingromance101

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