Writerly Reads: How to Write Dazzling Dialogue: The Fastest Way to Improve Any Manuscript by James Scott Bell – Part 2

dazzling dialogueYesterday I posted notes from Chapters 1 – 6 of “How to Write Dazzling Dialogue” by James Scott Bell. Here, today, is Chapter 7.

Chapter 7 Top 10 Dialogue Issues
This chapter is meant to be used as a reference, not read word for word, though it contains much useful information.

Issue #1 Punctuation
– This is just what it sounds like – the rules for punctuation and other conventions of written dialogue and spoken word
= punctuation goes inside quotes
= there is always punctuation –> comma, period, question mark, exclamation
point, em-dash, ellipsis
= no semi-colons, ever, in dialogue. (I laughed when I read this. I learned semi-colons in grade school and have been using them ever since – and now I learn that they are a big no-no in fiction.)

Issue #2 Attributions, Adverbs, Action Tags
– ‘said’ should be your default
– use alternatives sparingly and only when necessary
– kill most adverbs
– use action beats for variety
– do not use action every time, it is distracting and too much labor on the reader,
dialogue is already action

Issue #3 Dialects
– use sparingly, for strategic purpose, dialect is not commonly used these days
– most often used in historic fiction
– if you must, use in the first spoken line, then only sparingly to remind readers of
the voice

Issue #4 Backstory
– break up a speech with paragraphs and reaction beats

Issue #5 Inner Dialogue
– Inner Monologue is the character speaking within himself, lets the reader in on
what the character is thinking
– Inner Dialogue is the character speaking to himself
– it is sometimes a good idea to take narrative and turn it into inner dialogue

Issue #6 Experimental
– more difficult for readers
– these works have their own conventions for dialogue – dashes, no indication, etc.

Issue #7 Cursing
– too much harsh language can effect sales
– fiction is stylized realism, not actual realism
– make the context so clear that whatever is said conveys the tone and substance
you’re after
– use actions instead of words
– go ahead and write including curses the first time through, reread it later and decide what you can cut
(In the lgbt romances and erotica I read, there is typically much graphic language, so I would have to say that the advice to cut George Carlin’s list of seven words  depends on the genre and audience. In my everyday life, I rarely use these words, so adding them to my writing doesn’t always come naturally, although I find them nicely spicy in my reading.)

Issue #8 Thematic Dialogue
– to illustrate this issue, Bell offers an exercise as follows
1. State the theme
– “In a separate document, have a key character state the theme in a page-long speech. Have the character argue it, justify it, as if presenting it to the public.” (122/135)
2. Put the counterargument in the mouth of another character
3. Now, turn this into a real argument between the two characters
– “By putting the theme into a tense conversation,  it can come out naturally and without preaching.” (123/135)
-“A very cool way to present your theme is this: have the character who is going to change at the end state the opposite of the theme in the beginning.” (127/135)

Issue #9 Comic Relief
– “Any novel or screenplay can benefit from moments of comic relief.” (131/135)
– can result in quirky characters and memorable moments

Issue #10 Period Dialogue
– avoid modern words and phrases, the word “cool” has no business at King Arthur’s round table
– be as neutral as possible
– for upper class characters, avoid contractions
– for lower class characters, make up your own contractions
– do some research to pick up cadences

Here, once again, is Chapter 8 – giving credit to the author, for whose instruction I am most grateful.

Chapter 8 Author’s Note
If you appreciated this book, leave a rating on Amazon for the author.
Visit the author’s web site:  http://www.jamesscottbell.com – where you’ll find more writing advice, books, Scrivener instruction and more
Bell also has an active blog:  http://killzoneblog.com/

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For the most part, this blog is about reading and writing m/m romances, but there are a few personal reflections, some writerly information, and a bit of writing practice. Thank you for stopping by.

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Posted in book talk, Writerly Reads

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