Thursday, April 11, 2013

Inklings: Dialogue, Bringing Characters to Life

Things were a little busy earlier in the week, so I decided to postpone my Inklings post to today. Thanks for being understanding! In an earlier Inklings post, I talked about characters and where they come from. Once you've identified your characters and what makes them tick, you need to be able to get that across to your reader.

How do you do this? Well, you could just tell them, like this:

Butch was a bully. He and his gang loved to take little kids' lunch money.

That's okay. It does the job, but isn't very entertaining or interesting. Now, let's take that same situation and try some dialogue instead of description:

"Hey shrimp," Butch bellowed at the small boy quaking before him, "Me and the boys here are kinda hungry, but we ain't got no money. I was thinkin' maybe we could make a trade."

"Uh, what kind of a trade?" the trembling boy asked.

"Give me your money and we'll let ya keep your teeth," Butch replied, grabbing the front of the boy's shirt with both hands and lifting him off his feet.

You've got a more vivid picture of Butch now. He's mean, tough, strong and maybe not overly bright. What he says, how he says it, the actions that accompany his words, and how the other boy reacts to what he says make Butch really come alive for the reader.

Another great thing about dialogue is that it can really move your story forward. When I'm writing a
What are these people saying?
great  bit of dialogue between two or more characters, it can seem like I'm listening to their conversation happening right in front of me and I'm like a court recorder, taking it all down. This is where those magical moments sometimes occur where the characters take on a mind of their own, saying and doing things that I hadn't anticipated.

That can be a really great thing. But be careful. if things start moving too quickly your story can get off track. You still need to be in control, guiding your characters. Still, dialogue can open new possibilities that you had not imagined.

Dialogue has to be realistic. During your day, pay attention to what people are saying and how they're saying it. Write down bits and pieces of dialogue that strike you throughout the day in your journal. Soon you'll have some good dialogue to use to spark something a character might say. Good luck!

What are some of your favorite characters? How do the things they say make them unique?

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