Writing Advice I Really Shouldn't Give: Diabolical Dialogue

Friday, November 13, 2009

Question from reader: I'm doing the NaNoWriMo thing and at the moment, my story has WAYYYYYY too much dialogue. Does that matter? Is it bad? idk.

It doesn't matter. Not at all.

With the quantity-over-quality nature of NaNowriMo it doesn't even matter if you novel is wholly dialogue at this point (though I wouldn't advise it). Later on (perhaps in January), you'll revise tonnes, I'm sure. For now, whatever writing you do it great! Get it done! Finish that thing! Then trek back and rewrite like crazy (don't think about the rewriting right now. It'll just make you feel depressed).

Here are some tips for when you do get to that revising bit. If you're doing NaNoWriMo, bookmark this for later and go write some more.

When I'm revising my novel, and there seems to be an awful lot of dialogue (I'm a bit of a dialogue fiend) I ask myself these questions:
  • Does this conversation add to the plot?
  • Does this conversation add to the character development?
  • If I took this dialogue out, would the rest of the novel remain unchanged?
  • Am I just trying to work in a funny anecdote and this has no other point? (Note that it's okay to have a couple of these. I tend to put one in on every second page).
  • Why are these characters speaking to each other? What does this achieve in terms of the novel?
  • How can I change this conversation so that it does add something to the plot/character development?
  • Would this character realistically say this, or am I just using this as an opportunity to slip in some of my own beliefs?
  • Would real teenagers have this conversation?

Of course, a few of those questions are asking the same thing, but I find the rewording makes me look at it in different ways.
Personally, I love heaps of dialogue in books, as long as the dialogue a) furthers the plot, or b) adds to the character development. It has to be realistic-sounding, and it's even better if it's entertaining (that's the point of reading a book, right? Entertainment?).

However, as I mentioned earlier, if you're in the midst of NaNoWriMo - which I kind of, sort of am, though finishing up school for the year and my other responsibilities have taken precendence - don't worry about this stuff. This is for when you're revising. A long and painful process, but a rewarding one (okay, it's not that long or painful for me. I have more trouble with first drafts - well, lately I have).

Obviously, I'm not the best person to give advice about dialogue, since every conversation that occurs in my writing sounds like I'm copying Pulp Fiction.
Do you have any advice about dialogue?

And if you have any questions, comment below if you want them answered publicly, or email me and you can ask me that way. Any suggestions for writing-advice type posts is much appreciated!
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