Realistic dialogue

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I’ve been busy writing recently and it reminded me of some of the key things we need to consider as essentials. I’ll cover more of these in some subsequent posts, but today I want to begin with realistic dialogue. Quite simply, every time you write a piece of dialogue read it out loud and see what it sounds like. Does it sound like people actually speak? Does it reflect your character? Does it help your reader form a mental video in their head? For example, one of the biggest problems I see when editing is that the author forgets that we when we speak we use a lot of abbreviations. We don’t say, “They are not going…” we say “They’re not going…” or “They aren’t going…”

Here’s a sample piece of dialogue showing the changes and subsequent reduction in words to make it ‘tighter’. Please also note here that you should never use dialogue to provide backstory. In the sample his wife wouldn’t need to be told she’s a stay at home mom and that their daughter is 10.

ORIGINAL –85 words
“Honey, you knew when we got married that I would be gone for a lot of the time. I am sorry that this puts a lot of pressure on you, but the kind of work I do is unique, it’s not like I can walk into anywhere around here and get them to hire me. Besides, we have a good life and you know you have managed to be a stay a home mom since Julia was born, and she is almost 10 right now.”

EDIT – 67 words
“Honey, you knew when we got married I’d be gone a lot. I know it puts a lot of pressure on you and I’m sorry, but the kind of work I do is unique. It’s not like I can walk into anywhere around here and get them to hire me. We have a good life and you’ve been at home like you wanted since Julia was born.”

Go on and take a look at your dialogue and see if you can make it more realistic. If you find something then please post your ‘before and after’ as a comment to help others.

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