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Like Kate, I love writing dialogue. In fact, I’m probably so in love with it that description, internal dialogue, and everything else in the story gets neglected. A good story is all about balance, so I have to constantly tell myself to stop writing so much dialogue.
“Writing lengthy dialogue is so 2007,” I say out loud, while banging my head on the keyboard hoping to release words of description instead. “Move on.”
It’s just hard.
Dialogue is how stories come to me and how I hear scenes. Probably due to the fact I watch more TV than the average person and rack up points on my Frequent Movie Go-er Card quicker than new movies hit the screens.
I don’t hear characters shouting elegant descriptions to me. They want to yell at their brothers and sisters, talk quietly to their friends about the boy sitting next to them at the lunch table, and then attempt to form coherent sentences to said boy when he walks by and says “what up.”
Because of my love of overusing dialogue, I have to delete and rephrase a lot. Here’s how I determine whether to delete or rephrase.
Delete Dialogue: just like it's time to probably donate that old sweater you wore in 8th grade that's taking up valuable closest space, dialogue needs to be removed if it's: taking away space of more important aspects of the story, doesn't add to the plot, is too lengthy or boring, or basically has no purpose (if it doesn’t reveal character or move the story forward, it doesn’t need to be there--end of story).
Rephrase Dialogue: if you are creative enough, you might be able to salvage that sweater and turn it into a purse, pillow, or blanket. With dialogue, you can rephrase if: the wording doesn’t fit the character, it sounds too stiff (you can test by reading it out loud, but it must sound like someone talking), or if there’s too many “uh” or “ums” (you want it to sound like speech, but not a transcript of an actual conversation).
I also like to rephrase dialogue when I need to add setting. I’ve always found adding setting to dialogue helps add depth to the scene and grounds the characters into the setting, but don’t overuse because then it sounds like info dumps to the reader—so keep it natural sounding!
But sometimes a bad sweater is just a bad sweater and can't be saved. It's important to figure out when something still isn't working. You don't want to go around wearing a purse-sweater for no reason.
--Emily, Miss Querylicious