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Dialogue. Where would novels be without it? Not in my TBR pile, that's for sure. I LOVE dialogue. Live for it in books. In fact, when I'm reading something really good, I'll skim the fat paras of non-dialogue until I spot those beautiful quotation marks, and then I'll dive back into the story. I can't help it. I feel the biggest connection with characters through their dialogue and interactions with others.
Knowing how important dialogue is to my reading, I think about it a lot when writing. My personal struggle is having two characters who start to sound exactly like each other. To correct that, I'll give one character a slang term or phrase to use to help distinguish her. Does it work? Um, not always, but I'm trying!
To make my dialogue sound realistic and interesting, I imagine that the conversing parties are in the room with me and I'm eavesdropping. What parts would jump out at me and grab my attention? Those are the parts I want for my book, with the same tone and inflection that I hear in my head.
Something I've learned to look out for is not overusing characters' names in dialogue:
"Deena, stop rambling," Kate said.
"Kate, I'm not rambling," Deena replied.
"Deena, yes you are."
"No, Kate, I'm not."
As you can see, not very realistic. Dialogue should not be used as a shortcut for telling the reader who is in the room or who is speaking to whom.
To see if my dialogue is working, I'll often read it back to myself out loud. You know how sometimes you see a local commercial or cheesy made-for-tv movie and the acting is so bad you're cringing and genuinely embarassed for the actors reading the lines? That's what I DON'T want my dialogue to sound like when I read it back to myself.
That's all I've got for today. Go forth and write dialogue!
Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing