Thursday, May 30, 2013

#4 Critique Partner Series - Dialogue Quirks

I am in no way a professional.  I don't have a fancy education to back up writing (that is reserved for mathematics), but I do know what I like to read and I do know when I read something that doesn't quite jive for me.  So WELCOME to my CRITIQUE PARTNER SERIES!  It is minus the partner, because I don't actually know any of the writers whose work I am reading, but here I will offer my advice.  Much of my advice you can find everywhere else on the internet.  None of it is professional.  All of it is...I can't think of anything to finish this sentence with.  I liked the whole "Much of it, none of it, all of it" thing I had going on at the start of each sentence, but I'm far too lazy to spend time thinking how to end that sentence, especially when this is only a blog developed for my personal enjoyment.  Onwards and upwards!

#4 Critique Partner Series - Dialogue Quirks

Today's advice is short, but it's something I've seen in every manuscript I've reviewed so far.

Brianna laughed, "That's so funny."  She took a bite of the cake and moved it around in her mouth, chewing.

Kevin shrugged, "I don't know why you think so."

She sighed, "Oh, you're no fun."

"That's not true," he rolled his eyes.

Comment 1: That was painful.

Comment 2:  In each one of these paragraphs, the first comma should be replaced with a period.  Think about it this way:  When you laugh, shrug, sigh, and roll your eyes, are you actually saying words?  I know! I know! I really want Brianna's words to come out as a laugh too, but it doesn't work that way.  It's even more absurd to picture Kevin's words shrugging.  Go ahead. Try it.

Comment 3:  There are only two people talking.  We don't need all the "he said" and "she said" tags.  
a.)  It slows down the dialogue. Sometimes you want to slow things down, but make sure you don't have so many "he saids" that it bogs the dialogue down.
b.)  And honestly, our readers are smart; they can figure out which person is saying what thing.  Now, if it gets to a point where the reader has to go back to the top of the dialogue and count the lines to determine who is speaking, that's when you need to put in a tag.

Comment 4:  If it's not important that Brianna took a bite of cake, don't write it.  Yes, I know you want your readers to see everything the same way you see it, but they don't need to. There be beauty in simplicity.

Comment 5:  All that shrugging and eye rolling makes your characters appear twitchy.  Yes, go ahead and show your characters shrugging and rolling their eyes, but do so with intent.  If your dialogue makes nonchalance clear, without the shrug, don't write the shrug.

My Question for You:
What are some "quirks" you witness in dialogue?