Tag Archives: creative writing workshops

“HELP!!!!” she screamed loudly. Do’s and Don’t’s for Writing Good Dialogue

screaming apron

Dialogue is the most immediate mode of expression in writing prose. Used correctly it brings your writing to life, be it fiction, memoir, creative non-fiction or even personal essays. It’s importance in screenplays is vital. Done well, dialogue can move the plot forward, build multi-dimensional characters and add layers of complexity you didn’t even know were there.

However, it can be notoriously tricky, and some new writers find it so difficult to manage that they avoid it completely to the detriment of their writing. So here are some of my best tips for writing effective dialogue.

DOKeep it short and sweet – or not so sweet. While there is sometimes a place for a poetic monologue the best advice I’ve ever been given is LESS IS ALWAYS MORE. Cut the beginnings and endings of your dialogue sentences. Cut excess sentences altogether. How can you say it with less? How can you almost say it, so the reader has to fill in the blanks themselves?

DON’TUse dialogue to explain or describe what went on in a previous scene. If a reader has read that scene, they’ll get it. If the dialogue isn’t adding a radical new viewpoint, or revealing information we didn’t already know, then never ever look back!

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DOMake sure the reader knows which character is speaking. The easiest way to do this is with proper punctuation and speech tags.

Each first line from each speaker is indented and the dialogue itself is enclosed in quotation marks. For example:
1.         “How do I punctuate dialogue?” Julie asked.
2.        “That’s simple,” said Edwina. “Find a good book that uses classical punctuation and follow their lead. The main rule is to put your punctuation marks inside the quote marks and to indent the first line but not the others.”

You don’t need to use classical punctuation, but it makes dialogue much easier to read. Some modern authors eschew it and use italics or other forms of punctuation, but I often then find it hard to tell who’s speaking and get frustrated. Suit yourself, just make sure it is clear who is speaking.

DON’TGo all fancy pants with your speech tags. “Said” is almost always best. It becomes invisible to the reader. Words like murmured, stammered, shouted, protested, and argued have their place, occasionally, but are best avoided. “Lied” is an exception. Keep it simple superstar!

DOGround your reader. This is good to keep in mind throughout your whole story, but especially in long stretches of dialogue when your characters can become talking heads floating in space. Even if they are floating in space, most especially then perhaps, slide in a few words describing setting or actions, that place the conversation in a context.

head floating

DON’TPut everything in. If your characters are out for dinner, for example, we don’t have to read their whole conversation about what they’ll order, and their interactions with the wait staff, unless this contributes to character development or plot somehow. If it’s boring in real life, it’s extra boring on the page. Writer friends of mine have learnt this the hard way by transcribing recorded conversations. Your job as a writer is to trim out the boring bits and leave us with the juicy titbits!

DODifferentiate the speech patterns or habits of each character. After a while your readers should be able to tell each character apart from the way they speak. If your characters are all from similar cultural backgrounds this can be trickier, but if you listen in on conversations around you (put in your earphones, but don’t have your music on, and eavesdrop to get an idea of how people differ) you’ll see how we all have our own individual tics.

eavesdropping

DON’T Use capitals to indicate shouting, that’s what an exclamation mark is for.

DOUse character actions beside their dialogue to not only indicate who is speaking but to add to the tone or develop an undercurrent of meaning. For example:
1.          “What time is it?” Joan lifted her head from the pillow.
And      “What time is it?” Joan threw the saucepan full of cold soup at Brian’s head.

DON’TUse adverbs unless absolutely necessary. If you’ve done everything else right you just don’t need them.

woman waking up

Here are the links to a couple of stories that use dialogue exceptionally well for you to get an idea of just how effective it can be.

Denis Johnson, “Steady Hands at Seattle General” – it doesn’t use classical punctuation, but it’s genius at creating an entire story almost solely in speech.

“Reunion” by John Cheever. It hasn’t indented the first line of each speaker but again, the dialogue demonstrates character in a way nothing else can.

Try writing your own story almost all in dialogue. Make it a hospital story like Denis Johnson’s or a reunion like Cheever’s.

Let me know how you go.

If you’d like more hints and tips on writing see my post here

or CONTACT  me HERE to get regular (but not too regular!) writing advice and news.

And if you’d enjoy a whole weekend full of learning about writing then come along to my next retreat, More information HERE.

I’d love to have you along.

Lots of love,
Edwina xx

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RELAX AND WRITE IN THE MOUNTAINS!

Dateless LOGO NO KOINONIA

PLEASE NOTE – THIS RETREAT HAS BEEN POSTPONED UNTIL Friday 26 – Sunday 28 APRIL 2019!

RELAX AND WRITE YOUR WAY TO WELLNESS!

I’m excited to announce the next Relax and Write Retreat – this time in the mountains west of Brisbane – from Friday 5th October to Sunday 7th October 2018.

I’m holding a special retreat in a beautiful mountain-top location, for women to relax with gentle yoga and meditation, and get writing with inspiring creative workshops.

The lovely people at Koojarewon Retreat, in Highfields – 12 kms north of Toowoomba, are turning the entire place over to us, and they’re providing all the meals, so it should be truly relaxing, even if the accommodation is pretty basic.

 

It’s dorm style but we have plenty of room to spread out through the dorms to claim a patch for privacy. And, best of all, the bathrooms are inside, so there’s no traipsing out to facilities in the middle of the night. Keeping the accommodation “rustic” is how I’m able to keep retreat prices affordable.

 

It’s important to me that these opportunities are available to all women. I know how difficult it can be to spend money on yourself, especially for something as seemingly frivolous as a retreat.

But what is it they say on airplanes? Make sure you give yourself oxygen first, then take care of the person next to you. And that’s what retreats like this provide, a bit of oxygen, breathing room, nurturing for the nurturers, so we are refreshed and renewed and ready to take care of everybody and everything once again. Writers and creative artists in particular need to ensure that their own tanks are full enough to keep the flow of creativity coming.

air hostess

Each day begins with a gentle yoga class, followed by creative writing workshops suitable for beginners through to more experienced writers wanting to renew passion for their projects. Healthy vegetarian meals are provided so all you have to do is let go of all the busy-ness of every day life and surrender to the peace of the mountains, stretching, breathing and writing your way to wellness.

Air hostesses with food

Come away from your weekend feeling refreshed and renewed, with a suitcase full of story ideas and hints and tips for improving your writing. See reviews from previous retreats here: https://relaxandwriteretreats.blog/about/reviews/

COST includes
• two nights basic accommodation
• all meals, morning and afternoon teas and supper
• two yoga classes
• three, two-hour creative writing workshops
• introductory relaxation and writing session

$360 per person for the entire retreat

You can get more information and book by contacting me at kublershaw@optusnet.com.au 

RW3 group shot goodie

This retreat promises to be extra special and I’m very much looking forward to meeting a whole new group of amazing women and listening to their stories.

Be like Heidi and come and join me in the mountains to find your legs again.

Heidi

Lots of love

Edwina xx

 

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