Why We Don’t Use Real Life Dialogue in Our Books

This is from when Em was super young and I wrote it all out and saved it because that’s what I do.

There is a Halloween Sleep Over at my house. There are six 14-year-olds. They are making cheesy ghosts with olive faces. This is the dialogue. It is verbatim. 

This is the reason why we don’t have perfectly accurate dialogue in our stories.

DIRECT CONVERSATION BEGINS NOW

Didn’t H — make show choir?

She didn’t make it. She tried it again in the spring and she emailed Mrs. Wright and asked her what to work on but she used all these big words so then X —  didn’t try out because she was mad.

Oh no … Big words

She told her she needed to work on her voice and stuff.

No offense, but she does

Abby keeps singing.

Guys do not be mean.

I don’t want to be mean.

Did you hear her solo?

It was good, but she got mad after awhile.

She got sick of it after awhile because Ben told her to do something on her solo.

Is Ben the guy who runs the band thing with the saxophones.

No, he does the drama.

I’m so mad.

Can we do it?

Guys we would be amazing.

I would do the choreography. I’m so tough.

The three of us. No, the four of us.

What about me. You guys hate me!

No… You don’t do musical stuff.

No! All of us can do it.

Oh! I’m so foolish…

I don’t know how to shape the ghost.

You have a hard butt.

Look! It has a belly button.

I got bored, so I put more olives on it.

All of my cheese fell-off.

Abby keeps singing.

Abby will you shut up!

Mallory joins Abby in singing.

Oh my God, you guys. Emily’s ghost looks like a Pac-Man.

It is a Pac-Man.

Oh.

I decided to announce my geekiness to the world via a Pac-Man cheesy ghost.

Why This DIALOGUE WOULDn’t Work In A Story

It’s pretty simple.

  1. It’s all talking heads. We don’t know who is talking or responding until the end.
  2. It’s a lot of filler. Would the real point be Emily announcing her geekiness to the world of her friends or would it be someone being excluded and then included or would it be about X not making show choir?
  3. Dialogue needs to keep up the pace, move the story forward and reveal something about the characters.

Don’t get me wrong. We can tweak this dialogue and make it work. We can add in some tags, physical reactions and actions, setting, backstory and it could be pretty snazzy. But right now? Right now, it’s a bit of a talking-heads mess.

More Posts About Dialogue Are Here

Camper Wisdom and Dialogue Hints.

Mushy Dialogue Sucks

Talk to Me Baby! Dialogue Help

WRITING NEWS

THE NETHERLANDS IS AWESOME

Steve Wedel and I wrote a super creepy book a few years back called After Obsession and it’s making a big freaking splash in the amazing Netherlands thanks to Dutch Venture Publishing and its leader Jen Minkman. 

Check out this spread in a Dutch magazine. I met a whole bunch of Dutch readers last Friday and let me tell you? They are the best. 

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp! 

It’s with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed! 

You can order this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

In the Woods
In the Woods


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Check it out here. 

WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 


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Camper Wisdom and Dialogue Hints

So, I’m back in the camper for the summer because we rent out our hosts to tourists every year. Well, it’s the second year, that almost makes it every year, right?

To put this in perspective, we have two dogs, one obese cat, two humans (occasionally three) in this tiny camper from the 1980s. We painted it white so it wasn’t as depressing, but let me tell you, painting things white doesn’t make anything actually bigger.

Anyways, I was trying to quickly make a camper video about dialogue and I failed completely. Here it is below. Don’t judge too harshly.

If you don’t want to die from secondhand embarrassment let me sum it up for you. The takeaway from this video is meant to be people react to different things in different ways. People speak in different ways. Show this in your dialogue. Think of how your mom talks, your bestie, your avo, the lady at the bar, your rabbi. Not everyone talks the same. Think of how they all react to one simple situation like a rat popping out of the garbage bin in the kitchen. It wouldn’t all be the same, right? Respect and embrace that difference and show it in your story.


WRITING NEWS

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed! 

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

In the Woods
In the Woods


ART NEWS

You can buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site.

Carrie Jones Art for Sale

Patreon of Awesome

You can get exclusive content, early podcasts, videos, art and listen (or read) never-to-be-officially published writings of Carrie on her Patreon. Levels go from $1 to $100 (That one includes writing coaching and editing for you wealthy peeps).

Check it out here.

WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

Mushy Dialogue Sucks

There. I said it.

Mushy dialogue sucks. It’s nothing space in your story and sometimes it’s nothing space in your life. You know what I’m talking about, right? You meet some cool human at a coffee house and talk to them and it goes like this:

“Hey.”

“Hey.”

“How’s it shaking?”

“It’s shaking well, thank you.”

“Yeah. Weather is nice, right?”

“It’s quite sunny.”

“Cool.”

“Yes, it’s lovely.”

Random bad dialogue that I just made up

One of my writers in the Writing Barn class that I’m teaching for the next six months, directed me to a blog post about the Five Biggest Writing Mistakes and How to Fix Them and one of those mistakes according to James Scott Bell is marshmallow dialogue.

Bell believes that dialogue is one of the best ways to make a story better or make it absolute trash. He advocates fast-paced dialogue full of tension. Blah dialogue he says is ‘puffy,’ and ‘overly sweet,’ and everyone sounds the same no matter who is speaking.

Bell kindly gives hints about how to make characters sound different from one another.

Those include:

  • Making documents written solely in one character’s voice.
  • Keep working on it until every character sounds different and you can distinguish them at a glance (I added that)
  • Make sure there is tension going on. What do people want? Why are they talking? Do they want the same thing?
  • Make your dialogue simpler. Get rid of extra words. You can cut and copy dialogue into another document and then hack away at it.

He uses the following example of compressed dialogue.

“Mary, are you angry with me?” John asked.

“You’re damn straight I’m mad at you,” Mary said.

“But why? You’ve got absolutely no reason to be!”

“Oh but I do, I do. And you can see it in my face, can’t you?”

The alternative:

“You angry with me?” John asked.

“Damn straight,” Mary said.

“You got no reason to be!”

Mary felt her hands curling into fists.

Bell’s example

I’m annoying and I send my apologies to Mr. Bell, but that example is wonderful at compressing dialogue, but those people? They still sound the same to me. In the first example, they both sound like middle class people who are having a hard time expressing their feelings. In the second example, they sound like people who are expressing their feelings in exactly the same way and are probably are still the same social/economic/education background.

Look at what happens if you keep one character’s original lines and one character’s new lines.

“Mary, are you angry with me?” John asked.
“Damn straight,” Mary said.
“But why? You’ve got absolutely no reason to be!”
Mary’s hands curled into fists.

Or….

“You angry with me?” John asked.

“You’re damn straight I’m mad at you,” Mary said.

“But why? You have absolutely no reason to be?”


Mary’s hands curled into fists.

Revision

I’d argue that’s even better. For more about how language and dialogue changes with the speakers, check out our Dogs are Smarter than People podcast from last year. And good luck with your dialogue!

Links that go with the podcast (the important words are here and here.




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Bar Harbor Painting Schooner
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