Why do people say the things they say? Do they mean what they say? What do they not say? Do they say funny things, or do they say things funny? So much tied up in dialog.
Chilly morning–a time when writers need help. So, today, dialog.
     Dialog will be part of the famous “Top Ten Mistakes Fiction Writers Make: And How to Fix Them” workshop in January. (Details at http://www.writerswelcome.com/) If you’re within driving distance the Oregon coast, please consider attending.
      The workshop is based on the premise that writers all tend to make the same kind of mistakes. The top ten are gathered in this writing workshop. I’ve talked about some of them here. Now . . .

       “Let’s talk about dialog,” he said.

       If you’re a working writer, I assume you have a pretty good grasp of the mechanics; commas and quotes, attributions, all that jazz. I assume you know to use ‘said’ most of the time, and avoid stuff like: “I am so please to meet you,” he ejaculated.

        Read through some of your dialog and look for ‘social cushioning’ because, as you may know, if you don’t mind me saying so, this kind of thing just slows down the dialog. So, well, you know, let’s just like, you know, get rid of that stuff, as long as it’s ok with you, because, ok, so you can kind of see what, as I said, this kind of thing is . . . WHAP.
     That’s the sound of me going upside my own head.
      Yeah, right you are. So how’s your day going? Isn’t it nice that we–” WHAP
     We’ve all known people who talk like that, but we don’t want them populating our books. That’s driveling and makes you eligible to be the Honorary Governor of Alaska.     
     Good Rule: cut social pleasantries unless they show character or somehow advance the plot, which they seldom do.
      Ask yourself the questions that lead off this post: Why is she saying this? What does he really mean? Dialog is the place people reveal themselves, both by what they say and what they don’t say.
      Best Rule: Dump “housekeeping” lines. Lines where we compare our schedules, or talk about what we had for breakfast, or which engine is best for our car, or what all the dog did today or where we went on our walk. . .
      Unless: it advances the story or develops character.
      Now get those characters talking. WRITE AT ABSOLUTE TOP SPEED
      John

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