If you are writing a novel, you will need a good writing style. A dialog should be realistic, but not too realistic. Now, what does this mean? It means you should find a soft spot. For example, skip the small talk. Even though it’s realistic, it’s boring and unnecessary. Don’t make your characters sound pretentious, make them sound like normal people. But, you also want to express your artistic side, right? That is the perfect job for your narrator. He can handle speaking artistically without sounding ridiculous or even pathetic. That doesn’t mean that your character’s dialog should be plain. They could also have poetic moments, but do not go over the top. And use this only when it makes sense. There is a thin line and you just have to feel it.
Ex. 1: “The weight of all the stars and the sky is crushing me.”
This sentence would be too much in everyday speech. So, if someone were to ask you what’s wrong, would you give them this answer? I hope not. A simple dialog cannot handle this.
Ex. 2: “The only thing that keeps me standing is knowing that I really did everything in my power to get you back. There are no “what ifs” left in me. I tortured my soul beyond recognition, just waiting and hoping. God, I am such an idiot!” she said angrily, fighting back her tears.
This example is strong, but imagine two former lovers reunited. There are some strong emotions left unsaid. In reality, we tend to sound like that in similar situations, we tend to go over the top. Embrace it. Embrace the pathetic side if it’s realistic.
Another thing you can see in this example is the emphasis on “really”. You are the author, it’s your job to make your readers hear your words in their heads. By using “italic“, you will make your characters sound real.
Ex.3: “Just stop! I don’t give a shit!”
This kind of frustration and ugliness in a book is allowed. Don’t hold back in order to make it sound nice. You will lose authenticity and it will sound fake. Anger should sound ugly, you are not talking about the rainbows here. Just because you wouldn’t say something like that, it doesn’t mean that your character wouldn’t. But don’t use this too much because your book will just sound nasty.
A “dialogue tag” is the bit you put before or after the dialogue, like: said, asked, replied, shouted, whispered. Normally writers use “said”, but imagine the entire book with the same dialogue tag. It would be repetitive and distracting. That is why you should occasionally add something different but don’t overdue it. Most of the time you should use simple “said”. When it comes to adverbs, again do not overdo it! Use adverbs after dialogue tag only when it makes sense and when it’s necessary. Sometimes you just have to explain how your character feels because it’s not always obvious. Here is one example with the same sentence I used before:
“God, I am such an idiot!” she said angrily.
Here we used angrily because the reader must understand the tone. In this case, she is angry, but she could also be nervous, sad, she can even laugh in this sentence. That’s why I am painting the picture when it’s needed. But, when the adverb is obvious without even mentioning it, skip it! You should use a lot of adverbs, just not necessarily after a dialogue tag.
ACTIVE AND PASSIVE VOICE
There is also a difference between active and passive voice. The rule is, you should use active voice as much as possible. Here are some examples:
“The ring was thrown over the balcony by Sarah.” – passive voice
“Sarah threw the ring over the balcony.” – active voice
The thing is, active voice is more proactive, energetic and easier to read. Passive voice should be used only when necessary. Otherwise, it will sound annoying. You don’t want that to happen. So trust me on this, use active voice instead of passive.
Like in real life, not every question is being answered. So use the silence. Make your characters speechless sometimes. Also, you don’t have to finish every sentence. Sometimes your character will be interrupted by another one.
Don’t just tell your readers what happened, paint it with your words. They want to imagine it, to be there, to feel what your characters feel and to see what your characters see. Don’t take that away from them by simply saying what happened.
So, instead of saying :
” He broke up with her and she was devastated.”,
you should paint it like this:
“While he was saying those words out loud, she could hear her heart in her ears, she could feel it in her throat. Everything sounded surreal and she didn’t want to accept it, so she opened her mouth to say something that would change his mind, but instead she was swallowing her tears and said nothing.”
Think about these questions while writing : “Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?”. Also use all of the senses, and thin about what do they see, hear, smell, taste and feel? This will make your writing rich and artistic. Another very important thing – body language!
Again, instead of saying:
“She was crying.”,
you should say something like this:
“Sarah was barely hearing him over the sound of her fast beating heart. She thought that crying would suddenly make it real and as long as she was calm nothing bad would happen. And then she felt it. Her eye could no longer hold the heaviness of that hot tear, so she wiped it with her shaking fingers as fast as she could.”
Another thing, I would suggest using online proofreading websites while writing. You should use those programs every day after writing. Don’t try doing that all at once because it takes time. More about that in the next post.
What do you think about this article? Please share your advice, comment or ask me anything? I will be happy to answer.
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STEP SEVEN: PROOFREADING