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A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: The Art of Writing Dialogue with Maria McKenzie
Posted By Carrie Spencer On November 12, 2012 @ 12:14 am In Conflict,Craft of Writing,Dialogue | 33 Comments
Help me welcome Maria McKenzie  to Romance University! Today, Maria gives us wonderful tips on writing dialogue.
Think of your plot as a blank linen canvas stretched over a stiff wooden frame, and your dialogue as the oil paint you will use to create a masterpiece. Well written dialogue produces a vivid image that truly brings your story to life in living color! It’s also one of the first things agents and editors look at when reviewing a manuscript.
If dialogue is choppy, wooden and stilted, a potential agent will assume that that sets the tone for your writing, and then reject your manuscript. For the indie published, poor dialogue is what makes a potential reader either skip a purchase, or write a very bad review!
Dialogue has many functions, but two of the most important are to advance the story and intensify the conflict, all the while keeping it natural. So here are a few ways to craft dialogue into a more compelling and natural sounding work of art.
Red: Tension, Conflict, Emotion
In Writing Fiction For Dummies , Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy say, “Dialogue is war! Every dialogue should be a controlled conflict between at least two characters with opposing agendas. The main purpose of dialogue is to advance the conflict of the story.”
The Abstract: Loose and Free Flowing
Dialogue has to have a natural flow, but a common mistake among many new writers is to make it stiff and formal. Use these guidelines to make yours sound real:
Flesh Tone: Make it Real
Stay away from unnatural dialogue. Would your sister really say, “How’s your husband Ed and your step-son Frank, the child by Ed’s ex-wife, Beth?” Using dialogue like that sounds artificial. Find a subtle way to convey those facts. For example:
“So where’s Ed?”
“I left him at home working on my honey-do list.”
“Is Frank helping him?”
“No, he’s with his mom, this weekend.”
“Beth, the wench?”
The Portrait: Provide a Distinct Voice for Each Character
Dialogue is an important part of characterization. Keep in mind the time period, age, gender, social status, education and geographic locale.
Imagine how different a Wall Street executive would sound compared to a Georgia factory worker. White collar professionals are more likely to use correct grammar and speak in longer sentences, whereas blue collar workers might use rougher language and shorter sentences.
Take into account individual personalities: quiet, talkative, cruel, manipulative, compassionate, insecure, outgoing. Be mindful of the situations they’re in; dialogue has to be suitable for their action and reaction.
The Difference Between the Male Still Life and the Female Landscape
“He believes communication should have a clear purpose. Behind every conversation is a problem that needs solving or a point that needs to be made.”
“She uses communication to discover how she is feeling and what it is she wants to say. She sees conversation as an act of sharing and an opportunity to increase intimacy with her partner.”
So keep in mind that men are more direct and brusque in tone. They use simpler vocabulary with fewer modifiers, and are likely to use one word responses and shorter sentences. Instead of talking about people and feelings, they’d rather talk about things. Also, dialogue is action for men. Instead of discussing a way to save the heroine, the hero plans and executes it.
Women, however, love talking about people and relationships. Their language is softer, and they’re more likely to talk around a subject. “I’m not too happy about this,” she might say, while he says, “I’m mad as hell!” Women express themselves in complete sentences, and want to share their feelings.
In closing, always keep your dialogue tension filled, loose, naturalistic and distinct for each individual character to create your masterpiece!
Bio: Maria around the web:
Maria has a new release, ESCAPE and in Maria’s words, “The title of the trilogy is Unchained. Lori was born a slave, but escapes from slavery. Her granddaughter, Selina, who passes as white, carries the secret of her African American ancestry like a painful chain, bound around her heart. Only when she tells her family the truth can she free herself from the pain of that secret. Escape is part one of the trilogy. While Lori escapes from bondage, her daughter, Lavinia, escapes from living as a “Negro.” In part two, Masquerade, Lavinia becomes a great actress in New York, all the while hiding her true identity. Revelation is part three, and in this story, Lavinia’s daughter, Selina, reveals the truth about her ancestry.”
Buy links for Escape:
What’s your trick for writing believable dialogue?
Join us on Wednesday for Sara Megibow!
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 Maria McKenzie: http://readandwriteromance.blogspot.com/http://
 Writing Fiction For Dummies: http://www.amazon.com/Writing-Fiction-Dummies-Randy-Ingermanson/dp/0470530707/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1347583305&sr=8-1&keywords=fiction+writing+for+dummies
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 Richard Drobnick: http://www.yourtango.com/experts/richarddrobnick
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 When Arguments Are a Good Thing: Conflict in Dialogue by K.M. Weiland: http://romanceuniversity.org/2012/03/30/when-arguments-are-a-good-thing/
 Engaging the Senses with Maria McKenzie: http://romanceuniversity.org/2013/06/20/engaging-the-senses-with-maria-mckenzie/
 You Don’t Say: http://romanceuniversity.org/2011/01/05/you-dont-say/
 Weekly Lecture Schedule for November 12-16, 2012: http://romanceuniversity.org/2012/11/10/weekly-lecture-schedule-for-november-12-16-2012/
 How to Create Characters That Leap Off the Page with Terri L. Austin: http://romanceuniversity.org/2013/04/01/how-to-create-characters-that-leap-off-the-page-with-terri-l-austin/
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