Posted On November 27, 2017 by Print This Post

How to Create Page Turning Dialogue by Gina Conkle

Welcome to author Gina Conkle and her first post with RU! We’re glad to have you aboard!

Dialogue is a much-debated topic in romance. One day you’re at a conference and a bestselling author spouts rules of dialogue. The next day, you’re reading another bestselling author’s book, and she’s broken every one of those rules.

How do you navigate writing with mixed signals?

It’s maddening…like driving in Italy. My one trip to Florence highlights this point. Our car had the green light. We started to go when another car zoomed through a red light. My husband’s Italian colleague slammed the brakes and shrugged it off with, “Red lights. They’re suggestions.”

The same phrase was said in the movie Under the Tuscan Sun. Maybe it’s an Italian thing, but the spirit of those words stayed with me. In writing, it’s good to learn the rules. Then you can break them. After all, your job is to woo your reader, draw them into the world you created.

This is why one rule guides me: Don’t get in the way of your story.

But every traveler needs a roadmap. Here are five suggestions:

  1. To Tag or Not to Tag

You may have heard the only dialogue tags you need are said and ask. It’s true. You can get by with said and ask. But where’s the fun in that? I use whisper, coax, call, cry, murmur, or nothing at all. You know when dialogue sounds clunky. It can happen as easily with said and ask as yell or whimper.

The point is, tell your story. If an offbeat dialogue tag does the trick, be judicious, but go with it. It’s your voice. Don’t be afraid to drive outside the lines.

  1. Nonverbal cues speak louder than words

Less than 10% of our communication comes from what we say. The next tier (more than 30%) comes from vocal elements such as tone, pitch, and rate of speech. The final tier (more than 50%) is pure body language with hands and eyes top contenders.

Here’s a challenge. Grab some paper and create columns for nonverbal cues: tone, pitch, rate of speech, breathing, eyes, eyebrows, mouth, nose, hands, fingers, chin, etc. Then, go through a current manuscript and put a hash in each nonverbal cue column. Did you discover certain writer habits? I once had a reviewer nab me for too much “head snapping” and you know what? She was right!

Mix up your nonverbal cues—like the boob shoulder. Marilyn Monroe made this pose famous: a woman’s coy glance past her shoulder (bare is better). Men view it as sexual. Women generally view it as favorable and friendly.

Actions speak louder than words in life and on the page. From page one to “The End” vary the body language.

  1. Be aware of gender differences in speech patterns and behavior

Men tend to be less profuse with their facial expressions. They will tease or use more vocal cues such as sarcasm in dealing with sensitive topics, while women are more stream of conscious talkers. Men give less eye contact during conversation and frown or squint more. It means they’re mulling over what’s being said. They prefer being shoulder to shoulder in conversation while women prefer being face to face. Women tolerate interruptions more than men.

Don’t be afraid to turn gender norms upside down. While the above is scientifically proven, consider the outliers. There are blunt women and effusively verbal men. Consistency is the key to character authenticity.

  1. It’s in the voice

Do all your characters speak like east coast college grads? If they are east coast college grads, fine. Now dig deeper. Look at their verb choices. Do they have pet phrases? A manner of speaking which reveals personality?

If number three above was the how of character speech, number four is the what. In one of my books, the hero was a well-educated man while the heroine was self-educated. She is fighting tooth and nail for every bit of progress. I made sure her voice reflected that on the page.

Men use commands more often than woman, and in a problematic situation, women ask more questions (to the chagrin of the males in the room). And that brings us to the next interesting point.

  1. Dyads are it

Do you feel overwhelmed when writing a scene with three or more people? It’s a lot to juggle. Intimacy can get lost in the shuffle of setting and action. And what do you do when you’re writing, say a band of brothers series? Secondary characters need to shine for your readers to fall in love with them but not take over the book.

Dyads foster intimacy. In interpersonal communication theory, this means communication really is between two people and two people only. Person A speaks with person B and vice versa. They are both aware Person C is with them, but communication is always between two people. Person A can shift to Person C (thus creating a new dyad and Person B is out of the connection). This is why small group scenes can overwhelm. Ever had feedback like “There was too much going on” or “It was too much of XYZ characters”?

How does this translate to say a boardroom or ballroom scene?

Be aware of the dyads you create. More than ever, each word matters in an ensemble scene. You’ve heard the wisdom, if you show the reader a bat in chapter one, it better come back at later in the story (i.e. foreshadowing). Likewise, with your secondary characters and their dialogue, make it count.

Ask yourself, if their words reveal character? Move the story forward? Or feed the conflict?

If you find you’re writing group scenes, and the heroine and heroine’s arc is drifting, shift gears. Bring them together. Focus on a private moment in a crowd before returning to the ensemble cast. Your reader will feel the connection.

And that’s what dialogue in romance is all about.

Thanks for hosting me here on Romance University ~ Gina

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Join us on Wednesday for Anne Elizabeth!

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Bio: Gina Conkle writes sensual Georgian romance and lush Viking romance. Her books offer a fresh, addictive spin on the genre, with the witty banter and sexual tension that readers crave. She grew up in southern California and despite all that sunshine, Gina loves books over beaches and stone castles over sand castles. Now she lives in Michigan with her favorite alpha male, Brian, and their two sons where she’s known to occasionally garden and cook. Find her at www.ginaconkle.com.

Title: The Lord Meets His Lady

Author: Gina Conkle

Series: Midnight Meetings #3

Pub Date: December 5, 2017

Lord Marcus Bowles has stained his family’s reputation for the last time. Only after spending a scandal-free year restoring some far-flung property can this second son return in good graces. But Marcus isn’t one to abandon a lone damsel on a dark country lane.

One stolen kiss and Genevieve Turner’s handsome midnight savior disappears. Typical. No matter, Gen is finally on the way to her new post, and hopefully to finding her grandmother as well. Instead she finds her mischievous hero is her new employer. Surely a few more kisses won’t hurt…

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Discussion

6 Responses to “How to Create Page Turning Dialogue by Gina Conkle”

  1. Great post. I love writing dialogue, reading it can be hit or miss. I especially like your comments on dyads and ensemble scenes. I’ve read a lot of books where EVERYONE is talking so much it is easy to lose track of who is saying what because the author isn’t giving enough hints.

    Posted by Diana Lloyd | November 27, 2017, 8:30 am
  2. Very useful tips! Tweeting it right now. Thank you…

    Cheers, Faith

    Posted by Faith Freewoman | November 27, 2017, 10:33 am
  3. Gina, what a treat seeing the blurb of your coming-next-Tuesday book…not to mention GREAT tips on dialogue!

    Posted by Laurie Schnebly Campbell | November 27, 2017, 3:49 pm
  4. I beg to differ for what concerns Italians driving habits. That kind of uncivil behaviour is not that common.

    For what concerns dialogues I both love to read and write them. I think dialogue gives the writer a very good chance to show without telling too much, to suggest and hint about the unsaid, and if done well can be captivating as action scenes if nit more.

    Jane Austen was a master at dialogue. I can’t think about her books without remembering Elizabeth Bennet and Mr.Darcy’s skirmishes, Emma and Mr.Knightley’s arguments, and the tons of unsaid between Captain Wentworth and Anne.

    Thank you for the tips! I’ll think about them next time I write dialogues.

    Posted by Irene Aprile | December 5, 2017, 2:17 am

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