Pulling some of my previous blogs into the “let it suck” series. This one borrows simple advice from a great comedian to help you with character dialogue.
Here we go:
Every fiction author wants to write great dialogue. While there is almost too much advice out there regarding this topic, the best advice may come from an unexpected source – famed and respected comedian Craig Ferguson.
The most prevelant problem emerging authors have with dialogue is overwriting, tending to let conversations go on too long, burden it with too much exposition, or make it suffer from stilted, unnatural cadences.
Not to worry, Craig Ferguson is here to save the day.
Ferguson is hilarious about many subjects, but one of his more famous bits – which is actually about keeping peace in a marriage – is also helpful when writing dialogue. He says, “There are three things you must always ask yourself before you say anything. 1) ‘Does this need to be said?’ 2) ‘Does this need to be said by me?’ 3) ‘Does this need to be said by me now?'”
As funny as that is when applied to keeping relationships happy, adjusting each question slightly gives us great advice on writing dialogue:
1) Does this need to be said at all? (Can the information be presented or summarized or alluded to some other way? If so, then write it some other way.)
2) Does this need to be said by this character? (Will the story be better served if this information comes from some other character? Why or why not? Find the answer. Serve the story.)
3) Does this need to be said by this character at this point in the story? (Will it be more effective earlier or later in the narrative? Why or why not? Again, find the answer and serve the story.)
Asking yourself these questions while either preplanning your story or as you write – and being very honest with yourself (rationalization is always one of a writer’s toughest enemies) will help keep dialogue tight and lIvely and functioning at its best.
Good luck, and keep writing.