5 Ways To Write Real-Speak Dialogue

book quotesDialogue is a strange part of writing fiction. On one hand, it’s supposed to sound like real people, but on the other hand it’s supposed to advance plot. How is it supposed to do so many things?

5 WAYS TO WRITE REAL-SPEAK DIALOGUE THAT IS MULTI-FUNCTIONAL:

1. Use dialogue to show the relationships between characters.

Are they close? Make sure they share information that they’d tell no one else, or they gossip about other people. Don’t forget to have them use affectionate nicknames that show a history.

2. Avoid routine exchanges in real life conversation in exchange for the most interesting thing.

We all know the boring conversations we have throughout the day. Writing fiction means you get to avoid those mundane conversations and replace them with the most interesting things. Whenever you have your characters talk about their day stop yourself to make sure that there’s a larger point being made.

3. Go no longer than 3 sentences without an interjection. 

There’s nothing that sounds like dialogue more than 200 words of monologue. The reader can sense that a mile away. Cue the moment the writer wants to say something important: a long-winded monologue. Dialogue should be no longer than 3 sentences without something or someone cutting them off.

4. Make sure your character sounds like themselves and not you.

First time writers have a habit of making all the characters sound like themselves. Avoid this by making sure they sound like who you created, not the voice in your head.

5. Add in run on sentences and clipped words.

Dialogue ends up being a bit more formal than we speak in real life. However, don’t forget to add run on sentences and clip words so the reader feels like these are real people having real conversations.

Q: What do you think is the hardest part of writing dialogue? (I know there’s many!)

#pitmad Twitter Pitch Contest Sept 9

Ready to pitch your manuscript?

On Twitter of all places? For all you brave folks with finished manuscripts here are the details:

Try #pitmad on Sept 9 from 8am to 8pm EST. See more info on Brenda Drake’s blog.

And read my Ultimate Guide to Twitter Pitch Contests.

The Secret to Writing Good Characters

Ben Wiseman Illustration NYTCharacters make or break a novel, especially for agents. When agents get 100s of manuscripts submitted per month, what is it that draws us to some books and not others? Characters.

What agents look for in a main character:

  • Degree of likability
  • Interesting
  • Honest
  • Have a strong and unique voice
  • They feel like they had a real life before the book started and after the pages are done
  • No coincidences
  • Motivation for what they do
  • That we meet them at an interesting point in their lives
  • Most importantly: They must have a secret. What are they hiding?

All strong and interesting characters carry a secret with them. A secret that is slowly revealed to the reader. A secret that some find controversial always helps. A secret that the character has to explain and is the reason why they do what they do and why they are the way they are. And remember: the best secrets impact more lives than one.

Further Reading:

30 Questions to Ask Your Main Character

Image: Ben Wiseman NYT

How Writers Can Show Agents They’re Career Authors

pen to paperAn agent’s job is part project manager, part contracts consultant, part therapist, part editor, and always full-time advocate. We try to be so many things for our writers and all agents have particular strengths in one part of that equation.

However, what we all have in common is treating our writers’ careers like a business.

When we sign up new authors this is what we ask ourselves:

“How can we help you make a living from your writing?”

Not only do we have to fall in love with a manuscript, connect with the author personally, sell ourselves to the writer as their champion, and know how to sell their book–we have to have a strong vision for their career and know that we are the best agent to help them secure that future.

That’s why you hear agents saying “it wasn’t for me,” or “I liked it but I didn’t love it.”

We have to be looking two books, three books, or a series ahead. It isn’t just what’s on the page today, but if we think they can grow into an author we can help for years to come.

HOW CAN YOU SHOW AN AGENT YOU’RE A CAREER AUTHOR?

  • In the author bio paragraph of your query letter tell us you are working on your next book.
  • Have a short synopsis of your next book prepared if an agent asks.
  • Know where you see yourself in 5-10 years as a writer. Writing the same genre? Switching gears? Still writing?
  • Network with other writers and show a public commitment to your own success.
  • Make sure your social media bios include the word writer and your posts link to writing or creative topics from time to time.
  • You don’t have to have an MFA, but attending writing workshops or joining organizations is helpful. There are so many: SCBWI for children’s books, WFWA for women’s fiction etc.
  • Knowledge about how the industry works. This is my top book on the business: INSIDE BOOK PUBLISHING. This will provide you with more than you need to know.
  • Know what you want from an agent (other than the basics): publicity division, film/tv specialists etc.