This blog post looks at what to delete from dialogue in order to improve clarity, voice, logic, and flow. Dialogue is an area I struggle with but many other people love. By deleting content in your first step of revision, you won’t waste time polishing material you will only remove later on. And if deleting content leaves holes, you can brainstorm and fill the gaps with something even better.
Doesn’t advance story. Story is not just plot. It is also the characters, the world, the mood, and the milieu. If a piece of dialogue doesn’t do one – or preferably more – of these things, it needs to go!
Pace. Fragmenting dialogue and thoughts will speed up the pace. Remove some tags and nonconverstional prose.
Out of character. It is easy for many writers to write the way they talk. It is harder to write the way the character talks. Make sure to remove your slips of tongue. Keep in mind not only the characters’ education, social class, and time period, but also their moods, who they are talking to, and where they are when they are talking (setting).
Poor logic. There are three pieces to any event: stimulus/cause, internalization/reaction, response/action. In that order, please!
This is Part 5 of a series of five blog entries that look at deleting to improve Style, Events, Summary and Description, Characters, and Dialogue.
Three very different book on improving dialogue…
Cheney, Theodore. Getting the Words Right. Cincinnati: Ohio, Writer’s Digest Books, 2005. 2nd edition.
Kempton, Gloria. Dialogue. Cincinnati: Ohio, Writer’s Digest Books, 2004.
Spencer, Brent. Dialogue Tips & Traps: A Guide for Fiction Writers. Writers Workshop Press, 2012. 1st edition. Ebook.