I write awesome dialogue. I’m not going to be falsely modest about it. My first writing professor in college told me “Your dialogue’s great!” I was reading one of my intern manuscript deals on Tuesday and while the narrative had that elegiac tone you read in literary fiction–at times–the dialogue? Not natural. Too long. Too wordy. Too…”literate writer who obviously crafted this.”
During the Columbia writing program, dialogue was discussed often–since one of our assignments was to write a short scene, which obviously means dialogue. 1) It can’t be like real life talk because that rarely makes sense and small talk is not fun to read. 2) It can’t be too overly crafted because it takes the reader out of the piece and it won’t read well (if it’s a scene) and you start thinking ‘who the fuck speaks like that?’ 3) It has to move the plot along. 4) Subtext would be nice. 5) Has to say something about the character.
My personal pet dialogue peeve is the “As you know” speech. I read an egregious example of this in a submitted mystery–2nd chapter, Tough As Nails FBI Investigator and Her Boss are talking. And Boss goes into a “Well, when you started at the bureau ten years ago…” speech and then precedes to outline TANFBI Lady’s entire career. Exposition much? Weave that shit in!
I’m also not a fan of characters spouting off entire paragraphs. Because how often do I speak in paragraphs? More like convoluted short spurts of words.
Do y’all have any dialogue-y things that get on your nerves in movies or books or in scenes?
Eva: “So…she gave you an ultimatum?”
Eva: “Her or me, basically?”
Brix: “I guess it boils down to that.”
Eva: “We’ll always be connected,” I say. “We have Aimee. We have, what, fifteen years of history. I’m serious about this. If you want to be with her, Brixton, if you feel that she’s good for you and you see a future, don’t push her away. It’ll only end up hurting all of us.”
Brix: “You’re trying to be magnanimous.” He turns to me. “Or are you trying to deflect me to her, so you can keep your shields up?”
In honor of working the working title into dialogue:
“If anything…There’s a drawer in my desk in the living room.”
“In Paris. There’s a file there marked ‘Last Request.’ It’s got my will and my life insurance policy.”
“Oh, Ev, don’t…”
“You’re the one who told me to write my will after we had the baby,” I point out. “It’s in English. I had Noel get it notarized here. You get full custody of Aimee. Don’t let anyone fight you on that. You get her. She gets my money and life insurance pay out.”
His eyes are brimming with tears. “Last request?”