Writing Dialogue by Janice Seagraves

Writing Dialogue

by Janice Seagraves

 

Hi, I’m Janice Seagraves. Today, we’re talking about writing dialogue.

I understand how frustrating it can be to revise one’s own work. I’ve been there myself and I’m doing it now.

For dialogue tags, I turn to Shrunk and White. Place he/she or name first:  it’s he said or Mike said.

If you’re writing a question the same rule applies: he asked, Mike asked.

Never substitute said for asked.

If you have a question mark and it’s clear who doing the asking, then you don’t really need the ‘asked.’ In fact, if it’s clear who is speaking, then you don’t need a dialogue tag at all.

Example: Lynda turned on the light and looked at Mike. “What’s this about?”

And be careful that you don’t over edit your manuscript, which can lead to dropped words.

You’ll find “Editor do not use word lists” However, if you’re overzealous with deleting these words you can also have an issue with dropped words. I’m not saying to ignore these lists, but maybe take them with a grain of salt. Editors only have issues with these words if you overuse them.

Its clarity—that’s key to a good strong manuscript and a lot of this has to do with how it sounds.

Our ears catch a lot more than our eyes do.

Here’s a helpful hint: Read your manuscript out loud or better yet have someone read your manuscript to you.

Something else to try is one of those text to speak programs. A friend suggested one and I found it useful.

Where can you find inspiration for realistic dialogue?

Nearly anywhere.

Here’s examples I wrote myself by keeping my eyes and ears open. Mostly I observed mothers and their children just a few days before the holidays and the mothers seemed tired and the children antsy.

  1. At a store in town, a little girl about seven, stood in the front window display with her back to the glass. The front door was opened by a little boy no older than five. “Cindy, Cindy?” He looked around and went back inside.

When I entered the store, the little girl peeked at me from between the manikins with an impish grin.

“There you are,” said the little boy. The two children giggled and chase each other around the clothing racks.

“Ma’am,” called out the eighteen-year-old clerk. “Can you please tell your children that this isn’t a playground?” She sighed and shook her head, as if she’d been saying this all day.

A dark headed woman looked up long enough to say something in a sharp tone in Spanish to the two children, before returning to the clothes she was looking through. The kids skidded to a stop, their shoes squeaking, and ducked their heads.

  1. At Wal-Mart, a woman reached for her baby that her older child held. “Here, give him to me. There’s people trying to walk here.” The woman frowned, and her voiced had a hard edge.
  2. At Panda Express, a tired woman leaned toward the clerk over the glass display. “I want the chow mien with honey walnut shrimp, and for my son I want…”

Her son, who looked eight, stood behind her. He poked her in the butt with his spider man doll and laughed.

As her face turned red, the woman turned and swatted at him. “Stop that. We’re in public.”

Now, if you prefer dialogue that pops, I suggest doing some research. Watch those old 1930 and 40’s films that had snappy dialogue. I suggest anything with Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Claudette Colbert, and William Powell.

  1. Ball of Fire (1941)
  2. Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
  3. Libeled Lady (1936)
  4. Holiday (1938)
  5. Twentieth Century (1934)
  6. The Thin Man (1934)
  7. To Be or Not to Be (1942)
  8. The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1943)
  9. The Philadelphia Story (1940)
  10. Topper (1937)

 

Thank you for dropping by. Please like and subscribe and I’ll do another vlog next week. 🙂

 

Snappy Banter by Janice Seagraves

Snappy Banter

By Janice Seagraves

 

The best snappy dialogue that comes to my mind is from the movies of the 30’s and 40’s, think Kathryn Hepburn, and Cary Grant. These are the two actors who I think of as the King and Queen of snappy dialogue.

 

Cary Grant example:

 

Eva Marie Saint (Eve Kendall): I tipped the steward five dollars to seat you here if you should come in.
Cary Grant (Roger Thornhill): Is that a proposition?
Eva Marie Saint (Eve): I never discuss love on an empty stomach.
Cary Grant (Roger): You’ve already eaten!
Eva Marie Saint (Eve): But you haven’t.
~*~

Snappy dialogue isn’t clunky, it flows. There a teasing quality to it and you can’t help to grin when it’s just right.

 

Kathryn Hepburn’s example:

 

Howard Hughes: [doesn’t hear what Kate says] Excuse me?

Katharine Hepburn: Well, if you’re deaf, you must own up to it. Get a hearing aid or see my father. He’s an urologist, but it’s all tied up inside the body, don’t you find?

Howard Hughes: Mmm.
Katharine Hepburn: Me, I keep healthy. I take 7 showers a day to keep clean, also because I’m so vulgarly referred to as “outdoors-y.” Well, I’m not “outdoors-y,” I’m athletic. I sweat! There it is, now we both know the sordid truth: I sweat, and you’re deaf. Aren’t we a fine pair of misfits?

~*~

I think some of my best scenes are in my book, Windswept Shores, where the dialogue just flows are the ones where the hero teases the heroine.

 

Windswept Shores’ example:

 

“If I had me a net, I could catch some of those fishies for dinner.” Seth paddled water while he gazed into the pool.

“Don’t you have a net on the boat?”

“We usually use fishing poles.”

“No, I mean to net the fish after you reel them in.” She swam over to him.

“I don’t reckon you know the difference between fresh and salt water fishing, mate.”

“Okay, what’s the difference?” She splashed water just in front of him.

His smile twisted to the side. “When you fish in the sea, they’re a mite bigger.”

“Okay, smarty pants, how do you get the fish into the boat?”

“You use a big stick with a hook to pull them in.”

“Oh, I think I did see that somewhere.”

“Probably, you accidentally lit on it when ya flipped through the channels on the box.”

~*~

The best way to learn snappy dialogue is to listen to it. Watch those wonderful films of the 30’s and 40’s, or anything that has snappy banter. If you’re lucky enough to know people who pick and tease in the same manner, then listen to their conversations. And it might just make you smile. J

 

It’s all in the ear. And it can be learned.

 

Windswept Shores’ example (it’s not all one sided, Megan gets her turn):

 

Walking back to the Dinki-Di, Seth complained with a glance at her bikini, “Why did you put your cossie back on?”

“I’m not comfortable naked,” she explained. “What if someone showed up while I’m undressed?”

He gazed around, then back down at her. “Megz, no one is here.”

“No, but you showed up not once, but twice, didn’t you?”

“Um, yeah,” Seth muttered with a slight frown.

“Can’t argue with that, can you?” She grinned. I love winning an argument.

~*~

Janice Seagraves bio: When not writing late into the night, Janice takes care of her hubby of thirty-one years and a just grown daughter. They are owned by an overly affectionate cat and two birds. One a handicapped dove and the other a pigeon who is in love with her husband (not kidding).

 

You can find Janice’s book, Windswept Shores: https://www.amazon.com/Windswept-Shores-Survivors-Love-Story-ebook/dp/B00AS9NDNO/

You can also find Windswept Shores on Barnes and Nobles: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/windswept-shores-janice-seagraves/1025707130

And on Smashword: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/446101

Janice Seagraves’s website: https://janice-seagraves.org/

Face book page: http://www.facebook.com/janice.seagraves

And twitter: http://twitter.com/janiceseagraves

 

Something warm to read while it’s really cold.

Windswept Shores by Janice Seagraves
erotic contemporary romance
novel (approx 50K)
price $.99

BLURB:
The sole survivor of a plane crash, Megan is alone on a deserted island in the Bahamas until she finds a nearly-drowned man washed up on shore. Another survivor, this time from a boat wreck. With only meager survival skills between them, will they survive, and can they find love?

EXCERPT:
Breathing hard, she flicked a glance at the teal-colored sea. She’d thought a vacation to the Bahamas would be the perfect getaway, would be a solution to the problems she and Jonathan had faced. She’d been wrong—dead wrong. Tears of grief filled her eyes. The never-ending crash of the waves on the beach and the cries of the seagulls seemed to mock her with the reminder she was utterly alone.

She’d felt like a tiny speck of sand last night when a violent storm had swept across the island. It had made a mess of her meager campsite, which had taken all morning to fix, and had demolished her seaweed SOS sign. She’ll have to recreate her SOS. Sighing, Megan trudged toward a pile of kelp. As she got closer, she saw a figure wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt. Her stomach lurched.

Oh, God, it’s another body washed up from the plane wreck. That would be number twelve. As always, she couldn’t help but wonder if the next one would be Jonathan. He hadn’t been wearing jeans on the plane, so she knew she’d been spared seeing his corpse this time. Thank God. She approached the body with dread. Tightening her resolve, she knelt. Suddenly the “dead body” coughed and rolled over. With a scream, Megan jumped back. She clutched her chest and pressed a shaking hand to her mouth.

 

He’s alive!

 

Biting her lip, she stared down at the still-breathing man. His drenched t-shirt molded against his broad shoulders and well-developed upper body. Short, golden brown hair stuck out in all directions.

Megan, get control of yourself. Don’t wet your pants the first time you finally see a living person. She got on her knees, plucked the seaweed from him and wiped the sand from his face. His day-old whiskers scratched her palm. Reddened skin stretched across both cheekbones and over the bridge of his nose. Her thumb caressed his parched full bottom lip.

She patted the side of his face. “Hey, are you okay?” That’s a dumb question. He isn’t okay.

“Hmm?” Gray eyes fluttered open. He stared at her a long moment, frowning slightly. “G’day.”

“Hello there.” She hated the sound of her voice. It sounded rusty, unused.

Abruptly he rolled away from her to heave onto the sand, making a loud, ugly retching noise.

He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, then looked at her. “Sorry, mate, I swallowed too much sea.” His gaze went over her shoulder in the direction of the bonfire which crackled and popped not far from them. “Mite big for a barbie.”

Sitting back on her heels with her hands folded in her lap, Megan followed his gaze, then back to him. “My signal fire.”

“Signal for what?”

“Help.”

His accent intrigued her. Was he English or Australian?

“G’darn,” he looked around, “where the bloody hell am I?”

“Don’t know. There’s no one here to ask.” Megan shrugged helplessly, but couldn’t contain her curiosity. “Are you from England?”

“Naw,” he rubbed his eyes, “I hail from Sydney, but my port of call these days is Fort Lauderdale.” He blinked up at her. “You?”

Ah, he’s an Aussie. “I’m Megan Lorry, from Anaheim, California,” she said, barely loud enough to be heard above the sounds of the surf and the roar from the fire. “Are you a survivor of Air Bahamas flight 227, too?”