This week’s video talks about one of the cons of trying to mimic real-life conversations.
I adore good dialogue. Funny, snappy, insightful, punchy—love it. Nothing makes a book come to life faster. And it’s also a ton of fun to write. Whenever I finish a day’s writing session with a comparatively massive word count, you can pretty much bet I was working on a scene with lots of dialogue. I would say most of us find dialogue relatively easy to write. After all, unlike many of the elements of good fiction, dialogue is something we experience in real life every single day.
But sometimes our real-life dialogue experiences can lead us astray. Often, in an attempt to make our dialogue sound as realistic as possible, we can end up inserting unnecessary fillers. I like to call these authorial “throat-clearings.” Sometimes we write these on purpose, but sometimes we write them just because we’re in the process of easing into the discussion and figuring out what our characters have to say. These fillers can come in a variety of flavors, but perhaps the most egregious is that of introductions and subsequent small talk.
For example, maybe you have somebody introduce Jake and Jody at a party.
“Jake, this is Jody. Jody, Jake.”“Oh, howdy, Jake, nice to meet you.”“Same to you, Jody. Isn’t this a great party?”“Sure is, and how about this fantastic weather we’ve been having?”
Not exactly scintillating, is it? Worse, it does nothing to illustrate character and even less to advance the plot. In the vast majority of instances, there will be absolutely no reason for this kind of throat clearing. Cut it out ruthlessly.
If you need to indicate characters were introduced or exchanged small talk, then just tell readers that. “Jake and Jody were introduced and exchanged a few pleasantries.” That’s all you need. Your dialogue will be tighter as a result, and readers will be relieved they can get back to the meat of the story that much quicker.