QUICK FIX: Speaking sense
(Writers’ Forum, April 2008)

What was that you said? Do your character’s words flow naturally and move the story along or are they stilted and stifled, making the story appear clumsy and unnatural?

Dialogue can be difficult, but used correctly, has a number of uses in a story and the trick is to ensure it has a purpose and to use it skilfully.

Character can be shown clearly through speech and action, conveying an enormous amount of information to the reader.

    Do contract words as much as possible for natural sounding speech. It is – it’s. They are – they’re

    Do read your work aloud to ensure speech flows naturally. If it doesn’t you will stumble as you read it

    Do weave actions into dialogue. This will ‘show’ the reader what is happening rather than ‘telling’ them with long explanations

    Don’t include the umms and ahhs we use in everyday speech. They take up unnecessary space

    Don’t attempt to use strong accents in speech as this will be difficult for your reader to decipher. Explaining that the character has a strong Scottish accent is enough

    Don’t go further than six lines without signifying who is speaking to keep the reader on track, even if it’s only ‘she said’

Using the right words for your character will move your story forwards and allow your characters to truly come alive on the page


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