I’m in the process of doing a line edit revision on my new novel these days, and I’m focusing on dialogue. Dialogue has always been a unique struggle for me. Maybe it’s because I’m better at expressing myself on paper, maybe it’s having an extroverted mother who yelled “Why don’t you SPEAK!” every time we saw one of my friends at the grocery store, or perhaps it’s the fact that I genuinely seem to hate contractions. Give me a “had not” over a “hadn’t” any day.
One of those famous writers we all like to follow says that he reads his dialogue aloud in his characters’ voices. So, I’m trying that. Apparently when I try to speak in a Scottish accent, it requires me to raise my voice several decibels. This is bringing back memories of my high school English teacher casting me as Lady Macbeth (Always the evil queen, never the ingenue) and it’s just as bad as it was then, if my annoyed cats and the whining dog are any indicator.
But it has helped. It’s helped me embrace those contractions, get rid of superfluous or pretentious tags, and it’s making the action much tighter. I’ve deleted whole lines and replaced them with quick-witted repartee that sounds more natural - reading it aloud has helped me create the ebb and flow of conversation that we hear in our heads when we read a good passage of dialogue. We’re talking about the girl who used to spell out sounds phonetically. “Ohhhhh nooooooo.”
Isn’t that what being a writer is all about?