Thursday, October 9, 2014

More tips for using dialogue in your memoir

Pssst. Did you miss Tuesday’s post?
My entry in the First Paragraph contest
received the Silver Winner award!
(Click on Silver Winner.)

Let us know how your entry does!

And now, let’s look at the best way to use dialogue in your memoir:

Needless dialogue can bore readers and tempt them to put down your memoir.

When we speak to one another, we make small talk that’s not important to include as dialogue (at least in most cases). That’s needless dialogue. For example:

“Hey, how ya doin’?”

“Great. How ‘bout you? You survivin’ this storm OK?”

Unless chit-chat holds significance for your story, eliminate it.

Have you ever noticed that sometimes people make the same point several times in a short conversation? For example, a person might say something like this two or three times in a given snippet: “The doctor said you need to go to the ER if your fever doesn’t break by midnight.”

Sometimes writers include repetitious phrases to emphasize urgency or emotion, but otherwise dialogue will be better without repetitions.

Use dialogue to show how each person in the conversation has a unique personality, emotions, and distinct, perhaps conflicting, goals to achieve. Dialogue can reveal the dynamics between those in the discussion, round out characters’ personalities, and convey what’s important to each of them.

Include body language. Usually people are in motion when they speak and those activities carry a message and reveal a person’s personality.

When a man is impatient, waiting for his wife to get dressed so they can go out, does he stand by the door and toss his car keys up and down, up and down? Is he sending her a coded message?

Does she habitually refuse to make eye contact when a certain topic comes up? What does she look at instead? Does she cross her arms over her chest? Does she swallow hard? Does she start a sentence she can’t finish? Does she change the subject?

Bottom line: Use brief but necessary dialogue—dialogue that will enhance your story’s message, bring main characters to life, and increase the reader’s comprehension—and include body language.

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