Writing Dialogue that Doesn’t Suck
Have you ever been reading a book and one of the characters say something that is so weird or out of place that you have no idea what happened?
Hopefully you said yes and it’s not just me who’s reading crazy stuff. Just a couple of weeks ago I was reading a contemporary romance where the main characters were American and the hero was a gruff, badass soldier. I’m reading along and things are going good. I was into the story. The plot was hopping along but kept me interested. The characters were good, a little generic, but good.
Then everything came to a crashing halt for me when the hero and heroine are in bed together, getting jiggy, and the hero starts waxing poetic about how (‘m paraphrasing here) his soul had been yearning for her and how losing himself in her luscious bounty was the filling a piece of him he hadn’t know was missing.
Ick. I mean really? Now, Regency? Okay. I could even accept it if he were a European billionaire and flowery language as a part of his character development. What I can’t handle is a character saying something so completely out of character that it throws me out of the scene. It’s like a literary splash of cold water and many readers can’t recover. If the dialogue is bad enough a lot of people will put the book down and never pick it back up again. Not good.
So, what’s the secret? What’s the secret to writing dialogue that doesn’t suck? How do you keep the reader engaged and believing that the characters would say the things written on the page? I have four simple words for you. Read it out loud. It’s as simple as that.
Here’s a simple rule to go by: if it sounds weird out loud then it is weird. Period. That’s it.
Imagine the character is standing in front of you, talking to you. That’s what the reader is doing. As you read the words and dialogue outside it allows you to hear things you wouldn’t have noticed before and adapt. Want to go one better? Sure you do. Have someone read it out loud to you. I promise that you will notice a whole host of things that hadn’t occurred to you before.
It really is that easy. By reading dialogue, the whole book even, out loud you will have a far superior manuscript than the one you started with.
File Size: 735 KB
Series: Chicago Sin, Book 2
Publisher: Siren Publishing (March 24, 2015)
Publication Date: April 20, 2015
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
With nothing more exciting in her life than her bangs catching on fire while trying to flambé, Nora Connolly’s life was terrifically uneventful. Well, uneventful until her house got raided and she found out her boyfriend was actually a CIA agent turned traitor. When he escapes custody and begins stalking her she is forced to turn to the only man she knows can protect her, the man she’s been swooning over since high school.
When Nora shows up on his doorstep looking for protection, Jack Coleman tries to turn her way. Staying sane with Nora’s sexy ass was already hard enough, but she needs a safe house and keeping his hands to himself while trying to keep her protected would be more than even his rock hard control could handle.
Sarah was small town girl who got a hell of an education about life and the world when she moved to the city. She writes about strong, independent women who love giving their hearts and bodies to alpha males who are more than up for the challenge. These are the stores written to embellish the lives we lead.
She might be a grown up who writes some very spicy love stories, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t still love hello kitty, high heels, art and travel. However, her first love will always be to that majestic, powerful force of nature called coffee.
“Why are we watching this? They’re supposed stars, but I don’t recognize half of them,” Nora groused from her slumped position on her sister’s couch.
“Because the girls got me hooked on this stupid show and now I have to see the finale,” Sam replied as she pulled another cake pop off the coffee table and proceeded to shove the entire thing into her mouth.
Nora just rolled her eyes and mindlessly stared as the B-list celebrities danced the foxtrot. Normally she enjoyed a little brainless reality TV like any good American, but with everything in her actual reality being thrown through a blender these days, she just didn’t have the stomach for the fake stuff.
“If you sigh like that one more time I’m kicking you out and you’ll have to go play with the kids,” Sam said without turning her gaze from the television.
The threat made Nora smile. She knew that her sister had every intention of following through should she need too. That girl took her dance shows seriously. Nora buttoned her lips so she wouldn’t sigh again and be relegated to the toy room. She loved her nieces and nephew, but in the mood she was in, the last thing she wanted to do was entertain little kids.
Closing her eyes, she tried to concentrate on the cake she was making for Mr. and Mrs. Eldridge’s Brazilian Carnival themed anniversary party next week.
She wanted to do at least five tiers, so she’d need support stands on each layer. The frosting had to be bright and colorful, with feathers and glitter accents to really make it fabulous. Maybe she’d even add sparklers or something to really up the wow factor.
“Okay, now you can help me with my baby name list.”
Sam’s voice startled her out of her mental cake decorating and she almost rolled off the couch.
“Geez, Nora. I didn’t mean to scare you out of your skin,” Sam said with a hand over her mouth trying unsuccessfully to stifle her giggles. “Were you asleep?”
Getting up to sit cross-legged on the couch Nora brushed her hair out of her eyes and looked at Sam in sisterly scathing.
“No, dearest sister. Despite the riveting drama between the overweight businessman and the out-of-work actor, I was cake planning.”
Sam stuck her tongue out and Nora rolled her eyes.
“Very mature, Sam. You’re a mother.”
“Right, and I’m about to give birth again. Matt and I are exchanging baby names tomorrow, and I need your help.”
After grabbing the list her sister held out, Nora glanced at the list of names.
“Oh Sam, please tell me you’re kidding with these names. I get that mom and dad gave us weirdo names, but give me a break!”
Sam snatched her list out of Nora’s hand.
“What do you mean? These are great names,” Sam said as she looked at the paper in her hand. “Besides, our names aren’t that weird.”
Nora had been named after her paternal grandmother who had come to the U.S. from Ireland after her husband died in the seventies. Nora and Sam’s father had been a teenager at the time. Sam had been named after the Russian city their mother had immigrated from as a nod to her heritage.
“Yeah, Nora and Samara are super normal.” Nora said sarcastically and launched herself off the couch to walk across the room to grab a soda out of the wet bar in the corner. “As for your baby name list—Murphy? And Evelyn? If you name your kid Evelyn, she’s going to be born sixty-five years old and wearing a polyester sweater. The first thing she’s going to do once she pops out is to offer the hospital staff some shiny ribbon candy.”
Nora popped the top of her soda dramatically to emphasize her punch line and Sam burst out laughing.
“You obviously missed your calling as a stand-up comedian, Nora.” Sam said after she got her laughter under control. “Toss me a bottle of water will you?”
Nora reached back into the fridge and pulled out a bottle of water to toss to her sister.
“I can’t believe you guys still have bottles of water in here. Isn’t Matt on some saving the planet, going green, stopping global warming kick?”
“Yes, but these are what’s left over from his pre-Captain Planet phase and I promised to recycle.”
Nora started laughing as she pictured her buff brother-in-law wearing tight spandex while he flew around town with a group of racially diverse children with super powers.
“Now I’m going to have to call him Captain Planet all the time.”
Sam and Nora both doubled over laughing like lunatics. When they finally calmed down they collapsed against each other on the couch and sighed. Sometimes it was like they were teenagers again. It had been she and Sam against the world back in those days, but they had kept each other standing, and in the end they’d both ended up okay.
“So, tomorrow,” Sam said. “I’m thinking we can meet up for coffee at like nine o’clock and then hit the shops on Michigan. I need to pick up a bunch of stuff for the kids and I need to look for a new couch for the den. Plus, I need to hit up the lingerie store for bras and add some members to my support group.”
Nora had forgotten about their plans for tomorrow. She’d been so busy with work and the fact that she’d accidentally sliced her arm open on a sharp shelf yesterday that it had flown out of her mind.
She looked down at her forearm at the thought of all those stitches. The stupid thing still ached like a beast, but it hadn’t been the first time and it sure as shootin’ wasn’t going to be the last. It seemed like every five minutes she was cutting herself, or burning herself, or catching her bangs on fire.
Ah, the hazards of a giant klutz working in a kitchen.
You know that your ability to screw up is top notch when the triage nurses and ER doctors start to know you by name. It was a good thing she had insurance because stitches didn’t come cheap and she didn’t plan on relinquishing her kitchen anytime soon.
“Yo, earth to my space cadet sister!” Sam waved her hand in front of Nora’s face before flicking her on the nose, causing Nora to flinch away.
“Hey! Quit with the theatrics. I’m listening.”
Sam gave her a patented I’m a mother and your big sister, and I don’t believe that for a minute stare down. It was equal parts frown, disbelief, and censure.
“All right, so I wasn’t listening, but your coffee and shopping plan for tomorrow sounds great.”
Sam didn’t relinquish her look right away, but eventually she blew out a breath and laughed.
“Fine. I’ll see you at the café at nine tomorrow morning.” Sam said as Nora hauled herself off the couch and grabbed her bag. Sam yelled after her as she made her way to the front door. “And wear tennis shoes this time!”
“Yes, mom!” Nora yelled back and slammed the front door with a satisfying thump of defiance. Where had she put those wedge tennis shoes with the three-inch heels?
Tuesday, September 1
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Monday, September 7
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First Chapter Reveal at Crystal’s Chaotic Confessions
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Interview at The Writer’s Life
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Guest Blogging at Lori’s Reading Corner
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