re: Got a Fix for “Stiff” Dialogue?

posted 1/3/17

Dear Editor…

I’m having trouble making the dialogue in my mystery sound realistic. The criticism I keep getting is the dialogue sounds stiff. Can you help me?

Sincerely,
Real Talker

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Dear Real Talker…

I’ve got something for you to try out: repetition. Fictional dialogue can be so sculpted and logical that it feels “stiff.” A little apparent sloppiness in the form repetition can make your characters sound like real people more focused on chasing their point than organizing their thoughts for clarity. (Of course, you will be clear.) As a bonus, the repetition can help reveal what the character thinks most important. I hope the following example will illuminate this suggestion (though admittedly it’s perhaps a bit extreme; I don’t have the luxury of space to show a subtler repetition across the course of a conversation): “They could’ve just given me the money. Would it have killed them? They’re rich. Parting with the green wouldn’t send them to the poorhouse. Parting with the green would’ve avoided this whole stupid mess.” Character stomps away. “Stupid rich people.”

Happy writing!
The Editor

P.S. For more on this topic, read Dialogue
posted by: The Editor
under: Dialogue
Comments to "re: Got a Fix for “Stiff” Dialogue?" | Add a Comment
    1. Sue Ford wrote (on 01/03/17 at 12:37 pm) :

      Have you tried reading it aloud? Does it sound natural when you do? Are you using contractions like people do? Look at some dialogue in a book you like and compare it to your dialogue.

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