Dialogue. How do you know when you’ve used it too much? The answer, like most answers, can be found in everyday life with a bit of common sense. You know when you talk too much…people get that glazed-over look in their eyes or they start looking around the room for a distraction that will hopefully help keep them awake. If you are a normal person, you stop talking, apologize for boring them and move on…if you aren’t normal, you talk faster, as if doing so will regain your audience’s attention. Sadly writers tend to do the same thing.
Dialogue is necessary. If your characters don’t talk, your story is just a bundle of scenes with a bunch of mimes. But some writers go overboard. They have dialogue on every page, as if doing so earns them points. There are no points for talking your reader to death…just the steady rejection of yet another boring novel that isn’t telling a story at all but ends up a creepy voyeuristic look into another world. Your reader will feel less like they are immersed in a story and more like they are a peeper watching stuff happen with no sound. (in a bad way)
But how much dialogue is too much? Well, remember that friend you have? You know the one; he/she talks so much that you can’t get a thought in let alone an actual sentence. I have a good friend, who is like that; we have been friends since kindergarten, and she talks so much that I even hate to get a text from her because her texts rattle on for days. Our conversations are usually one sided and she rattles on so much that I literally stopped listening to her in 1982. (She, of course, does not realize this at all and just soldiers on) I love my friend but try as I might, I just can’t join her on that runaway conversation train. Your readers won’t enjoy that train ride either.
Dialogue should support the story not the other way around. If the conversation would bore you senseless in real life, it will also bore your readers. Use dialogue the right way and your characters will add to the story instead of taking it over. Write too much dialogue and there is no room for anything else to happen. When you start writing dialogue…step back in the editing process and ask yourself, “am I prattling on?” If you are…shut up…or that snoring you will hear in your dreams will be your readers…sleeping….and not buying your next book.
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