D is for dialogue.
When I curl up in front of my electric fireplace, flame light rolling, comforter snuggled around me, and book in hand, I look forward to relaxing and flowing through a story that makes me forget everything.
For me, the greatest part of a story is the interactions between the characters and experiencing what they do. A big part of this comes from their dialogue. If they all sound the same to me, I get bored. Likewise, if there’s a constant “he said”, “she said”, I get annoyed and it pulls me out of the story. It’s better to show who’s talking through actions or personality in speech. Even if the plot is fast-paced and intriguing, I’m likely to skim through the conversations for pertinent information to get to a better part…or worse, set the book down.
In this excerpt, a homeless man is being harvested to be a servant to Lord Dressen. Instead of giving a lot of narrative explanation about the man, I put some of his mannerisms into his actions and speech…which are very different than any of the Shilo brothers’.
Charlie chuckled with a nervous lag. “Didn’t mean to make a mess.”
The sound of resolute steps filled the area as their heels beat against the pavement with deliberate cadence.
“Uh,” the man stood and rumpled the newsprint in his arms. “I ain’t lookin’ for no trouble here, fellas. I ain’t got nothin’ you want.” He held out the lot in his arms. “This here’s just my blanket. But you can take it if you like.”
The wizards stopped.
Charlie smiled with a quivering lip.
Cole stepped up to him.
“Look, mister. I d-don’t want n-no trouble.”
With a graceful motion, Cole sent the brilliant dust into the medium. Sprightly flashes overtook the view.
Charlie smiled a wide toothless grin. “Hey, that’s really somethin’. Do you do a show around here?” He took a breath. “’Cause, that…would…”
Of course, Charlie’s speech is much different than the youthful exuberance of Amy. In this clip, Cole is on his way to meet his date, but runs into her daughter…
“Excuse me?” Few knew this alias. “Have we met?”
“I’m Amy.” She giggled and motioned down the way. “
’s my mother. She told me all about you. I thought she was exaggerating but,” she bit her lip, and her gaze flew over him again. “It’s so nice to meet you. I think it’s great Mother’s dating again. Oh, and I think it’s so romantic you have a special way of saying her name.” Charlotte
Cole furled his brow.
She nodded and her curls bounced around her head. “Yeah, she told me all about it. ‘Sh’létte.’ She says it makes her melt.” She squinched her face, and he thought she was going to giggle again. “You make my mother melt.”
And I can’t leave out my dear Cole and James. In this excerpt, Cole’s nerves exploded at the mantel clock and he pierced it with a miniature statue of
’s capitol tower. James, of course, shows up to pick up the pieces. (Though he’s usually picking up after Vincent). Meridian
Stepping to the desk, James set a plate of cake down for his brother. “Taking on Father Time? You’ll lose.” He motioned a hand to guide the figurine to the bookshelf then passed it over his view of the clock. The face unpuckered, hands straightened, and the glass reassembled.
He sat in a chair and forked a piece of his own snack. “Eat the cake. Elaina’s family barely touched it. We have enough to last a year.”
“Did you bring butter?”
“You want butter on a cake?”
“I’ll eat butter on anything.” He reached for his portion.
“How about sweet cream?”
“Just eat the cake.”
In this last passage, you know who's in the scene and the personalitites of each. It's not necessary to add a bunch of "said Cole" or "replied James" to inform the reader of who's speaking. To me, it cuts down on annoying reminders and lets the story flow.
How do you like to see dialogue relayed in stories? Any pet peeves? Advice?