Say That Again…

I’ve been focusing on diversifying my dialogue lately.  I’ve been trying to zero in on phrases that all my characters use that not all of them should use.  For example, I tend to start a lot of sentences with “I guess.”  I talk that way in person, but not everyone does.  If I have a diverse cast of characters, they shouldn’t all share that tendency.

In addition to that, I’ve been  making an effort to avoid common dialogue cliches in an attempt to make mine more realistic.  Here’s one of the few that I’m pretty sure I’ve never been guilty of…because it drives me crazy when I see it.

“What are we going to do?” Anna cried.  “There’s still two werewolves out there and we’re trapped in this cabin with no silver bullets left!”

“There has to be a way out of this,” Brent said, gritting his teeth with manly determination.

“There’s no time!”  Anna shrieked hysterically.  “Stick a fork in us, we’re done!  They’ll break down the door any minute now!”

“Wait,” Brent said with dawning ingenuity.  “Say that again.”

“There’s no time!”

“No,” Brent waved her off.  “After that.”

“They’ll break down the door any minute now!”

“No, before that.”

“Stick a fork in us, we’re done!”

“That’s it!” he exulted.  “Forks!  We’ll melt down the silverware for bullets!”

Yeah...I buy that.  That plays realistically.

Yeah…I buy that. That plays realistically.

Movies and television are far more guilty of that one than books are, in my experience.  But that still doesn’t make it okay.  I’m a pretty absentminded guy sometimes, but never in my life has my moment of inspiration been immediately dissipated because someone spoke one sentence too many and only restored upon carefully reviewing everything that was just said.

One poor dialogue practice that I know I’m guilty of is…unnecessary repetition.

“That’s it!” he exulted.  “Forks!  We’ll melt down the silverware for bullets!”

“Melt down the silverware for bullets?” Anna echoed incredulously.

“Yeah, melt down the silverware for bullets!”

“How the hell are we going to melt down the silverware for bullets?” she asked.

Brent picked up the blowtorch conveniently sitting on the table.  “See?” he said.  “We’ll melt down the silverware for bullets!”

The point has been made!

The point has been made!  Let’s move on to some different phrases!

I use this technique frequently because I think it’s funny.  If done right, this kind of thing can be funny (I may or may not be in denial here), especially if it’s read aloud or acted.  But if it’s used too much (number one culprit here), or used in the wrong kind of situation, it becomes kind of…annoying.  As I’m sure you can imagine.

Dialogue can be tough.  Getting all my characters not to use my voice can be tough.  I don’t need to throw in extra silliness like this stuff to make my work even tougher.

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