I love writing dialogue. But sometimes I love writing dialogue a little too much. A few weeks ago, I was reading back over the first draft of a story I had finished a few months ago and discovered that my characters are blabbermouths. I was tempted to print the story out and start slashing away at the excessive dialogue right then and there.
When I write first drafts, I write fast. I want to get the story out. Dialogue moves the story along at a very fast pace, sometimes too fast if there’s too much of it.
So here are some tips for dialogue if you find that your characters are blabbermouths, too:
1. Is it really necessary to include this dialogue? (Your characters don’t need to make small talk, unless it’s intrinsic to the plot.) Remember what Strunk and White said: “A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”
2. Dialogue does not have to imitate real life speech exactly. Watch out for overuse of dialect and words like “um,” “like,” “so,” “well,” etc.
3. Actions speak louder than words. Instead of having your characters say what they feel, have them do something that illustrates it better.
4. Vary the pacing. Dialogue tags like “said” make the dialogue flow faster. Having no dialogue tags takes it up to warp speed.
5. Don’t use too many adverbs, as in “he said angrily.”