Monday, January 11, 2016

Writing Weakness: Dialogue

Every writer has a few things that they know they are good at, and a few things that they know could use improvement. I frequently have a hard time coming up with things that fit into the former category, but boy howdy, can I fill up the latter. They're the things that I know I need to improve upon in order to make my writing better, but they're also things that are almost painful to work on, because I know it's just not good.

The biggest weakness I can think of in my own writing is dialogue. I've never been particularly gifted in the realm of conversation, even when I'm speaking in my own voice. To speak in the voices of my characters is even more difficult. I've noticed that they tend to start sounding the same (which is to say, like me, only more so), which makes distinguishing them difficult.

I also have the problem that many people of my generation deal with - that dreaded word 'like.' People have had filler words and sounds, like um, uh, er, and so on, for ages, but for some reason, around the late 80's and early 90's, 'like' took the place of those filler words for a lot of us. It's an incredibly hard habit to break, and for the most part, I'm able to avoid using it for every gap in a sentence*. However, I'm afraid I fall victim to using 'like' to switch between people when describing a scene out loud. For instance: "I'm reading this message from a publisher, and she's like, you can't publish this! And I'm like, then show me why, because otherwise it's getting published." It's...not pretty.

So, ways to fix the problem. Obviously, writing more dialogue, because practice makes perfect and all that. I've found in the past (and it's something I need to do more often) that interviewing my characters gives me a better sense of their voices, as well as giving me an opportunity to learn about aspects that wouldn't necessarily come up on the page. I also find myself getting rid of nearly ever instance of the word 'like' that comes up in my work, but that's probably specific to me. Do you guys have any suggestions, or things that work well for you?

*It could be ever so much worse. In a college Spanish literature course I was in, one of the girls would use 'like' as a filler word while speaking Spanish. As Spanish wasn't her native language, she needed the filler word much more often than she did in English. It was jarring, to say the least.