Get Your Characters Talking, Part II: Addressing concerns about dialogue

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By Julie Tyler

Are you characters talking, yet? Are your readers listening? In Part I, I offered tips, techniques, and literary examples for writing engaging dialogue. Here, I address two concerns that I used to have about writing dialogue and share them with you, so that you can refine your novel’s style:

Concern #1: What if my characters are intellectuals, or doctors, or lawyers? Don’t they need to use jargon?

Yes, they do. The trick is to combine these characters’ professional vocabulary with the natural rhythms of everyday speech. Try interviewing someone whose profession matches your character’s. Take note of the jargon you hear, as well as the rhythms, fillers, etc. that your interviewee uses to express ideas. It’s excellent research for your plot and dialogue at the same time.

Concern #2: But if I start writing more idiomatic, natural-sounding dialogue, won’t it dumb down my novel?

No, it won’t. Not if your ideas, themes, and plots are sophisticated to begin with. And in fact, revising dialogue to resemble everyday speech and to have bearing on characters’ experiences will enhance the sophistication and integrity of your work.

Are you ready to get your characters talking? I’d love to hear ’em! Share your ideas and dialogue examples in the comments section below!

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