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Writing Dialogue

by Peggy

I have trouble writing dialogue, and I don't know if I'm using character thoughts correctly. I was told to put them into dialogue to make the dialogue more interesting. But now I've been told to take them out because they're not interesting. Which is right?


ANSWER

When writing dialogue, character thoughts, known as internalizations, should feel relevant and integral to the passage. They should never interrupt without good reason but should contribute to the forward flow of the conversation, to create a seamless feel. If internalizations are used too frequently, they will interrupt the flow of the passage and feel unnecessary. Sometimes it's better to combine all the internalizations into one brief passage.

Poor use of internalizations:

"What did you say?"
"I said I wanted a divorce." He must have known this was coming.
"Why now?"
"Do you have to ask?" Really. Why not now? I should have asked for a divorce months ago.
"You're moving out, then."
"In your dreams." I'd found the apartment. I wasn't moving.
"You want the divorce, not me."
"Oh come on. Can you honestly say you want to stay married?" If he said yes, he was a damn liar. He didn't love me.

Good use of internalizations:

"What did you say?"
"I said I wanted a divorce."
"Why now?"
"Do you have to ask?"
"You're moving out, then."
"In your dreams."
"You want the divorce, not me."
"Oh come on. Can you honestly say you want to stay married?" If he said yes, he was a damn liar. He didn't love me. I should have asked for a divorce months ago. And I'd found the apartment. I wasn't moving.

Writing dialogue takes practice. As you read, note how others handle dialogue. You might even type out a passage to get the feel of the nuances. Like reading work aloud, typing out a passage will make you more aware of what is on the page.

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