Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Allie Pleiter ~ Guest Blogger

An avid knitter, coffee junkie, and devoted chocoholic, Allie Pleiter writes both fiction and non-fiction The enthusiastic but slightly untidy mother of two, Allie spends her days writing books, doing laundry, running carpools, and finding new ways to avoid housework She grew up in Connecticut, holds a BS in Speech from Northwestern University, spent fifteen years in the field of professional fundraising, and currently lives in suburban Chicago, Illinois The “dare from a friend” to begin writing nine years ago has given rise to a career spanning two parenting books, six novels including the multi-nominated MY SO-CALLED LOVE LIFE, and various national speaking engagements on faith, women’s issues, and writing. Visit her website or her knitting blog.

Dialogue Superpowers

Characters make us love books, and in my opinion dialogue makes us love characters Strong dialogue is memorable; everyone wants to be the hero who says just the right thing at just the right time You know when you think of that great comeback thirty minutes after the argument? One of the best things about being a writer is that you can go back and put it in (ah, if only real life worked that way)

I recently gave a workshop on Dynamic Dialogue at the Romance Writers of America Conference, and here are some basic points I shared there on how to give your dialogue strength and pizzaz.

  • Characters in stress will talk differently

Use regressed dialogue--shortened, simplified sentences, blurts, etc--to show your character’s growing tension The higher the stress, the choppier the dialogue.

  • One comment can say volumes about a character

Use what I call the “info dump” a dumb question, telling comment, or use of an endearment to sum up a character instantly. You know loads about a woman who’d call someone “dumpling,” don’t you?

  • Dialogue can establish a premise fast

Improv comics know the right sentence can set your scene “How much longer till the bus comes? I’m freezing?” Tells us as much as several sentences of description.

  • Lies reveal truths

What is your character willing to lie for? Why? Remember that a lie--especially a noble one such as a lie to protect someone he loves--can show the deep inner workings of your character. Particularly when your readers know the real truth.

  • Blurts do the same

What your character says when they’re not thinking can often show their inner feelings and motivations If they’re under too much stress to think or guard their thoughts, the resulting dialogue can offer tremendous insights Even if they try to deny it later.

  • Make your last line count

Got a great line? Put it where it will be remembered Ends of chapters or ends of books can make us fall in love all over again with the characters you’ve created.

  • Surprise your readers with a line they didn’t expect

Set up a kiss and give your reader a punch Set up a fight and let them fall into each other’s arms Human beings often say one thing and think another--use that foible to give your reader a big, entertaining surprise.

There you have it Dialogue has the potential to do so much more than deliver information Use it’spowers to show off the fabulous characters you’ve built--your readers will love you for it.

ISBN 13#: 978-0-373-87538-2

Everyone in Middleburg, Kentucky lines up for baker Dinah Hopkins’s cinnamon rolls Everyone except her handsome new landlord, Cameron Rollings The jaded city man doesn’t like anything about small-town life--from the fresh air to her fresh-baked snickerdoodles And he clearly considers Dinah as quirky as her eccentric oven The way to Cameron’s heart is
not through his toned stomach But the Lord led him to Kentucky Corners for a reason And Dinah plans to help him count his bluegrass blessings.


Tina said...

Such great advice. I like what you say about lies. It is so true! Lies do ultimately reveal truths in fiction.

Allie Pleiter said...

Tina--you're right. Lies are very powerful, but you have to wield them carefully. We won't relate to a character who lies easily or for the wrong reasons (although that's perfectly nasty behavior to give the bad guy...), so we have to know the truth first in order for the lie to work well.

PS I don't now what cyberelf made off with a large percentage of the punctuation in my post, but hopefully all you readers can compensate and get my drift.

Allie Pleiter said...

Goodness, I mean I don't KNOW what cyberelf made off with my punctuation. Technology is not my friend today!

Ane Mulligan said...

Weird, I put all the punctuation in. I mean, I copied the post and pasted it in. There IS a cyebrelf running amok at Blogger!

But we know what you meant, Allie. Great advice! I have a character who blurts out her thoughts, usually to somebody's embarrassment, often her own. It's fun to write characters like that. :)

Nicole said...

Geez, and I thought you were just being streamlined and clever. Good points.

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

great advice on dialogue! i'm looking forward to sending my manuscript to allie for the ACFW critique. (almost ready, allie!) hopefully my dialogue will not be found lacking, but i trust you to tell me if it is! :)

Allie Pleiter said...

"streamlined and clever," OOO, can I borrow that? It sounds so much better than "possibly poor proof-reader" (which, alas, is also true...but I like the former so much more)!

Jeanie, looking forward to meeting you at ACFW!

Another tip I didn't mention--take a movie scene you think has exceptional dialogue and google the screenplay. Many movie screenplays--or sometimes just transcripts--are on-line. It helps to see that great dialogue on paper so you can look at the sentence structure, etc.