I've got a fun exercise for you today, but first a little bit of To-Do Tuesday news. Former chapter member Jennifer Grosse has sold her first book, Wedding War to The Wild Rose Press. She'll be publishing as Jenny Gilliam. I'm sure you all join me in wishing her the best of luck! Her fast rise from newbie to published author should inspire us all (and/or make us insanely jealous!)!
Anyone else have good news to share? How are all you challengers coming along? Is Alice cracking her whip hard enough?
Now, onto to today's exercise. I just had to set aside a mystery with a great premise, fun characters, and good voice. Why then is it currently keeping the dust bunnies company? Dialogue. Now, I know I've done at least two previous posts on dialogue, but bear with me. Danita has hooks, I've got dialogue. Nothing makes me loose interest faster than poor dialogue, and with limited reading time these days, I'm finding it way easier to chuck books against the wall and move onto the next contender.
This particular book suffered from the disease known as paragraphitis. This harrowing affliction shows up most frequently in contest submissions, but it's been known to plague more than a few published authors as well. Paragraphitis occurs when your characters are prone to speaking in monologues. Yes, I know it worked for Shakespeare. Trust me, you're no Shakespeare, and your readers certainly aren't Elizabethan peers of the realm. In order to capture the attention of modern readers, your dialogue needs to be short and snappy with plenty of give and take. Plus, we really need to understand what's going on behind the dialogue--emotions, facial expressions, body language, and inner thoughts.It needs to read like people really talk--pauses, interchanges, incomplete thoughts, and interruptions.
In fact, it needs to be BETTER than how we talk. No one really wants to read one of my husband's monologues on Linux or suffer through my aunt's cat stories. Let your characters come up for air. If you have to picture the other characters rolling their eyes or frantically waving their hand to get a word in edgewise, you too may be suffering from paragraphitis. Luckily, this is a pretty easy disorder to treat.
I thought about using the book I just tossed as today's example, but I know how painful it would be to have my novel serve as a teaching point, so I'm using an example of my own devising. What I want you to do is take this monologue and turn it into a true, snappy dialogue. You get to decide who's talking and what the context of the situation is. I always love seeing how each of us has a different take on the same prompt.
"Of course you're upset. I would be too. I mean anyone would. But we can't wallow in it. We just have to move on. I know just ticket. We need to get out of the house. First, we should head to Dutch Brothers, then we should hit the mall. A new dress is exactly what you need and Nordstrom's is having a sale. They have the best dressing rooms, and the saleswomen will make you feel like a queen. We'll gorge at the food court--I know how you love a gooey, buttery pretzel! Soon you'll forget he even existed."
"Great. Let's get our purses and head out. I'll bring the car around. But, would you rather freshen up first?
Now, fix it. And share your thoughts on paragraphitis.