Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Speech Impediments

I love writing dialogue. A lot of times, I'll type dialogue without any quotation marks or speech tags, just letting the back-and-forth flow from my fingers as if I were transcribing a conversation. I then go back and add in who's saying what to whom, what they are doing, expressions and reactions, the like.

Only thing is, I'm finding my dialogue is chock full of speech tics. Not so much the "ums" we all stammer on occasion, especially when we feel put on the spot. I'm talking about the "Ohs" and the "Wells" and the "Yeahs." Not to mentions quite a few "Sos".

I end up with something like this.

"Well, I think it's time we have a talk," Brenda said.

"Oh?" Barney replied. "I'm don't know. We've gone this long - "

"Yeah, and I'm getting pretty tired of it. When we started this relationship, I thought things were going to be fifty-fifty. Full partners."

"So, what's the problem?" Barney steeled himself, preparing for the worst.

"Well?" Brenda glared at him. "Are you ever going to let me hold the remote?"

I also find that my characters do a lot of echoing, as if they stood at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

"I can't believe you're accusing me of that," Barney said.

"Accusing you of what?" Brenda replied.

"Of hogging the remote. Didn't you have it just last night?"

Brenda snorted. "Last night? I was out with the girls last night."

"Oh, yeah," he said. "That's right. But I know you had it the night before."

If my characters aren't throwing around empty-calorie words or repeating each other, they're asking "what" way more than they should, as if they'd been hit with some hearing problem or are kind of on the obtuse side.

"What are you going to do about it?"

"What?" Barney said.

"The remote. How are we going to work this out?" Brenda demanded.

"Well, we could go with the Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday approach, with alternate Sundays thrown in."

Brenda studied him a long moment. "You know something?"


"I love you."

I think my problem comes from transcribing dialogue as I hear it in real life. I want things to sound and flow naturally, hoping that if my characters sound like they are talking like real, living and breathing human beings do, they will come across as three-dimensional, real people. It's not so much that I engage in bagels n' coffee talk, wherein my characters go through the whole hello-how are you-I'm fine-how's the family-great, and yours song and dance. Nor do they discuss weather or the state of current sports scores. The dialogue I write is necessary to move the story forward and reveals things about the characters and their relationships with each other.

It just seems to take them a long time to get anywhere. Not to mention, this habit is killer on my word count. I might reach 10,000 words and discover a good 2,000 of them are filler speech tics.

I need to work on this. Yeah.

1 comment:

meljean brook said...

I find I end up with speeches -- it drives me nuts. I don't have too much problem with filler dialogue, but I do with endless monologues. Then I have to go in and break them up to make for easier reading, and to get the flow in there.