HOW TO KILL YOUR NOVEL WITH CONVERSATION:
Die-alogue is the best way to kill your novel. What is die-alouge? It’s forcing your characters to have real conversations just because the conversation is…real. There’s little that’s real about compelling dialogue. It’s a facade. It’s words that are strung together to mimic true speech, but somewhere within, the dialogue is missing elements that make it a genuine conversation. The small talk isn’t so small anymore. Each word has a direction and a meaning.
So what does that mean? Like, what does it really mean? A conversation has no urgency in it. How often do we speak to one another with immediacy? “Hey. Come here! Quick! My coffee’s too cool!!”
That’s weird in real life but it makes a great novel line. Why? Because in real life we’d wonder why this dude freaking out about cool coffee. But in a novel, there’s character to a line like that. Almost as much character as Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada. Good film by the way. If your character conversation doesn’t have any character in it, then it’s probably not dialogue.
“Hey, Bob. Did you read the newspaper today?”
“Good to know.”
So those lines are quite boring. Unless. OMG Unless! Unless we have two guys who just killed someone famous, and they are waiting to see if the murder went unnoticed. Now, there’s tension in the lines. The questions about the stupid old newspaper have a backdrop of suspense. But if your characters are constantly asking questions like this that are unimportant, the reader will probably skip over this die-alogue anyway, so why not just leave it out or spruce it up? Here’s another example.
“Some awful weather we’re having, huh?”
“Yeah. Pretty bad.”
“Tomatoes coming in yet?”
B-B-B-Boring! No one cares about the idiotic tomatoes. Unless. OMG Unless! Unless we have been building up to a point in the story where this farmer is depending on the tomatoes. And these tomatoes have to come in if he and his family are going to survive next season. Otherwise, if this is casual conversation, leave it out. Skip right to the point because small talk should be even smaller in your novel. Here’s one more example.
Three lines. No meaning. No one cares. Unless. OMG Unless! Unless this guy dumped Jody for the perkier and more beautiful Bianca. Now we have compassion for Jody, and these three lines give us what we need. This isn’t small talk anymore. It’s big talk! Let your dialogue speak for itself. Ahhh a pun.