Saturday, June 23, 2012

Writing Conversation - Essential Tips for Dialogue in Your Character Driven Novel

Guest Post by Patty Froese

University English classes look down on romance writing. When I was taking my English degree, I looked down on romance writing, too, until I figured out how much fun it was, that is. I learned a lot about writing from reading the greats, but when it comes to learning how to write a great romance novel, I have to learn through trial and error. I do my best, and then get hacked apart by editors. It hurts, but it's good for you.

While working with a Harlequin editor on a book that didn't quite make it to print because of a marketing hitch, the editor pointed out something I could improve upon as we polished the manuscript up together--conversation.

Now, a plot driven novel keeps the pages turning because of the rollicking plot. You want to see what happens next, and each chapter leaves you on a cliff hanger. In my opinion, there had better be a good plot in a good book, but a character driven novel keeps you turning pages for a slightly different reason--findingout what happens with the characters in their relationships.

The character driven novel uses conversation to do more than propel the plot forward. In a plot driven novel, a character announces a vital piece to the puzzle. In a character driven novel, we want to know how the character feels about it, and how that is going to factor into relationships around them. In a character driven novel, there is a higher expectation in character development. Conversation serves to give that character a unique voice, deepen relationships, and draw the reader into a scene. It's about a lot more than just revealing a piece of information.

I've discovered a few tricks to use when writing conversation in a character driven novel:

  1. The conversation has to sound like a real conversation. That means, they can't always say the right thing or have the right words on the tip of their tongues.
  2. Real people interrupt each other and misunderstand each other. Characters do that, too.
  3. Keep the "he said" and "she said" tags to a minimum. If you can make it clear who is talking without them, leave them out all together.
  4. Try writing longer conversations, describing things the characters are doing while they talk. Take a realistic amount of time to get to the point and let your characters discuss. It helps to deepen the reader's understanding about who your characters are.
  5. Sprinkle your conversation with description so that you have a break between parts of conversation. Write a few lines of conversation, and then describe something for two or three lines, such as something the character is doing, something applicable in their surroundings or how the character (from whose point of view we are seeing the conversation) is feeling about what is being said.

There are no hard and fast rules about good writing. Most rules are made to be broken, or least bent from time to time. Go with your instinct and give some of these ideas a try if you think your written conversations could use a little boost. In my opinion, there is only one rule that is paramount in writing: if you want to get published, the editor is always right.

Patty Froese's most recent novel, Perfect on Paper, was released in April 2011. You can find her at her personal blog ( or on Facebook. (
Perfect on Paper
Anne Stanborough, a well known mystery writer, inherits her maiden aunt's book store, Perfect on Paper. The lawyer handling her aunt's estate is none other than the handsome Jake Harrison, but despite his attraction to the beautiful author, his painful divorce has made him wary of a marriage between two driven professionals. Anne can't let go of the career she's worked her entire life towards, and he isn't willing to make a second mistake in marriage. It looks like they should call the whole thing off until Anne discovers that her late maiden aunt might not have been so "maiden" after all… A love story from the past tugs this couple back together again, but will it be enough to prove that a love founded in God really can overcome anything? 

1 comment:

L McMaken said...

Great tips. Thanks, Patty!