The SHANNON MUIR’S INFINITE HOUSE OF BOOKS column on Mondays and Wednesdays is a place at Shannon Muir’s author website open to interviews and guest posts from other authors. One thing Shannon firmly believes in for readers not only to learn about new books available, but about those who craft the tales behind them. As its name implies, SHANNON MUIR’S INFINITE HOUSE OF BOOKS weekly column features writers from all genres of fiction who want their potential audience to get to know them, and their works, better – and occasionally may offer features from Shannon herself that support readers to discover words.
Today, find out more about PERFECTLY MISUNDERSTOOD.
About the Book:
I wouldn’t consider myself an expert writer by any stretch. But the one element I get the most positive feedback on is my ability to write dialogue. It also happens to be my favorite part of writing (or reading) a book. For me, that’s the fun part of creating a character. It’s the best way for a reader to get to know them. Sure, you could describe someone’s personality but that’s not as exciting as discovering what they’re like through their own words.
Creating interesting dialogue is also a good way to make the story feel authentic and true to life. If you’re writing teens, use words and slang that teens would use. If you’re writing parents, talk like they’d talk. Decide what you want the character’s personality to be like and make sure their statements reflect that. If you have a character that you want to come across as happy, you can’t write lots of scenes where they complain. Nobody will think of them as a happy person. I know that tid-bit sounds like a no-brainer, but sometimes it’s hard to keep things simple.
The trick that helps me the most is to literally put myself in the character’s head. My family thinks I’m nuts for having conversations with myself and then laughing at myself…all outloud. If you’re stuck for something witty or moving or clever, ask yourself, “What would I say in this situation? How would I feel? How would I respond?” Use your personal experiences and thoughts to create dialogue that’s real.
There are a couple things to watch for when writing dialogue. First, be careful not to get too wordy–a problem that I had big time when I first started. By that, I mean don’t use six words to say something that could be said with two. For example: you could say “I went with her to go to the store” which is nine words. Or you could say “we went to the store” which is five. The more concise your sentences, the better your story will flow. Don’t use unnecessary words to fill up space. A high word count doesn’t always mean a better book.
Second, watch for repetition. You’d be surprised how many times you use a word like ‘just’ when it’s really not needed. Tons of commonplace words get repeated more than they should. This problem can be solved easily by reading your manuscript out loud. You’ll know instantly if you’ve used a word too many times once you hear it. Switch up dialogue tags. There are lots of different ways to say ‘said’ and that will keep the conversations from sounding boring. People can: reply, respond, answer, ask, state, object, yell, whisper, grumble, mumble, murmur, and the list goes on. Mix things up and remember that the thesaurus is your best friend.
Jayden’s glare intensified, and I could tell she was sending me mental death threats. Eventually, she gave up and sat down across from me. “Was that so hard?” I asked.
“About as hard as you head.”
“I have harder parts than my head,” I countered. Her eyes grew wide at the implication. I let her stew for a second before lifting my sleeve and flexing my bicep. “You think that’s hard? You should see my abs.” I’d said it as a joke, but it was basically true.
She was surprised for the briefest moment, then she grunted. “How Cro-Magnon of you.”
“Your grunt suggests you’re familiar with the genotype on a personal level.” I smirked.
Jayden’s eyes narrowed. “At least I’ve evolved. Your face suggests that you haven’t yet.”
I tsked in good nature. “Your face might be prettier than mine, but your manners prove you haven’t evolved as much as you think.”