Too Much Dialogue?

I was too tired to write last night after a hectic day at work, so I decided to read a little of my draft and tweak things a bit — this was a bad idea.

This is horrible. I’ve been in some sort of daze the last two months and this is the worst thing I’ve ever written, I thought.

I discovered something last night. If I’m too tired to write, I’m too tired to read my writing. After revisiting the draft this morning, I’m back to thinking it’s not horrible, and in fact, pretty okay.

The two things I worry about the most when I’m writing are if I have too much dialogue and too little description. In this post I’ll talk about dialogue, and I’ll cover description on Wednesday.

I love writing dialogue, it’s fun! Sometimes I’m concerned that my dialogue is cheesy, but then I think about the way real people talk. We use cliches, and whatever lame slang appeals to us. Of course, if you write dialogue modeling exactly how people speak, including fillers like “um, uh, etc.”, it would be a chore to read.

After reading about it (aka, googling until I find information that reassures me), I’ve decided the problem isn’t having too much or too little dialogue. The question I have to ask myself is, “Is this scene advancing or hindering the story?” Here’s a few things I check for when deciding this:

  1. Is one character taking up more than a short paragraph? There are tons of exceptions to this, but most of the time I find that if it would take multiple paragraphs for a character to say something, I’m better off writing it in third person.
  2. Am I tempted to use a lot of adverbs? If I’m writing dialogue and find myself describing how a character is speaking constantly, I know I need to change something. One option is to have characters interact with their environment as they speak. Example: “‘This isn’t fair!’ Derek said angrily.” VS “Derek stabbed a piece of chicken with his fork. ‘This isn’t fair!'” Sometimes, the case may be that I don’t need the character to speak at all.
  3. Am I enjoying it? If I’m writing dialogue and I find myself laughing or getting excited or nervous, whatever I’m trying to convey in the scene, I know it’s probably okay. I’m taking the same approach to dialogue as I am with writing the rest of my novel; if I’m having fun writing it, that’s a good sign.

I’m slowly realizing that there’s not really “right” and “wrong” when it comes to writing fiction, there’s just “effective” and “ineffective”. You don’t really know what camp you’re in until you have an audience.  So, as I tell myself everyday, just keep writing!