Toolbox Tuesday: Breaking up is Hard to Do

 

They say that breaking up is hard to do
Now I know, I know that it’s true

wounded-heart-1175040

One of the biggest ways to confuse and lose readers is to chunk too much dialogue together. Short, pithy sentences from characters, as well as the chance for other characters to respond, keeps the reader engaged and not confused.

TIP FOR TODAY: Break up dialogue into small chunks, volleying issues between the characters one bite at a time.

The follow is an example from Breaking Promises, rewritten of course.To set the stage, Annie had just fallen off a horse because she could not get David’s attention to help her off.

“What does that have to do with you falling off?”

“I did not fall off. I jumped. And when I did, I landed in a heap and she laughed.”

“What?” The fire licked up his spine. “Why did you jump? And why did you not ask for help?”

“I wanted off. And I did ask. Three times.” She held up three fingers. “And I might have waited a bit longer if she had not kicked the kitten. ‘Tis mean she is. And spiteful.”

She stood.

This, of course, is not bad, but it can be improved.

By the time David asks why she has jumped, Annie has already given another statement about the incident, so that the dialogue does not flow naturally from one issue to the next. When David asks two questions, why did she jump and why did she want off, she answers them in the next sentence. The reader, however, is forced to slow down and reread which answer refers to which question.

While in real life people oftentimes jump in their conversations, its best not to do so in fiction. (Actually, sometimes, its best not to do so in real life, either. Just ask my husband or my children.)

Now, the same passage as it reads in Breaking Promises.

“What does that have to do with you falling off?”

“I did not fall off. I jumped.”

“What?” The fire licked up his spine.

“And when I did I landed in a heap and she laughed!”

“Why did you jump?”

“I wanted off.”

“Why did you not ask for help?”

“I did. Three times.” She held up three fingers. “And I might have waited a bit longer if she had not kicked the kitten. ‘Tis mean she is. And spiteful.”

She stood.

This, as you cacouplearguingn see, is short and pithy, with the conversation volleying between them one question at a time. No drag exists and the reader easily reads from the beginning to the end. While there is a small jump in conversation before David reacts with his question as to why Annie jumped, the thought process is natural and not forced.

While the first writing was alright, this second raises the bar as far as dialogue and keeps the reader engaged.

And as I have said before, you do NOT want your reader to lose interest.

For all you newbies, take a moment to look back at your dialogue and see if you can break it up into smaller chunks to read quicker. For the rest of us, having now had a reminder, it’s back to the dragon of editing once again.

 

 

 

 

Top pic courtesy of http://www.freeimages.com. Bottom courtesy of http://www.pixabay.com

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s