Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Better Dialogue, Less Fillers

I came across this video today and immediately applied it to writing dialogue. We all want our dialogue to come out sounding natural, right? Of course we do; no one wants to read stilted conversations. However, something important to remember about writing dialogue is not to be TOO natural. When we have conversations with our peers, co-workers, friends, family etc. we often use many of the filler words mentioned in the video and a ridiculous amount of small talk. When writing fiction we want to delete all of the filler words and small talk unless it's vital to a characterization (eg. an awkward exchange that needs to happen), because it clogs up your writing.

See example:

"Hey June, what's up?"
"Not much, Peter. How about you?"
"Oh you know, school, work, the usual."
"How's work?"
"It's so hard! I never get any time to myself."
"I heard that your new boss is awful! Mary told me she was going to quit."
"Really? But her and I were going to partner up on a new product design next month."
"Well, she did say she wanted to quit."
"She can't leave me hanging. She has some explaining to do!"

Now clean it up to get straight to the point:

"Hey June, what's up?"
"You work with Mary right?"
"Yeah, why?"
"She just told me that she was going to quit!"
"Really? But her and I were going to partner up..."

The flow is much better in the second one and doesn't confuse the reader with information that they don't need to  know. Try to make a point to get rid of the filler or "peanuts" in you writing this week and see if it strengthens your piece.

What I'm reading: The Comet's Curse by Dom Tessa
What I'm watching: Haven
What I'm listening to: Florence and the Machine

P.S. Inspiration page is commmmming and be sure to vote in the poll in the sidebar!


  1. Very good point! I think the key to keeping writing tight, even beyond the dialogue, is to focus on things related to the core of the story. Like that tip about cutting scenes so the reader's coming to the party late and leaving early--just keeping to things that advance the plot, you know?

    1. Exactly! I love that analogy of the reader coming to the party late and leaving early; it's a great way to think about it.

  2. That video made me laugh so much. Just the way he used them all at the end :) . I know what you mean with the dialogue! When I'm having conversations between characters (almost said "with" characters--oops!) I tend to ramble a little bit because I'm having so much fun. (That's if I have a funny character to work with--usually I do.) :) Must work on that...

    1. Sometimes it can be hard to leave something out because it seems so funny/clever/unique at the time, but in the end the story usually ends up better with out it.

      And talking "with" your characters, too funny!

  3. Great example you gave on how to improve dialogue. I can't stand when I read dialogue that has nothing to do with the story or characterization. It just doesn't flow. James Scott Bell's books on writing have really helped me improve my dialogue and showed me how to make it tighter, easier to read.

    That video made me laugh. It's "so true" too. =)

    1. Hmm, I've never read any of James Scott Bell's books. I'll have to look some of them up at the library.

      Thanks for commenting; glad the video made you laugh!

  4. One of my first editors pointed this out to me. I used a lot of dull, every day conversations in my book. When I took them out, everything flowed much nicer. I never knew how full real life conversations can get when we have to read them.


    1. The idea of dull conversations first came to me at a course I took a year or so ago. Before that I had thought that those everyday conversations made the work authentic, but you're right, it flows much better when we get rid of filler language.

  5. "Or, for fans of Community, 'coolcoolcool.'" LOL love that show. X)

    HEY JUNE!!! XD

    lol love the post! :D

    1. Haha thanks and I did the "hey June" thing just for you:)


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