DIALOGUE TIPS

You’re writing dialogue between your characters and it goes something like this:

“Wait up Jack,” Elise said.
“I have to hurry or I’ll be late for work,” Jack responded.
“Work?” Elise questioned.
“Yeah, people do that you know.” Jack said.
“What happened?”
“Macorp closed it’s doors.” Jack muttered.

The problem is the reader doesn’t know what’s going on during the conversation. It kind of makes them go huh. They don’t know where the characters are, or why the dialogue is important. In order to help a reader engage you can use your senses to describe additional things. Put yourself in your characters shoes. Look around and describe what you see, hear, smell, or taste. Let us know how the characters feel about the situation. With that in mind, let’s rework that dialogue.

“Wait up Jack,” Elise said, slipping through two parked school buses and into the car lot. A gust of wind sent leaves drifting to the ground and carried the chatter from students rushing to their vehicles. Elise quickened her steps, uncertain if Jack had heard her.

“I have to hurry or I’ll be late for work,” Jack responded without looking back. Cursing, he fumbled the straps on his black moped to secure a satchel to the rear.

“Work?” Elise questioned, helping Jack strap his bag. Spasms drifted through her stomach knowing Jack wouldn’t be at rehearsals. The contest was in one week and she needed her pianist. Heck, he needed the money as bad as she did to help with college, or they’d both be stuck in this podunk town forever.

“Yeah, people do that you know.” Jack said, attempting to start his rust-bucket of a ride. Gas fumes filled the air and caused his nose to curl.

“What happened?” Elise demanded an answer. Just last week Jack had proclaimed his love for her and now he was giving up on both their dreams. She stomped her foot into the gravel, sending rocks rolling into his tire.

“Macorp closed it’s doors.” Jack muttered the name of his Dad’s ex-workplace, nostrils flaring. The moped coughed to a start and Jack eased out of the parking space.

Elise watched Jack drive away with her heart thumping in her throat. He didn’t have to say another word. She had seen the past due bill for his Dad’s mortgage sitting on his kitchen counter yesterday. A tear streamed out the corner of her eye, leaving salt across her lips as it continued down her chin.

Okay, so my examples were a quick ten minutes of my thoughts spewed out onto my blog. I know you can do better! But you understand how descriptions can make a difference to help readers know what is happening during your dialogue. Readers need to see what is happening and feel the emotions of the characters.

Good luck and happy writing!

P.D. Pabst
Writer and blogger of MG/YA fiction

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