So here’s the thing.
My plot’s sorted, the pacing seems about right, and the characters all seem fairly ‘real’. But what about the dialogue?
Well, it’s okay … but. I’ve recently shared a few scenes with some fellow writers and the combination of reading them out loud, and getting feedback from others, has made me realise I’ve been seeing my dialogue through rose-tinted glasses.
Because now, when I go back and re-read bits of it, I can see there is a woodish air to it. Like it’s standing up straight with its shoulders back, and trying just that little bit too much.
What it needs, I thought, is a quick shot of tequila, or to be told a dirty joke. Anything to loosen it up a bit!
So in the fourth draft I’ve dusted off my wood-o-metre (used so easily when critiquing the work of others!) and applied it to my own. And I think it’s working. There are some of the changes I’ve made:
“It was totally impractical.”
Has become … “It’d never work out.”
“Maybe. But, given your situation, there’s no time for caution. If you’re going to go for it, it has to be now.” [I’m desperate to add ‘old chap’ on the end of that one!].
Has been shortened to … “Maybe, but you’re out of time. Just go for it.”
And (my personal favorite) “It doesn’t feel right.”
Is now … “It’s shit.”
So, what have I learnt?
Well, firstly, real people don’t talk like they’re on a public service broadcast from the fifties (at least not in the setting of my novel). And, secondly, always read your dialogue out loud, preferably in front of people. It makes you more conscious of what works and what doesn’t – and is great practice for (hopefully, fingers crossed) those author reading you’ll do in the future.