Hi SErs! Harmony here 🙂
Today, I’d like to take a look at dialogue. Because this is such a large topic, I plan to break it down over a few posts. As the post title suggests, we’ll look at ‘name dropping’ within dialogue today.
‘I’m sorry, Jake, and sorry to be bothering you on a Sunday. But this situation can get dicey and needs a steady hand. I trust you, Jake, and that’s why I’m asking you to step in. You know, Jake, when I was a young lawyer I learned that we don’t always get to choose our clients, right?’
The above quote comes from a recently published book by a big-name traditionally published author. I believe this is the first ever time I’ve actually seen a name used THREE times in one single piece of dialogue. It’s bad enough used once in each line of dialogue, never mind this many times.
As you’ve no doubt also guessed, today’s post is all about limiting the amount of times you drop names into dialogue. I know many of us speak like this in real life, but in our writing we need to cut it out.
Top Tip: When you need to identify the speaker, it is far better to utilise dialogue tags or beats [more on those in a later post].
The author could have used all these name drops for emphasis or manipulation, which would fit the current context where I found this extract, and would have been an excellent use of name dropping in this instance. However, when you read the whole book and see this sort of thing repeated time and again, it dawns on you that the writer has no clue, and that there is no apparent reason for this amature use of dialogue.
Below, I show an example of dialogue done well.
‘Why didn’t you ask your dad while you had the opportunity?’ she said.
The third shot laid a brace to my spine–or maybe her insinuation had more to do with it. ‘What are you getting at?’
‘He knew everything going on in this town. You don’t think he knew what happened to his firstborn?’
‘Are you suggesting my father–?’
The use of tags and beats avoids name dropping nicely here, and because this dialogue is between two speakers only, we don’t need to keep on identifying the person talking each and every time. With three or more people, things get trickier. However, the above use of tags and beats is the way to go, rather than constant name dropping.
For those interested, the two books I’ve taken quotes from are: A Time for Mercy by John Grisham and The Thing About Kevin by Beem Weeks.
The take-away from all of this is that while we want to avoid, or at least limit, the use of name dropping, it does have a place when used sparingly as a tool for emphasis or something else such as manipulation, etc. Before we break the rules, we need to know the rules, and we only break them if we have a valid reason to do so to enhance our artistic expression in writing.
That’s it from me for today. I hope you find this post useful. And I’ll see you again on April 2nd 🙂
©2021 Harmony Kent