Hi SEers! Denise here to discuss what happens when people talk to each other and how to apply that to writing.
Have you ever watched people talk? Do they sit and speak without moving or any expression? In my family, I’m surrounded by Italians. Hands are always flying around during conversations. I know who not to sit next to during a meal if knives are being used. It’s dangerous!
Besides hands, heads are moving, faces change expression, bodies are constantly in motion, and tone shifts can take the spoken level from high to low. The speaker’s mood comes out in not only their words but their body language.
Yet, when I first write a dialog for a story, I only put the conversation. I barely tag who’s talking. Later, when I’ve completed the story, I go back and add all the movement that accompanies the words.
Have you ever read a book where the author barely engages the speaker’s movements or expression, and the conversation is between two expressionless speakers? It’s confusing to follow along, and my mind wanders.
Although, adding in words isn’t as easy as it sounds. I can get stuck on what word to use. Luckily, there are many helpful ways to get just that right word to describe what these speakers are doing. Thesaurus is free to use on Words, but if I need more depth, I will google synonyms of a word that isn’t quite right. If I’m still stumped, I have a book called The Emotions Thesaurus sitting by my desk. You can also people-watch and observe interactions.
Once the words are added in, this can create another problem. I overuse certain words when adding to my dialog. Smile, frown, sigh, and nodded are a few of my constant repeats.
Here are some words to replace the commonly used dialog tag.
Try beam, grin, smirk, twinkling eyes, or a wink.
“You’ve got a date.” Bette smiled.
“You’ve got a date.” Bette’s bright grin almost required sunglasses.
What about a scowl, glower, grimace, glare, pout, or simply sulk?
Peter’s frown caught April’s attention.”If you don’t want to do it, Peter, just say so!”
Peter’s scowl reminded April of shark week. “If you don’t want to do it, Peter, just say so!”
Here the character can bow, shake, wiggle, move or incline the head, a quick bob of the head, and a shy affirmative dip of the head also works.
Bob nodded.” I’ll do it.”
Bob lowered his head and hunched his shoulders up like he was a turtle withdrawing into his shell. “I’ll do it.”
The character can exhale, take a deep breath, breathe out forcefully, groan, moan, long-suffering exhale, deep gusty breath, a long spiritless exhale, or a face-plant.
“Whatever you want to do is fine with me.” Lucy sighed.
“Whatever you want to do is fine with me.” Lucy exhaled so loudly it made the cat jump.
What words do you use over and over in your dialog? How do you get your characters moving during conversations?