Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Virtual Tour and Guest Post: Nell Walton

Please join me in welcoming Nell Walton, author of the new book, The Bone Trail to Always With a Book! If you missed my review, you can read it here. Today Nell talks about the use of dialog in fiction.


Dialog in Fiction
 

When I first sent my manuscript of The Bone Trail to beta readers for feedback, I found myself in a quandary.  Some of the negative feedback I received had to do with dialog, and I wound up receiving a myriad of different suggestions on how I needed to ‘repair’ my dialog problems.  It basically fell into these categories:


  1. I don’t know who is talking with out the dialog tags.  I have to go back through the conversation to see who is saying what.
  2. You should never put dialog tags when there are only two people speaking.  The reader should be able to sort it out!
  3. I hate it when someone puts a name in a dialog in order to designate who is speaking,  i.e. “Well, Stan, I think this is the best thing for you to do about this situation.”
  4. You speakers don’t have their own ‘voice.’ Different people speak differently, just listen to the way that people talk in real life and you will start to see the difference.  Just copy that in your fiction, the reader will understand.


As a reader the only complaint that I have had is with the first one.  So many times I have had to go back and count paragraphs to see who is speaking while reading novels, especially in the past five years or so.  The rest never really bothered me, as either a reader or an author.


So, how did I solve this dilemma?  I went back and reviewed how some of my favorite authors handled dialog to see what method would work best for me.


First thing I ruled out was using accents/dialects or trying to stick characters with their own voices.  It is something I have never cared for in fiction.  I particularly dislike dialects unless it is done really well (which is extremely rare) because either the reader winds up stumbling over the dialog, or worse, your characters cease being characters and become caricatures. I do use dialect briefly, for one character for a short period of time in The Bone Trail, but I consider it to be a plot device, rather than an attempt to make the character more ‘real.’


The second thing I did was to review how many times I had used a name in the dialog.  It was excessive, so I took steps to put the name tags outside of the dialog itself, while only using the verb ‘said’ which readers slide over very easily.



I also decided that my writing style doesn’t work well with trying to replicate verbal dialog with exactitude.  Some authors can do this and do it well (Annie Proulx for example), but I am not one of them.


So, what it boiled down to was that I decided to stick with my own gut feeling as to what works for me.  I think when push comes to shove that is all any author can do.



My editor heartily agreed with me when she got the final draft, so I guess I made the right choice.


About the author: Nell Walton is an avid horsewoman and also owns two wild horses, both of which came from a herd near Elko, NV.  She is also the founder and managing editor of the online equestrian news magazine, The AllHorses Post.  She has degrees in journalism and biology from the University of Arkansas, spent many years as a professional journalist and worked as an intern for former President Bill Clinton when he was governor of Arkansas.  She lives in East Tennessee on a small horse farm with her husband, four horses, one donkey, two cats and two dogs.  The Bone Trail is her first novel.
 
Visit these sites for more information:
Twitter: nellwal
Facebook:  AllHorses Post


Thank you Nell for contributing this great guest post, and thanks to Jaime at  Pump Up Your Book  for coordinating it.
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1 comment

  1. Great post. I find this is an often neglected topic, but highly essential in the lit enterprise. Recently, I had what I call a positive rejection from Pank Magazine. They have been on my radar for a while because their editor likes my stuff. She actually sends me feedback and in this last "positive rejection" she told me to tweak the dialog a bit. This bugged me since I personally feel dialog is my strong point, but publishing is so competitive now that you cannot discount commas, font or anything else. You get my drift.

    Thanks for the advice.

    Cheers,
    John Gorman

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