Quick Writing Tips – COVID-19 Edition

As of today, we have at least two and a half more weeks of ‘Stay Home, Work Safe.’ I normally work from home anyway, but now almost everything is shut down and I can’t go anywhere (versus just not being inclined to go anywhere).

I’m already losing my mind.

I thought I’d impart what little wisdom I have and share what I know about writing. Quick hits, nothing too extensive or involved. In the shallows, no deep dives. Okay, maybe only a few deep dives, no telling how this is going to work out in two and a half weeks.

Quick Tip #1 – people don’t really speak the way you have to write your dialogue.

Get on the bus some day and listen to the conversations around you. Or do the same at the airport, or in a restaurant, or a mall, wherever you’re not supposed to gather during this COVID-19 business. People speak in fits and starts, in incomplete sentences, and in unfinished thoughts.

You cannot write dialogue like this, no one would be able to follow it, or even read it for more than a few lines.

The secret to decent dialogue is to make it feel like someone might be speaking it, even though almost no one outside of a TED talk uses words like that.

So how do you do that, smart guy? How do you make complete sentences FEEL like genuine words coming out of someone’s mouth?

Well, that’s the art of the craft, isn’t it? You have to write dialogue over and over again. Say it to yourself, OUT LOUD, and get a feel for how your characters would say the thing you’re trying to get across.

Being an actor helped me tremendously, though I know not everyone can lean on that crutch. But I can guarantee that whenever you read dialogue that sounds stilted and wrong, it’s because the author didn’t – at a minimum – read that dialogue out loud to himself.

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