I also co-presented a workshop on dialogue with Harlequin American author Cathy McDavid and Love Inspired/Avalon author Kim Watters. We presented a skit of really bad dialogue and each of us presented another skit where we had taken the bad dialogue and revised it to show three purposes of snappy dialogue: dialogue used to show information, dialogue used to show emotion and dialogue used to provide depth of character.
Okay, above is an example of boring information written in narrative tell not show mode. Let's show you how dialogue can change that.
Sandra worked her way through the mile-long row of booths. "Can you believe there are so many organizations featuring books?"
Cathy dodged the father pushing his twins in the stroller. "We need to find the Saguaro Chapter RWA booth and discover when and where we speak."
Sandra pointed to a volunteer dressed in a bright orange t-shirt with the tarantula logo for the Tucson Festival of Books printed across the back. "She has a map of the campus. I know it isn't back there because the east end features children's books. I just came from working the SCBWI booth."
Kim held up her phone. "Its listed in their apps." She stopped in the middle of the thoroughfare, blocking the flow of traffic. "The hospitality suite for authors is in the Student Union over there." She looked up and pointed to a nearby building.
"Good. There are comfortable places to sit where its air conditioned and out of the hot sun." Cathy changed direction barely dodging a man dressed as Darth Vadar. "Lets go there and get our bearings."
Sandra followed close behind. "We can polish our presentation."
Kim caught up with Sandra. "Do you have your dialogue finished?"
Sandra nodded. "I'm going to mention the do's and don'ts for dialogue that Myra Johnson presented in her blogpost." Sandra pointed to her handbag. "And I have handouts with an example of using tags that Mary Connealy used in her post plus a list of other posts presented in Seekerville by Ruth Logan Herne, Camy Tang and Debby Guisti."
"Smart thinking. We'll add them to the handout I have with a paragraph from Gone With The Wind. We'll let them practice their skills at writing dialogue."
"I have copies of Mary and Myra's books to give as prizes for those who are brave enough to read theirs out loud."
"Those are great resources." "Its wonderful to have such talented friends, but don't tell them I said so." Sandra smirked. "Their heads would puff up and explode."
Can you see how the dialogue and tags gave us the same information in an active voice? Let me give you the example we used in the skit.
"Hi, Cathy, hi Sandra, how are you today?"
"I'm fine," Cathy said.
"I'm fine, too." Sandra replied.
"How are you, Kim?" Cathy asked.
"Better today. I was sick yesterday."
"That's too bad. But I'm glad you're better."
"What did you have?" Sandra asked.
"A cold. I get everything the kids bring home."
"I had a cold, too. Last week," Cathy said.
"It's going around," Sandra added.
"Oh my, look at the time," Sandra exclaimed. "I've got to go. Buy Cathy. Buy Kim."
BORING but that is the way we talk. So the idea is to sound realistic, but not totally real.
Now here is basically the same conversation that gives information.
Kim adjusted her helmet. "Ready to head for the staging area?"
"I'm good." Sandra wheeled her bicycle toward the start line.
Cathy joined her. "I'm ready to kick action. How about you Kim?"
Kim's shoulders sagged. "I got sick last night. Something I ate at the party."
"You okay to race?"
Kim grasped the handles of her bike. "I have to get this win to qualify for nationals."
See how the tags and actual dialogue gives the reader setting, action, and hint of conflict and tension? Much more interesting and believe me, it was a challenge to make anything interesting out of that blah dialogue. LOL
Let me give you another example of dialogue giving information.
"Yeow!" Sandra's scream echoed down the hall.
DH's feet thudded as he leapt out of his chair. "Are you all right?"
Footsteps raced toward her office. Sandra Snoopy danced around the room.
"What's the matter?" DH appeared in the doorway. A frown marred his rugged features.
Sandra pointed to the computer. "Look. My cover has arrived."
DH sagged against the doorjamb. "Yes, dear. Very nice."
Now that's exciting!
Yep, this is my new cover of my June release.
Doesn't that just dance with romantic summer fun?
Here's an exerpt from The Price of Victory
The others stared. Debra didn’t seem to notice—or care that she had the exclusive attention of a Silverwing. Sterling chuckled as he grabbed her hand before she could refuse and helped her up. Yep, that’s what he liked about her. No guile.
They wove past the refreshment table toward the French doors. Her hand felt right in his—soft yet strong. The rapid beat of Salsa music drew them toward the patio. He pressed her fingers to the rhythm.
She pulled her hand away and paused. Sterling saw the hesitation in her features. “Something wrong?”
“I don’t dance.” She turned away from the doors.
He stepped in front of her to stave off her retreat. “Let’s sit outside and watch.”
Her relief made him smile. He guided her over to the brick wall. “You ride a bike well.”
She drew her hand away and hiked herself up onto the low wall. Sterling sat next to her and reached for her hand. She started to pull back, but changed her mind. Sterling kept his palm flat with her fingers resting on top. No threat.
She stared at their hands. “Why am I letting you do this?”
“I told you. I’m your Prince Charming.”
Her mock groan included a reflex squeeze of her fingers. Her eyes locked with his and Sterling forced himself not to react.
“I guess I did need rescuing back there. They were nice to talk to, but I don’t really like crowds,” she admitted.
“See, we have something else in common.”
Her laughter blended with the fast-paced music. Her peach scent accented the fragrance of new spring flowers. Her eyes sparkled and reflected like the light of the stars in the dark sky overhead. Perfect. Now if this moment could last.
It didn’t. She shifted and squirmed and finally withdrew her hand. He figured it was in pretense of finding a more comfortable position on the wall, because she braced both of her hands on either side of her and scooted back.
“Comfortable now?” he asked.
“Better.” She smiled and they both knew it was because her hand was free.
He shifted so that he was looking her directly in the eye. “I like you Debra, but I won’t force anything.”
“That’s why I’m sitting here. You understand how difficult it is to be involved on the road.” Her eyes locked with his and he could see sincerity and a hint of loneliness. “It’s nice to be able to talk and not have to worry.”
Don’t let me ever do anything to lose that trust.
He smiled, resisting the urge to tuck a strand of her hair behind her ear. “I enjoy talking to you too. I’m hoping your enthusiasm will rub off on me.”
Concern reflected in her features, and Sterling realized he’d said too much. He hoisted himself off the wall. “Wait here. I’ll bring us some more juice.”
Idiot. Admitting his current faults wasn’t the way to impress a woman. Quickly he pushed his way to the refreshment
I hope this gives you a taste of using dialogue to show information. When my first draft is finished, I look at the sections where there is a lot of narrative and try to think of ways to make it either more action-packed or put it in dialogue.
Take a look at your WIP and find a paragraph you can change to dialogue. Post it in the comments and your name will be placed for a drawing of your choice of one of Cathy's Harlequin Americans, Kim's Love Inspired or a Seeker book. I will draw two winners and their names will be announced in the Weekend Edition.
For a treat, I'm bringing party food like they have for the cyclists. Healthy-full of carbs-fruits and vegetables-platters of all types of breads, rolls, crackers-platters with a variety of cheeses-lunchmeats-bowls of nuts. Help yourself.
And for you Seeker pals a HUGE platter of chocolate. Since Tina featured Sees and its my favorite, we have a selection from Sees Candies. YUM.