As part of my Guest blog series for authors and fellow bloggers I am proud to present another guest blog spot.The Copper Promise I am very excited andthe author of
So go get your copy!
Jen Williams: Dialogue
Writing dialogue is always my favourite part of writing a book. If I could get away with it, 90% of my books would be made up of conversations in taverns, occasionally interrupted by elaborate orders of drinks and the odd break to nip outside and have a punch up. Alas, I can’t quite get away with that, but I can make the most of any dialogue I get to write, because dialogue is, if you ask me, the music that keeps your novel jiving. Here are five things I always bear in mind when my characters stop to have a chin-wag:
1 Who is talking? Can you tell? It’s an old piece of advice, maybe, but it rings true. People have different ways of speaking, different verbal habits, and if your characters have those too, it helps to bring them to life. If you took away all of the dialogue tags, could you still tell who is talking? In my books, if a lot of swearing is going on, or there are a smattering of particularly colourful insults, I know that Wydrin of Crosshaven is talking. If the words are haughty and well-spoken, it’s usually Lord Frith. In a later book, I have a character who has a habit of calling everyone ‘dear’, or if she’s really angry, ‘darling’. Dialogue is a quick and easy way of letting your readers get to know your characters.
2 It must sound real. And at the same time, it must not. If you record actual human conversation, it is largely a gibbering car crash: people meander, change the subject, pause for painful lengths of time, say ‘um’ a lot, make strange noises, or straight-up not make much sense. If you transcribed this sort of thing directly into your own writing, your book would be three times as long, and largely impossible to follow. The thing to find is the magical dialogue bubble that only exists in fiction, where although people may sometimes stumble over their words in moments of extreme stress (‘Oh, well, actually I think… I think your nose is the prettiest I’ve ever seen, actually’) they also never suffer from l’esprit d’escalier – witty retorts and damning put-downs are the chewy nougat* of fiction (well, my sort of fiction, anyway).
3 Break up your speeches. People do tend to talk a lot (I myself am blessed with a number of very mouthy characters) – whether in conversation or a scenery-chewing monologue, and the rhythm of that can start to look a little boring on the page. A way of breaking this up, and sneakily conveying even more juicy character info, is to describe your characters doing something while they speak. These can be small things, like preparing food or fiddling with an item of clothing, but used with care, these little actions can be really useful – not least because sometimes they can indicate that what is being said is not actually the whole story. Does your character tug at the laces of their boots when nervous? Or do they compulsively make tea when a difficult conversation is at hand?
4 In the land of Show Don’t Tell, dialogue is your secret weapon. We all know that big exposition dumps are about as popular as a damp bus seat, and when you’re writing fantasy you usually have even more information than usual to convey: what the world is like, who rules it, how the magic works, what terrible horror from the depths of history is about to rise up and destroy everyone, and so on. Having your characters talk about the history of their world, or it’s particular idiosyncrasies, is a great way of sneaking this information in under the Banner of Banter – however, you do of course have to avoid the ‘As you know, Bob…’ trap. If your characters are deeply interested in talking about ancient politics for no particular reason, the writer’s devious hand is suddenly very obvious. Think of world-building through dialogue as a spice you add to the meal – just a touch here and there, don’t overwhelm it.
5 Value an awkward silence. Sometimes, what characters aren’t saying to each other is infinitely more valuable than their witty banter.
*This is assuming you like chewy nougat. Please substitute with honeycomb or caramel at will.
Jen Williams lives in London with her partner and their cat. She started writing about pirates and dragons as a young girl and has never stopped. Her short stories have featured in numerous anthologies and she was nominated for Best Newcomer in the 2015 British Fantasy Awards.
- Paperback: 448 pages
- Publisher: Angry Robot (July 5, 2016)
- ISBN-10: 0857665766
- ISBN-13: 978-0857665768
There are some tall stories about the caverns beneath the Citadel – about magic and mages and monsters and gods.
Wydrin of Crosshaven has heard them all, but she’s spent long enough trawling caverns and taverns with her companion Sir Sebastian to learn that there’s no money to be made in chasing rumours.
But then a crippled nobleman with a dead man’s name offers them a job: exploring the Citadel’s darkest depths. It sounds like just another quest with gold and adventure … if they’re lucky, they might even have a tale of their own to tell once it’s over.
These reckless adventurers will soon learn that sometimes there is truth in rumour. Sometimes a story can save your life.
“A fast-paced and original new voice in heroic fantasy.”
Adrian Tchaikovsky, author of Children of Time and the Shadows of the Apt series
“The Copper Promise is near-perfect fantasy-adventure fun and a breath of fresh air …
Read it and remind yourself what made you fall in love with fantasy.”
– Starburst Magazine
“Fresh and exciting, full of wit and wonder and magic and action, The Copper Promise is *the* fantasy novel we’ve been waiting for.”
– Adam Christopher, author of Empire State, The Age Atomic and the Dishonored series
“There are pirates and magic, demons and disciples, undead soldiers and noble knights. If you’re thinking this sounds like a lot of fun you’d be gods damned right.”
– Den Patrick, author of The Boy with the Porcelain Blade