Yes. It is that bad.
There are several reasons why your characters' dialogue is important. First, it's key to making the reader like your characters. And if readers don't like your hero or heroine, they're most likely not going to like your book. Dialogue is a window into a character's personality, his values, his intelligence, and his ability to function in the world you've created for him.
Second, it's important because we've all suffered through clumsy conversations. It's viscerally uncomfortable. Clumsy dialogue is like memory association for those awkward moments, making the reader squirm and wince. Mostly you don't want your readers squirming and wincing as they read your book. #:0)
So what makes good dialogue?
1. Good dialogue sounds natural for your characters. This means that, unless you're portraying someone from another country or time, you should always use contractions.
Example: I am not kidding = bad. I'm not kidding =good.
This might seem basic but I've read books by writers who break this rule repeatedly. I never really got attached to the characters in those books...
2. Good dialogue should clearly represent your character. For example, a poor waitress from the Midwest wouldn't speak like an English teacher from the East.
3. Good dialogue doesn't attempt to give 2 years of back story when the characters having the dialogue should already know the things they're dialoguing about. Argh! This is a pet peeve of mine. Here's an example. Sally and Dave are talking about an incident they both experienced the week before. The author decides the easiest way to give that information is for Sally and Dave to refer to it. Okay, referring and giving a soliloquy are 2 very different things. Here's what I mean.
Sally: "I understand, Dave, that you're referring to that incident last week when we ran into Father Jeffries in the town square and he looked very embarrassed and was all fidgety, and when we questioned him why he was there talking to the sexy Widow James he rushed away with a red face instead of explaining why he was talking to her in the square when he'd told everybody he was going to be out in the country giving last rites to Old Man Taggert."
Dave: "I thought Father Jeffries acted weird last week."
Sally, nodding: He shouldn't have lied about going to give last rites to Old Man Taggert. There are no secrets in this town!"
Dave: "Especially secrets that involve meeting the sexy Widow James in the town square!"
If you want to improve dialogue in your stories, make sure you know your characters well enough to give them a unique and appropriate voice. Always read your dialogue out loud to determine if it sounds like the type of person your character represents. If it doesn't, change it. And please, please, please don't use dialogue as an information dump. You risk having your readers do a book dump in response. #:0)
Happy Reading everybody!
He might have been high on Brimstone when he met her. But he wasn’t too drugged to recognize a good thing when she stuck a knife under his chin!
Hermes figured he had no future, so he gave up, wasting his days inhaling Brimstone in a Succubi House on Olympus. Cursed from birth, Nidras knew her future was sketchy at best. But the last thing she intended to do was give up. She thought she had to fight the curse alone, but she never counted on a drug muddled Cupid setting his sights on her and gumming up the works. Especially one as sexy and fun as Hermes. So what if he didn’t have the first clue how to protect himself in her dangerous world? It didn’t stop him from trying!
"With such vivid imagery, totally hot men, keep you on your toes action and sex that will burn up the sheets, this title is not one that you want to miss." ~ Seriously Reviewed
Inside the castle, we kept to the walls and shadows down a maze of long, stone hallways. My inner compass told me we were heading toward the back of the palace, deep into its ugly, stone bowels. The air was cold, damp and smelled like mildew. The stone walls we scraped against were covered in green slime. The floor was slick with the same green stain.
My curly toed shoes didn’t have much traction against the slime. It was all I could do to stay upright.
The only light in the halls came from the occasional torch, sending smelly, black oil smoke into the air to mix with the mildew. All around us the skitter of little critter feet danced across the stone floor. Probably rats.
“I like what he’s done with the place.”
I lowered my voice. “This place is like a bad cliché.”
She glared at me but didn’t respond.
We climbed several sets of stone stairs and emerged into a larger, slightly better lit area. The large, wooden door opposite the stairwell was guarded.
I looked at Nidras and sneered. The two gremlins were about three feet tall. They had soft, dark brown fur covering their bodies and a lighter, golden fur on their faces. Their brown eyes were enormous and soft, giving them a decidedly squeezable look.
Nidras shook her head and stepped out, knives in hand.
The gremlins blinked once, twice and then were suddenly airborne. They hit us in a wash of fur and froth, their tiny little fur faces transformed in the blink of an eye into gaping maws filled with razor sharp teeth.
My rabid teddy bear clamped its teeth over the forearm I’d instinctively thrown up to protect my face and worked it with surprising strength. I swung my arm hard in an attempt to dislodge it but the thing held on, its teeth ripping through skin, muscle and even bone as I tried to shake it off me.
In my panic I momentarily forgot to use my sword.
Nidras had flung her gremlin to the ground and was plunging a knife into its tiny chest. I couldn’t get my teddy bear off me. Finally, in desperation, I grabbed my sword and pulled it free with my left hand, arcing it through the air toward the furry little body.
The gremlin swung its back legs up and wrapped them around my arm, making itself too small a target for me to reach with my sword. Unless I wanted to lop my own arm off.
Pain radiated from my torn and bleeding arm. I was pretty sure I’d have a big scar.
I looked up and saw Nidras standing with her arms crossed, one dark eyebrow lifted in a definite “I told you so” expression. Her knives were back in their sheaths.
“You could help me here.”
She shrugged. “It’s just an over-sized teddy bear.”
Okay, I probably deserved that.
I swung around and slammed the gremlin up against the wall. My elbow screamed from the impact but the thing stopped chewing on my arm and blinked. I slammed it a second and then third time, finally managing to drop it to the ground at my feet. Blood ran from my arm as I jammed my sword into the gremlin’s chest, finishing it off.
I motioned toward the door. “After you.”
Nidras’ face softened as she looked at my torn arm. “Let me heal that for you.”
I shook my head. “I’m wearing it as a reminder that I’m an ass.”
Her perfect, peach-tinted lips tipped up slightly at the corners. “How about if I heal it and just keep telling you you’re an ass?” When I still hesitated she offered, “I can leave a scar to remind you.”
I thought about this for a minute. My hand was already going numb and I figured it would be hard to use my sword soon. “Okay.”
“Watch the door while I work.” Nidras placed exquisitely soft hands over my forearm and closed her eyes.
Energy and light flooded the area around and under her hands and I gasped as intense heat infused tender, torn flesh. Gritting my teeth against the pain, I kept one eye on the door as pain seared up my arm and made my pulse pound in my temples.
Finally the pain and heat slid away and Nidras stepped back.
I looked at my arm. “There’s no scar.”
She shrugged, pulling her knives. “So I lied. I’m pretty sure you’ll have lots more reminders that you’re an ass.”
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USA Today Bestselling Author Sam Cheever writes romantic paranormal/fantasy and mystery/suspense, creating stories that celebrate the joy of love in all its forms. Known for writing great characters, snappy dialogue, and unique and exhilarating stories, Sam is the award-winning author of 50+ books and has been writing for over a decade under several noms de plume.
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