Sunday, February 10, 2013
Of course, I'm writing all their dialogue; I'm the author, that's my job. (Although, as any writer will tell you, fictional characters often have their own ideas about what they'll say in any given situation. And they almost always know best!) But I'm getting very dictatorial about how those words should be delivered.
Most writing gurus will caution that adverbs are the work of Satan. But I spend a lot of time on these bon mots, and I want to make sure the reader hears the correct inflection for maximum impact. So I find my dialogue riddled with stage direction: my characters say things "wryly," "slyly," "stoically," "innocently," "eagerly," "miserably"...well, you get the idea.
Once in a while, an adverb hits the spot exactly right, but if I use them in every other sentence, it starts to look like a ping-pong match on the page. I don't advocate giving up adverbs altogether, but less is more; in the editing process, they are first up on the chopping block.
But even after I cut back on the dreaded adverbs, I find I still have a hard time letting my characters just, you know, speak. In early drafts, they rarely just "say" something. Instead, they "observe," "suggest," "echo," "falter," or—my personal favorite—"riposte."
I like to think I'm getting better, sifting through the chaff of these over-eager (over-anxious?) verbs to select those few that actually work. It's an uphill battle, but, luckily for me, cooler heads prevail. Most of the time, my characters let me know when they'll accept my micro-management, and when it's time for me to back off and trust the reader to get the point.