Hello, blog readers! Last week, I wrote about the importance of building up a history for your characters. Giving them a strong, fleshed-out background story will make them more real for your readers and for yourself as you write their story. This week I have more character-related advice because I honestly think characters are the most important aspect of a story. Before your readers can really know your characters, you have to know them really well. One great way for you to know your characters and therefore make them seem more real to readers is to utilize dialogue. This is a really simple way to create background for characters and it can also be quite fun.
On the topic of using dialogue, our good friend Chuck Wendig has this to say: “Plot is whatever happens in the story: a sequence of events. This happens. That happens. Then another thing. In the process: characters talk. Characters are everything, and it behooves you to know them. One of the ways you get to know them is: let them have conversations.”
If you think about it, this makes perfect sense. If you want to get to know an actual person, you talk to them. If you want to get to know your characters, you have to at least let them talk to other characters so you can eavesdrop. Of course, having your characters do things is important as well because it gives them agency and gives you something to write other than non-stop back-and-forth conversations. But those conversations can be really important. Depending on who your character is talking to, he or she will act differently, say different things, and reveal different amounts of information. If you have your character talking to his or her best friend, for example, you can probably get a lot of information out of them.
Now, let’s be honest, not all of these conversations are making it into your final draft. You might indulge your characters and let them yammer on for pages about their favorite flavor of ice cream, but readers aren’t going to care about that. After you hit the ice cream conversation, though, you might stumble across something that’s important to the plot or simply important to your character’s development. You have to get through the ice cream conversations first to find those nuggets of information.
So, let your characters talk! Aside from being helpful, dialogue can be so much fun to write. I know that I always get higher word counts when I’m writing dialogue. Exposition can go on and on and begin to feel stale, but giving your characters voice and personality is always interesting. Happy writing!
— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan