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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ooh, Baby, Baby, Baby, Baby

My original thought about a blog topic was something along the lines of how much I hate it when the hero calls the heroine baby, but then I reconsidered that. It would just be my luck to riff on that for an entire post and wake up tomorrow with a hero who uses it. It was bad enough that Deke called Ryne babe during In the Midnight Hour At least that started as a way to rile her, but still I decided I'm in no position to blog about endearments.

As I thought about it some more, I realized that the two books I picked up recently that had baby used as the endearment of choice had a bigger problem. The authors of both stories had the heroes calling their heroines that in every single paragraph of dialogue--or darn close to it.

As a reader, nothing irritates me more than characters who use each other's names (or nicknames/endearments/etc) every time they open their mouths. Real people do not talk that way. Not ever. I challenge any writer who's tempted to use the character's name in dialogue to listen to others. Even in groups of five or six, it's rare to hear someone's name and it's pretty much nonexistent when only two people are talking to each other. Like the hero and heroine for example.

It's not just novice writers either. I've seen authors who've been writing for twenty years do it, too. Because I'm so aware of this, not only do I rarely use names in dialogue, I also do a search for both the hero's and heroine's names (and endearments) in my manuscript, and if I see it between a couple of quotation marks, I think about whether I really need it. Nine times out of ten, I delete it.

I pretty much never say anyone has to do anything as a writer because I was nearly driven from writing all together by plotters who insisted I had to use 3 x 5 cards and formulate everything out ahead of time. But this isn't really messing with anyone's process (I don't think) to recommend taking out the majority of name use within dialogue.

Seriously, this is not how people talk:

"Baby, I want you; you're so beautiful."

"But Biff, it's too soon."

"Don't tell me that, baby, I need you."

"I don't know, Biff, we just met ten minutes ago."

"Come on, baby, help me out here."

"Oh, Biff."

You get the drift right? And sadly this example is not an exaggeration. I picked up two books in the last week that did this exact thing.

Have you ever heard anyone in real life talk this way? Now do a search in your Work In Progress. How many times have you used your characters names in dialogue? Delete most of them. Your readers will thank you.