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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

How Real People Talk

There are times I read a story and wonder if the author has ever spent time listening to and registering how real people actually talk. It's not only new writers who are susceptible to this, I've also seen authors that have been around for a while write dialogue that has me cringing.

The thing I see most--and it makes me absolutely crazy as a reader--is the constant use of names. Picture the scene. The hero and heroine are alone together, it's a romantic moment, and every single time either of them open their mouth to speak, out comes the other one's name. No one talks like that. Listen the next time you're alone in the room with someone. How often do you use their name? How often do they use yours?

"Mary, you're so beautiful."

"Oh, John, you sweet talker."

"I love your eyes, Mary, the way they sparkle when you laugh."

"Kiss me, John, I need you."

"Yes, Mary, I'm going to kiss you."

If you think I'm exaggerating, you'd be wrong. I've read a few books like this recently, one by a very well-established author, that had exactly this kind of name use going on. Seriously. Every single freaking time a character talked, they used the other character's name. It made me wince. It made me mutter. It made me wonder where the hell their editors were and why they didn't point out how ridiculous it reads.

Writers, I challenge you to go through your Works In Progress (WIP) and cull this out. It's horrible to read and jarring because no one--and I do mean no one ever--talks like this.