Blah blah blah, get a life

Some writers (myself included) approach dialogue with the ill-advised notion that, “Oh, I’m smart, so my characters should all sound like I do and it will be all good.”Yeah … well, your characters are going to sound like assholes. Seriously, no one wants to hear a writer’s voice when they think of what their characters sound like. Haven’t you ever heard a writer talk? Not the nicest thing to listen to. I mean, it’s bad enough that they’re megalomaniac enough to write a hundred and fifty-plus pages worth of a story that they feel is a priority, now they want you to wallow about in words that they would spew out like so much regurgitated knowledge?Which is where we get to the subject of bad, self-indulgent dialogue in literature. Not dialogue that services the plot – which is problematic but not something one would call bad. No, we’re talking about bad dialogue. Post-Tarantino, pop-culture-pornography in which the writer yammers through his or her (usually his) characters, which are usually based on his or her masturbatory fantasy alter-ego (again, usually his). Some writers can get away with it, but that usually only happens if the writer has either an inspired plot or writes from a first-person perspective that playfully implies the inner workings of a megalomaniac while still retaining enough interest in what is happening. Not everyone can be Nick Hornby.Dialogue is supposed to build character rather than the writer’s ego. For example, here is an example of bad self-indulgent dialogue:Jarvis: You’re nuttier than Conker’s turds.Wilford: Well, you’re lamer than the finishing moves in MK.Jarvis: Good comeback, noob.Wilford: L-O-L.This dialogue tells the reader that a) they play too many video games, b) they’ve never heard a real conversation (between two real people, anyway) in their life and c) they haven’t ever felt a woman’s touch.Here’s what concise, relevant dialogue sounds like when used correctly:Jarvis: Seriously, when you write dialogue like that, it sounds as if you’re just doing it to satiate some kind of unfulfilled promise to yourself. Like, you feel as if you’ve failed miserably in life so you need to succeed in the fantasy world you’ve created … with countless grammatical errors and misplaced punctuation marks.Wilford: You shut up! This is art! This is how I express myself!Jarvis: I know this is how you express yourself. As in, right now, you’re expressing yourself in a way that shows how lyrically impotent you are when it comes to creating spoken words that develop character. Stop watching movies, stop using TV shows as a reference and read a book that came before the Harry Potter craze. Indulge yourself in the world rather than yourself.Wilford: (sobbing) I’ve never felt a woman’s touch! Might I add that this is coming from someone who YouTubes all day when not on Myspace or Facebook.


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