Writing Quick Tips: Remove Names from Dialogue

Photo credit: Pedro Ribeiro Simões on Flickr

Photo credit: Pedro Ribeiro Simões on Flickr

I see a lot of mistakes in writing when it comes to dialogue.

Since I’ve worked hard to improve the dialogue in my pieces, it’s easy for me to spot exchanges that don’t work in other people’s projects. For one reason or another, they just don’t gel. The writing doesn’t flow like actual conversation.

Luckily, there are several ways to keep dialogue from falling flat.

One of the quickest ways to improve your dialogue is to cut back on your usage of the characters’ names.

What do I mean?

Consider the following:

“Sarah,” Brad said, “don’t you think this is a good idea?”

“No, Brad,” Sarah said.

“Why not, Sarah?”

“Because, Brad, we’re both married. Besides, Brad, we’re first cousins. Think of the inbred children.”

While this example isn’t the best, it’s clear that the dialogue sounds terrible (inbred children aside). It’s unnatural. In real life, people don’t refer to each other by name if they’re addressing each other. When they do, it’s usually out of anger or because they’re speaking about something that is of the utmost importance.

Here’s the same exchange with most of the characters’ names cut out (the ones left in are left for emphasis):

“Sarah,” Brad said, “don’t you think this is a good idea?”

“No,” Sarah said.

“Why not?”

“Because, Brad, we’re both married. Besides, we’re first cousins. Think of the inbred children.”

If you’re looking for a quick way to improve your dialogue, cut out characters’ names in places where they don’t add value.

What do you think of this advice? Would you like to see more writing quick tips?

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.@brianawrites shares a quick tip for improving dialogue. (Click to tweet)


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