Each time I complete a novel (I recently finished my sixth), I read it over from the beginning. I always find myself making tweaks to the dialogue, especially in the earlier chapters. I do so because the characters have clearly evolved, and some of the early lines I gave them no longer "fit" their personalities.
For example, as my latest book progressed, one of the characters revealed a witty side. I hadn't planned this from the onset, but it worked, so I went with it. When I initially introduced him, however, he was more straight-laced, so as I read the manuscript from page one, his early comments fell a bit flat - which made him feel a bit flat. I went back and fixed it, which reinforced a valuable lesson for me: Dialogue doesn't necessarily impact the plot, but it impacts character development, which is just as important.
I remember seeing a movie version of a popular TV series and feeling disappointed because the dialogue was so different than what I was used to. "She wouldn't say that," I remember thinking over and over. "That just doesn't sound like him." I walked out of the theater that day convinced that the producers had brought in new writers for the film - and I felt a bit cheated as a result.
Good stories do a wonderful job of creating characters who are like real people to the audience, and that's what you want to do with your manuscript. So when you're finished, go back and read that dialogue with fresh eyes. Do you think it rings true throughout for each of your characters? If it doesn't, change it! That's the fun thing about being the author - it's all up to you.
Maria Murnane is the best-selling author of the romantic comedies Perfect on Paper, It's a Waverly Life, Honey on Your Mind, and Chocolate for Two. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Learn more at www.mariamurnane.com.
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