At the May Mystery by the Sea meeting author Jayne Ormerod discussed the three D’s of writing: dialogue, description, and details. In case you missed it, here are some highlights.
1.) Keep your dialogue lean. Although you may be tempted to portray realistic dialogue, complete with “um” and “you know,” leave it out. If the words you are putting on the page are not true to the character or don’t advance the plot, hit delete.
2.) Don’t worry about getting everything right when writing your first draft, especially the dialogue. Get everything out the first time through, then go back to make corrections and add layers to your words.
3.) When it comes to attributes, “said” is not as overused as you may think. There are lots of words to use in place of good old “said,” but use those words sparingly. When using said, don’t fall into the trap of dressing up what you think to be a bland verb with adverbs. Phrases like “he said sadly” or “she said happily” are signs of lazy writing.
4.) Remember rhythm when writing. When emotions run high, dialogue is brief. Shorter sentences increase tension.
1.) Always remember to focus on only what your point-of-view character can see.
2.) Avoid huge clumps of description. Today’s readers like short paragraphs and lots of white space. Leave the purple prose of 19th century novels in the 19th century.
3.) Keep descriptions, especially those of characters or their wardrobes, to a minimum. Give the reader a few brief clues about how a character looks and then let their imaginations do the rest.
4.) Weave description into the story instead of stopping the narrative to describe a person, location, or item.
5.) Remember to describe who and what your characters interact with through their eyes. The sunrise looks a lot different to a chipper early riser as opposed to a hung over night owl.
When it comes to details, is more really better? Just like Goldilocks, you have to decide what is “just right” for your writing. If you provide too few details you run the risk of losing your readers. If you provide too many, you will be burying your readers in an avalanche of details they may not be able to dig their way out of. Decide what is just the right amount of detail for your writing and stick with it.