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Dialogue-writing tip: don't overuse characters' names within their speech. For example:

"Would you like some eggs, Dolores?"
"Melvin, you know I'm allergic to them."
"Are you? I'm sorry, Dolores, I'd forgotten."
"It's all right, Melvin. But please pass me the toast."

In real life it's basically only annoying people in sales who keep using your name that frequently in conversation. Or your parents or significant other when they're annoyed with you. So if that's not the point you're trying to make, pull those names out. Read the above passage without the character names and you'll see it sounds several times more natural (with two dialogue tags added to show who's speaking, which tend to be much less intrusive than sticking the name into the speech itself):

"Would you like some eggs?" Melvin asked.
"You know I'm allergic to them," Dolores said.
"Are you? I'm sorry, I'd forgotten."
"It's all right. But please pass me the toast."

You can find this bit of dialogue advice everywhere, but I keep seeing the problem in published best-selling writing, so I'm sharing this tip with you now in the hopes of spreading the word just a tad further.



( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 24th, 2014 10:57 pm (UTC)
I find this a hard habit to break, especially when 99% of my writing these days comes in role-playing form. Back when I wrote it as "dialgoue *actions*", it would often be necessary to have characters say the name of the person they're speaking to. I'm RPing in a 3rd person narrative way now, but it's still simple enough to toss all those names in there. I know if I do get back to writing real stuff, it's something I'll have to watch out for.
Feb. 25th, 2014 02:10 am (UTC)
There are cases like that where you're speaking in 3rd person about yourself and the person you're talking to, because that's how online interaction looks sometimes ("Dolores tackles Melvin hello!" as something Dolores says, perhaps). But yeah, not how it would go in ordinary novels. :) Luckily rough drafts get to have lots of style problems--that's what revisions are for! I just noticed how many "-ing" phrases I habitually lean upon ("Throwing the eggs across the room, Dolores turned to face Melvin"), and am rewriting them laboriously now.
Feb. 25th, 2014 12:30 am (UTC)
That is my biggest pet peeve when it comes to reading (or watching, because sometimes movies and TV shows stupidly do that too). To me, nothing drags you out of the story as fast as repetitive name use. It's completely unrealistic. When I have a conversation with someone, I rarely use their name unless I am introducing that person to someone else.
Feb. 25th, 2014 02:12 am (UTC)
Good, it's not just me! I even get kind of unnerved when people use my name too much in conversation. It feels like they're being slimy politicians, or trying to win me over for their cult or something. And yeah, ever since becoming aware of the pattern years ago, it jumps out at me in published work (or TV/film). How does it get past so many editors??
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )