Wednesday, October 21, 2015

3 Incredibly Useful Ways to use Pacing in Dialogue

Guest Blog  by Anthony Ehlers

Pacing in dialogue is like fuel-injection for your writing. Have you ever noticed how you start reading quicker when you get to dialogue in a story?  It’s a great way of showing and not telling — and allows your characters to ‘act’ out a scene.

Here are three ways you can use pacing in dialogue:

① Tighten it

  1. ‘Will you please quit hassling me?’ Tim asked in exasperation.
  2. ‘Quit hasslin’ me!’  Tim snapped.
The pace is better in the second example. We use half the words of the first. The missing ‘g’ and exclamation point add vigour. And ‘snapped’ implies exasperation.

② Give it rhythm
  1. ‘I know the husband is responsible for the murder!’
  2. ‘You see, I know, I know who did it, Inspector. It’s the husband. It’s always the husband, isn’t it?’
The first example is shorter, yes, but it’s also bland. The second shows the cadence and excitement of the speaker. The repetition, italics, and rhetorical question add to the rhythm.

③ Know your genre
  1. ‘If we leave now, it’s only a two-hour trip to the barn where the body was found,’ Mary said. ‘We probably won’t find any new clues, but someone may have seen something.’
  2. ‘Get Alpha team on standby!’ Hawkins hissed. ‘Suicide bomber. 12 o’clock. Hotel roof.’
Both examples could be from suspense novels. Yet the first one’s leisurely pace could be from a cosy mystery. The clipped pace of the second example means it could be from a military thriller.
What ways do you use pace in your dialogue?

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