Thursday, January 20, 2011

What I've Learned - Writing Great Books for Young Adults (3)

After finishing Writing Great Books for Young Adults, I'm convinced this should be in every YA writer's collection. It provides a lot of good advice, from finding something to write about to pitching an agent. It even gives a list of resources at the end to help you even more. If you haven't picked this book up yet, DO IT!

In this last and final installment, I'll share some tips the book gives on dialogue, specifically, things a writer should avoid.
  • The verb "to be". Yes, it's a verb, and it gets things done, but if you can replace "was running" with "bolted", you can convey a more exact meaning. Strong verbs create stronger scenes.
  • Talking heads. Use dialogue as an opportunity to showcase your characters. When's the last time you talked to someone and just sat around without moving at all. This goes back to "show, don't tell". Maybe a character is nervous and while they talk their eyes shift around, or they bounce their knee up and down.
  • Echoes. Try not to repeat something that was already said. It's all about trusting your reader. If they read it once, they probably got it. If your critique partners keep missing it, maybe it's time to re-write that particular line.
  • Narrator intrusion. Try not to impose your point of view on the reader. This is your protagonist's story. Let them tell it. Brooks warns that "author intrusion is almost always second person and uses 'you' or 'your' to address the reader."
  • Cliches. I have a hard time with this one. Sometimes I use a cliche and I'm not even aware of it. Brooks makes it sound so simple - "A fresh and exciting story and plot should use fresh and exciting words to write it." To help you out, here's a list of common cliches.
Are you guilty of any of these dialogue sins?

Read the rest of this series


  1. Oh sounds like a great book!! Thanks for the heads-up!

  2. I do the echo thing all the time. I's like, are you sure you got it? I can explain it again! Haha.

  3. Ugh, to be verbs. I always have to be on the lookout for those while I'm revising!

  4. Totally random! I was going through the old posts I missed from when I was away...and that list of cliches you included? That's from my (fairly small) undergrad university's writing center! I didn't notice right away, but I read the paragraph sample and it mentions "Core," which is a class we only had at my school. And I was like, "What the...?" then I saw the UR thing at the top. Random. Because I bet you just Googled "common cliches!"

    Anyway. That is all.