THE 7 TOOLS OF DIALOGUE

#5 POLISH A GEM.
We’ve all had those moments when we wake up and have the perfect response for a conversation that took place the night before. Wouldn’t we all like to have those bon mots at a moment’s notice?

Your characters can. That’s part of the fun of being a fiction writer. I have a somewhat arbitrary rule—one gem per quarter. Divide your novel into fourths. When you polish your dialogue, find those opportunities in each quarter to polish a gem.

And how do you do that? Like a diamond cutter, you take what is rough and tap at it until it is perfect. In the movie The Godfather, Moe Greene is angry that a young Michael Corleone is telling him what to do. He might have said, “I made my bones when you were in high school!” Instead, screenwriter Mario Puzo penned, “I made my bones when you were going out with cheerleaders!” (In his novel, Puzo wrote something a little racier). The point is you can take almost any line and find a more sparkling alternative.

Just remember to use these gems sparingly. The perfect comeback grows tiresome if it happens all the time.

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