Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A to Z Blogger Challenge: Letter U

UMMMMM....

Writing dialogue can be tricky for me because I tend to write like people would talk. And don't misunderstand. I'm not patting myself on the back. This is not a good thing.

Here is why...

When people are having a conversation, a lot of the time they think out loud as they speak.

"So, what's up girlie?"

"Oh, you know, same ole, same ole."

"Well, I heard Jake's having this killer party tonight. You wanna come?"

"UM, sure. It's cool with me."

Did you catch those filler words (so, oh, well, UM) used as these two processed the conversation in their heads as they spoke?

I'm pretty sure we all do it. I know I do, especially on my blog. A lot! Please don't judge:)

Maybe we don't do it to process the conversation in our heads, as much as we do it out of habit. And so what? It's fine to do...when you're talking to your friend about going to the grocery store or telling your mom about some shoes you want to buy.

But when you're writing a novel, everyday speaking isn't always necessary.

I had a hard time digesting this when I first heard it. You mean to tell me we're told to bring the characters to life, make them realistic, but their dialogue isn't supposed to be natural?

That's exactly what I was being told and when I thought about it, it rang true.

I know people, especially us writers, are a cool kind of people. Go ahead. Toot your horn for a second. You're cool and you know it.

As amazing as we all may be. Our dialogue is more often than not--boring. Filler words are boring. They stall the reader rather than move the story forward. Characters in our stories don't need to meander on a subject for an interminable amount of time like we do in real life. They have killers to run from, relationships to terminate and a freaking world to save! They don't have time for a bunch of UMs.

So, (see I just did it) next time your finger is hovering around the 'find and replace' button on your computer, search out those filler words and get rid of some of them.

Yes, you did read right. I said some of them. In my personal opinion it's good to a have a few fillers sprinkled here and there. I've read some pretty fabulous books where they're used sparingly just to give the book a certain flavor. And it's magic. Just like an ice cream sundae is great with chocolate fudge. But if you douse that sundae in fudge, you lose the taste of the ice cream and it isn't all that good anymore (not the best analogy since some would prefer an ice cream sundae that way, but you get the picture).

Now it's your turn. What's your opinion on the filler word? Do you love em' or would you love to rid them from your writing for good?

23 comments:

Martin Willoughby said...

All fictional dialogue is unreal in one sense. Most conversations involve two or more people talking over each other, it's rarely one talks, then the other.

The filler words can be useful, but so are adverbs. Use both sparingly for best effect.

J. A. Bennett said...

I think filler words are good at showing hesitation or uncertainty, but other than that they should be avoided!

Cortney Pearson said...

I usually try and take out the filler words, it just makes dialogue that much tighter. :)

Emily R. King said...

Filler words have their place, like how Jen described. Otherwise, they don't need to be there.

Donna K. Weaver said...

I'm good with an occasional filler word. Too many of them is distracting but having non of them, especially with certain characters, imho makes it too rigid in dialogue. I'm okay with an um, especially when it serves as a kind of pause--so you don't have to write a tag that says he paused. lol

Loree Huebner said...

Um...I'll keep the filler words.

Cassie Mae said...

Reminds me of when the hubs first asked me to be his girlfriend and he totally texted his awkwardness.

I was wondering... uh... if you would, you know... be my girlfriend?

Hahahaha!

Kyra Lennon said...

I am just about to go on a search and destroy mission with my WIP, but I won't be killing all the bad words. I think some filler words actually add to the realism of dialogue. :D

Angela Cothran said...

"Well" is my favorite dialogue filler word. I've had to slash it from my MS. Yikes.

Angeline Trevena said...

I think you're absolutely right; use them, but sparingly. They can be useful to show character, or someone who's distracted, or doesn't know the language that well. But yes, too much use of them just slows the book down.

Carrie-Anne said...

They can work well when the character feels awkward discussing something, or is trying to hint around a word or topic s/he's too squeamish or prudish to use the proper name of. I was kind of embarrassed, some years back, when a friend of mine who used to work for a local NPR affiliate interviewed me for a story on silent film, and the playback contained an ample amount of "like," "uh," and "um." Just because normal people use them frequently in real life doesn't mean I want to exactly emulate that in writing, though they can be effective when they're used sparingly or for effect.

S. L. Hennessy said...

I tend to replace them with some of these ...

Definitely NOT better. Sigh.

Laura Marcella said...

Hello, Deana! It depends on the character. I try to write dialogue that's as true to the character as possible!

Have a great week and happy A to Z!!

Angela Brown said...

I love, adore and need filler words when it comes to my blog. It's a reflection of me and I can, so, um, eh, erm, ahem quite a bit lol!!

But, I've learned, like you, that when it comes to doing things with dialogue, that we've got to use those fillers, well, not so much.

Leslie Rose said...

I think "like" is the most overused filler word in the way so many people talk today. It drives me batty. I come from the world of playwriting which beat filler words out of me with a stick. They do still sneak in once and awhile - DRAT.

Angelina C. Hansen said...

"So you're saying writing great dialogue is a huge challenge?"

"Yep."

Nancy Thompson said...

Um is dead giveaway, telling the recipient the sender is unsure.

Botanist said...

Odd, I don't think I even put filler words into dialogue in the first place. Probably a whole lot of unwanted verbiage, but that's true of the whole text not just the dialogue :)

Dialogue is really tricky. You're spot on - you don't want to write how people actually speak, but you've got to make it sound to the reader as if that's how they speak. In other words, you have to create an illusion of natural speech.

Tricky.

Bill the Butcher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill the Butcher said...

I find myself using these fillers rather a lot, but I favour Huh as opposed to Um, though I use that too.

What I try and avoid is the kind of schoolboy-essay-level conversational style used by Arthur C Clarke. I abhor that

Amanda Trought said...

I think they are great, though I use them a lot myself um is the most frequently used in real life, been trying to edit myself...I love those writers who have the ability to make you feel you are with the characters, will have to check on my favourites and see if they use any. Blessings, Amanda


Amanda - Realityarts-Creativity
Art Blog

Huntress said...

I speak using filler words so of course I use filler words in my written dialogue. They have my vote, LOL!

Linda Fischer said...

Great job with this! Lots to think about.