A Fun Way to Liven Up Your Scene’s Dialog

“Find the “hook” or the zinger in every sentence, and have characters react to that.”        —Susan May Warren

Dialog

You want your dialog to be real, meaningful, and hold your readers’ interest.

Here’s what Susan May Warren calls her “super-secret Susie hint to writing great dialogue” that I learned in one of her Deep Thinker’s Retreats.

Include a zinger in conversations.

You can learn how to write zingers in Susan May Warren and Rachel Hauck’s writing reference, From the Inside…Out.

Below are examples from 4 novels to show you what a zinger is and how to use it.

Zinger 1

—from Wish You Were Here by Beth K. Vogt

by gracey
by gracey

∂∂∂

“Uh, is that the dress?”

Was he choking back a laugh? Confirmation the dress was a nightmare.

“Yes. Please, no comment.” Allison ran her hands along the flowing skirt as if she could tame it. Not going to happen.

“It’s impressive.”

Allison blew a wisp of hair out of her eyes. “Are you kidding me? I look like the Bridal Fashion Disaster Barbie.”

∂∂∂

Suppose this ended with, “I wish that were true.” Wouldn’t that have killed the conflict, and the fun?

Zinger 2

—from The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck

∂∂∂

“Tell me,” she whispered. “Does he?”

“Have a mistress?”

She gazed into his eyes. He couldn’t…it would crush her. Her fingernails dug into his arm.

“Daniel.”

“Yes. So goes the word around town. But you should find out the truth yourself, Emily. You know how gossip gets all twisted and maligned.”

“No, no.” She jutted backward, shaking her head, her dark eyes narrowing. “You’re a liar, Daniel Ludlow. I don’t believe you.”

∂∂∂

What if Emily had simply said, “I don’t believe you.” We wouldn’t know how hurt she is. Calling Daniel a liar shows what “kill the messenger” means. She zinged Daniel and raised the conflict.

Zinger 3

—from Just Between You and Me by Jenny B. Jones

∂∂∂

“Maggie, tonight is a very special night.”

Uh-oh. Here come the dreamy eyes again.

“I care so much about you. And recently I realized those feelings have grown into something more. I’m crazy about your laugh, your smile, your sense of adventure. I want to tell you that I—”

“Boy, am I tired.”

∂∂∂

Zing!  Did Maggie’s last words wake you up? Suppose Maggie had said, “Please. Not tonight, John.” We might prepare to read through a laborious letdown.

Zinger 4

—from Nothing but Trouble by Susan May Warren

 ∂∂∂

by Kandi
by Kandi

PJ reached the second fence and didn’t care in the least that she ripped out the backside of the jumpsuit. She landed with another whump while the goat shoved his nose between the chain links, mawing. Good thing Billie filled up on Ernie’s tulips or tomatoes or whatever, or she’d be goat fodder by now.

Pizza Guy landed beside her. “You have a fan club.” He held out his hand to pull her up.

She swatted it away. “It’s not funny. She could have eaten me.”

“Oh yeah, goats are known predators. Right up there with mountain lions and wildebeests.”

∂∂∂

What if Pizza Guy had said, “The goat wouldn’t have eaten you.” He’d seem bland, unable to banter.

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What zinger have you used in dialog?

4 Crucial Elements That Make Your Audience Talk Up Your Creative Work

“The public as a whole is composed of various groups, whose cry to us writers is: ‘Comfort me.’ ‘Amuse me.’ ‘Touch me.’ ‘Make me dream.’ ‘Make me laugh.’ ‘Make me shudder.’ ‘Make me weep.’ ‘Make me think.’” —Guy de Maupassant

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We work on a painting, presentation, novel, song, dance, play, or Bible lecture and hope our audiences will talk it up.

Our works will stay in the minds of our audiences if we recognize audiences need intangibles to imbed artistic works in their memories.

People will enjoy our works long after they’ve put down the books, turned off the iPods or left the galleries, conference rooms, or theaters if our works evoke:

  • Images
  • Emotions
  • Stories
  • Ah-Has

Why Evoke Images?

Kyle Buchanan and Dean Roller say in their e-book, How to Memorize Bible Verses, “Your memory doesn’t like rote learning and repetition, it likes to see things.”

id-100135344.jpgPeople want to visualize as they experience. Even paintings evoke images other than those on canvas. When I saw a painting of a field of sunflowers, the image of the sunflower patch I passed on my way home from work everyday in the summers came to mind.

Songs evoke images through lyrics and what went on in our lives when the songs were popular. Recently I attended My Book Therapy’s Deep Thinkers Retreat. Susan May Warren invited us to listen to parts of songs and note what images and emotions they aroused. The exercise showed the importance of creating images for our readers.

People like to recall the rich images creative works deposit in their memory banks.

Why Evoke Emotions?

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At the Deep Thinkers Retreat, we learned techniques to evoke readers’ emotional responses to our characters. To make our novels memorable, we had to draw our readers into the characters’ lives. Recalling our own past emotions in similar situations helped us show our characters’ emotional reactions.

During the retreat breaks and meals, the latest episode of Downton Abbey dominated conversations. A character had died. If I hadn’t known better, I’d have thought, by the angry and mournful emotions voiced, some beloved actor had passed. Viewers cared.

A presenter wants his audience to care about his call to action. In the book, Resonate, Nancy Durate advocates emotional appeal in presentations along with ethical and logical appeals. She says, “Involving the audience emotionally helps them form a relationship with you and your message.”

People look for reasons to care enough to talk up creative works.

Why Evoke Stories?

 mp900405206.jpgWhen I look at a painting or a photo in a gallery, I see a snapshot. I want to know what happened and what happens next. What’s the story behind the photo of the ballerina? Was she jilted earlier? Is she planning revenge? Was she cut from the ballet? Will she give up her dream and return to her husband and five children?

Song rhythms and lyrics arouse new and past stories. Novels do the same. When I read a novel, my mind scurries ahead to finish the story with what I know so far. I’m delighted when the novel surprises me with a gotcha or replaces my expectations with something far more interesting.

People discuss creative works whose interesting scraps or snapshots turn on their live-in storytellers to fill in the gaps.

Why Evoke Ah-has?

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Most people love to glean a new truth from a poignant play, a hilarious book, or a country song’s title. It’s like opening door number three and our hearts leap at the sight of the prize. Readers of mysteries delight in the sudden realization of who dunnit.

We enjoy a new insight to share at lunch. To guide our lives.

People talk up creative works that turn on their light bulbs.

What did you imagine when you first saw the picture of the ballerina?