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Best Line of Dialogue Poll

August 16, 2009

Dialogue is one of the most difficult aspects of writing. Bad dialogue is distracting and can pull a reader out of the story, while great dialogue can make them stay up reading your story until the wee hours of the morning. Every writer has written good and bad dialogue–this contest focuses on the best lines you have to offer.

This is the second of a series of TypeTribe contests regarding different ways an author can draw in a reader effectively. Please vote only once, but don’t just vote. Not only does the writer of the winning sentence win $25 cash, but so does the person who best improves the lines of dialogue in the comments section will also win $25.

All votes and comments to be considered for the contest must be entered within 48 hours of the posting of this entry (11:40 pm CST on Tuesday evening; that’s how quick you’ll be able to get feedback on your writing through the TypeTribe service, which you can learn more about here or sign up to receive the launch notification e-mail and possibly win $25 here).

Promote yourself. The first contest was just as much a battle of promotion as it was quality. Nowadays you can’t just write a brilliant novel and expect people to flock to the bookstores to buy it. You have to promote it yourself. This isn’t a bad thing–if you’ve written something worth reading, it’s your duty to make sure that people give it a chance. Consider this good practice for getting your name out there.

Without further adieu, below are the entries, followed by a poll for the next TypeTribe contest (subscribe to this blog or follow @jameystegmaier on Twitter to be notified about the next contest) and the comments section.

You can read more about the authors, their websites, and the names of the works from whence these sentences came here.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Red permalink
    August 17, 2009 5:35 pm

    Suggestions:
    1) I can envision the speaker by the beginning and the end of the line, but the end appears to be working on some pun that I’m not privy to (not having the context to go by). I have a hard time envisioning “mislaying women,” even though I know that to be the part of the line that is supposed to make this line stand out.
    2) The sobbing makes me think that she is already heart broken, in which case I would either change the beginning to be “the only way you could hurt me more,” etc… or change the whole line to something like “’You’ve already broken my heart,,’ Jeanine sobbed. “The only way to make me hurt any more, to really stomp on the pieces, would be to make me fall for you again.” But there’s a better way to go about this than “the only way.” If the listener IS trying to make her fall for him again, I’d go with, “Trying to get me to fall for you again is just stomping on the pieces.”
    3) I’d have just submitted just the second half of this line. The fact that the speaker “can’t remember how long it’s been” doesn’t add to the punch for this contest. On the back half of the line, I like, “do I look like an autobiographer,” because all autobiographers by definition are their own autobiographers. A conversely comedic line would be “Do I Look like your autobiographer?”
    4) What’re the chances that this is Delmer visiting us again? I’m picturing Delmer out of O Brother where art Thou? I applaud the use of recognizable speech patterns to help a reader visualize a character. But this is pretty blatant. Cut out half of the colloquialisms (ideally for me, “surely” and “purdy”).
    5) Now I see the beginning parts of King Kong. I’d rather hear two or three words on how the speaker “Knows.” I can hear flawed aspirations in this character, because they tell us it doesn’t matter, then look for approval from Art.

    • Red permalink
      August 17, 2009 5:39 pm

      BTW, as a reader, I think that powerful lines are supported by a scene description, usually in the form of a descriptive verb, and even sometimes an adverb. Kudos to Author #2 for “Jeanine sobbed” It helps set the scene.

  2. T-Mac permalink
    August 18, 2009 10:00 am

    All great lines! I had a very difficult time choosing a winner. I was leaning toward the 4th line, but I wish the bag contained someone or something more exciting than the supervisor. I ended up going with either popular opinion or someone who markets well and choosing the last line.

    I’m not really in it for the $ this time, so the only comment I absolutely must make is that the fourth comma is misplaced in the first submission. If the line reads as I think it should, the comma should be after “mislaying” rather than “women”, since the interjected phrase is “or shall I say mislaying”.

  3. August 18, 2009 11:38 am

    1. I have to say that this bit of dialog feels a little unnatural, assuming this is a line from a contemporary story with contemporary characters. Few people are this articulate these days, which makes the dialog feel like it’s something that was written rather than spoken by an actual character. I do admit though, as a stand alone line, it is rather intriguing. Where’s Mr. Chandler been leaving all of these women? The side of the road? The trunk of his car? Try gathering the thought that the character is having in your own head, then speaking it out loud in the character’s voice. That should help things feel a little smoother.

    2. This one’s a tad too melodramatic for me. Perhaps it would work as the final line of The English Patient 2 or The Notebook Returns better than it does here. Again, I don’t know if this is something that real people would say.

    3. This line is solid and compact structurally, but lacking something content-wise. I don’t know what I would change specifically but something about it keeps it from standing out.

    4. Definitely provides some intrigue to the reader. Is the supervisor in pieces in the sack? I sure hope so. I agree with Red though that the use of colloquialisms is a little over the top. They’re a powerful tool to use but can very easily be overdone… unless of course you can do it perfectly as Mark Twain did in Huck Finn, then go nuts.

    5. This one got my vote mainly because I can see an actual person saying something like this. It reads very naturally without feeling stagnant and gives just enough insight to the character to be interesting. Hope the rest of the story turned out just as well.

  4. August 18, 2009 8:31 pm

    Feedback in opposite line order because I’m strange like that:

    5. It’s good! For some reason, the referred to person, Art, seems like a bad name choice only because the speaker is talking about his own art, filmmaking. It distracted me. But in context, it’s probably fine.

    4. Nope, this isn’t Delmer–different writer! This one’s mine and the overuse of colloquialisms is duly noted. Yes, the supervisor’s in the sack, for those that want to know. Someone else will soon by joining him.

    3. The lack of apostrophe in “its” (should be “it’s”) turns me off right away but that’s more pointing out a typo than giving a critique. Otherwise, I think it’s a great joke! I can imagine the other person rolling their eyes right afterward. It’s also very human, struggling to remember something and not being able to. The speaker can laugh at herself, which is always a good choice. If she doesn’t get the joke, though, then I hope someone points it out to her right away!

    2. Again, a typo is tripping me up-the comma should be inside the quote right before Jeanine sobbed. Moving on though, I’d get rid of “now” to make it flow better. I imagine this taking place at the end of a long, tortuous reunion between old lovers and well, I’ve been there so it doesn’t strike me as over the top. I just don’t necessarily want to read about it, either! Sounds painful.

    1. I dig it. I can imagine this in a film noir setting or an old west setting and the dialogue is perfect for that. If Mr. Chandler isn’t a ladies’ man, I’ll be disappointed. I’ll also be disappointed if the speaker loses her(?) sauciness and ends up with him at some point.

    To sum up, if I didn’t have to vote for my own, I’d have a hard time making up my mind!

Trackbacks

  1. Bolt and TypeTribe « Jamey Stegmaier's Blog
  2. The Winners: Best Line of Dialogue Contest « TypeTribe Blog

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