One of my favorite parts about finishing a first draft, outside of the profound feeling of accomplishment, is that after months of hard work I’m finally able to sit back and read the entire story from beginning to end. It’s impossible for me to experience my work with completely fresh eyes—that’s why I strongly believe that every manuscript needs a developmental edit—but it is possible for me to evaluate the dialogue and see if it rings true for the characters I’ve created.
I find that my characters’ personalities tend to evolve as I write, so by the time I’m done with the first draft, they may be quite different from how I had imagined them at the onset. As a result, when I go back and read from the beginning, I often tweak the dialogue to make it sound more authentic. I love this part of the process, because when I find myself thinking, “She would never say that,” or nodding in agreement with what’s already on the page, I know I’ve created characters that are believable, with realistic dialogue to match.
Reading dialogue from the beginning also helps me identify when a prominent character isn’t developed enough. For example, if for the life of me I can’t tell if a line sounds like something so-and-so would say, then maybe so-and-so needs a little more attention.
A common criticism of first-time novelists is that their characters all sound the same when they talk, which makes it hard for readers to follow along. I’ve experienced this as a reader, and when it happens too often, I usually end up putting the book down—for good. If you can give your characters distinct voices that are consistent throughout the story, you have a much better chance of getting your readers engaged—and keeping them that way!
This blog post originally appeared on CreateSpace.com. Reprinted with permission. © 2017 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.