Tip for Writing Dialogue: Don’t Overuse Names

dialogue imageToday, I want to give you a tip on the overuse of characters’ names in dialogue — as a writer, I avoid this, but as an editor, I see it all too often. It goes something like this:

“John, go to dinner with me,” said Maria. “And look, there’s Connor.” Maria approached Connor. “Connor, so good to see you.”

“Hi, Maria and John, good to see you, too.” They all took a seat at a round table near the water.

Looking at John, Maria asked, “What would you like to eat, John? Fish or chips?”

But John stayed silent.

Connor laughed and said, “Oh, Maria, I think I’ll have both fish and chips.” Then he looks at John. “What about you, John?”

“Why, Connor, I think I’ll only have the chips. And a large glass of scotch.”

Do you see what I’m getting at? A skilled writer will clue the reader in to who is talking and to whom they are talking without using names because in real life, if we’re looking at someone, we don’t say his or her name. If you can’t tell who is speaking or to whom they are speaking, then the characters are written too homogeneously or the lead-in descriptors are not written well.

I don’t have enough time to write some great dialogue here, but if I were to rework the crapola above, it would go something like this:

With their meeting over, and a great restaurant merely steps away, Maria made a quick decision. Glancing at John, she said, “Go to dinner with me?” She gestured toward the patio restaurant and then spied their friend Connor. “Look Connor’s already here.”

They walked toward his table and he stood up and greeted them warmly.

“So good to see you,” she continued.

“Hey, you two, are you eating?” he asked. “Have a seat at my table.”

As soon as they were seated , Maria perused the menu. She glanced at John who seemed a little too quiet. Was he annoyed? “What would you like to eat? Fish or chips?” It was a little joke, but John stayed silent.

Connor laughed. “I think I’ll have both fish and chips.” He turned to John. “What about you?”

Looking a little sour, John said, “I think I’ll just have the chips. And a large glass of scotch.”

Again, I admit, it’s not a great scene, but I hope you get the idea. If you’re a writer, consider not “namecalling” as much in your dialogue because if I’m you’re editor, I’m going to slash and burn those names.