Stating the Obvious
Drowning Your Story
in Overused Dialogue
©Dawn Rachel Carrington - All Rights Reserved
It’s often too easy for mystery and suspense writers to fall
back on overused and obvious dialogue just to fill the empty spaces or because the writer isn’t sure what the
medical examiner is supposed to say at that point in the story. You’ve heard a character say it on a police
procedural so it must be right. Unfortunately, though, right doesn’t always mean it belongs in your
How many times have we heard “I’ll know more after the autopsy”
from a medical examiner on a television show? Sound familiar? It also sounds trite and obvious. After all, of
course a medical examiner will know more after he/she can perform the autopsy. Otherwise, he/she would not be
needed for the advancement of the plot.
How about “it looks like we have a homicide”? If there’s a dead
body at his/her feet with a gunshot wound, there isn’t any need for your detective character to let the
reader know there’s been a homicide. That body does the job well enough.
When writing a novel, there’s no reason to take your reader on a
step by step journey through every aspect of a crime nor is there any reason for all of your characters to
announce their job duties. When you introduce the medical examiner, readers know it’s that character’s job to
autopsy the body and discover the cause of death.
Obvious dialogue can be something as simple as your character
saying “you scared me” after she’s already screamed, or the doctor saying “I’ll have more answers for you
after the blood work” as he’s already called a nurse in to take your blood. And while this type of dialogue
can work in certain situations, sometimes, if you don’t really have anything for your character to say, then
perhaps it’s because they don’t need to say anything.
If you’re writing a cop drama or utilizing a cop in your story
at all, you want to be especially careful not to wade into television territory. Anyone who’s watched NYPD
Blue or Law & Order knows the lingo, but that doesn’t mean it belongs in your book. Sometimes, in fact,
it can make you look lazy, especially if it’s an oft-used phrase like “he lawyered up”, meaning he asked for
a lawyer or “she’s in the wind”, meaning your female perpetrator is on the run.
There are many more instances of overused dialogue that will
make a reader roll his or her eyes which doesn’t bode well for a potential review. Exasperate or annoy a
reader, and you could be looking at a low rating on any number of online book
Once you’ve finished your book, do a thorough search for
dialogue you’ve heard before. Ask yourself if it’s necessary dialogue. It might be difficult to lose some of
those words you really want to keep, but, in the long run, your book (and your readers) will be better for
author:Dawn Carrington is the editor-in-chief for
Vinspire Publishing. A multi-published author of fantasy and suspense novels, she frequently writes for magazines
such as The Writer’s Journal, The Writer, and The Independent.
To learn more about Dawn or Vinspire Publishing, please
visit www.dawnrachel.com or www.vinspirepublishing.com.