8 ways to invigorate silent beats in dialogue #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

8 ways to invigorate silent beats in dialogue

As in real life, our characters sometimes need to pause and reflect on something before responding. This silent beat is often indicated with an ellipsis or the word finally, as in:

“Will you marry me?” Mindy asked.
Camilla was silent a moment. “No,” she said finally.

Nothing wrong with marking a beat this way, but here are some alternatives you can use to invigorate some of the beats in your dialogue.

1. Show time elapsing via the actions of characters taking part in the dialogue.

“Will you marry me?” Mindy asked.
Camilla took the engagement ring from Mindy and tested the diamond’s strength between her teeth. It crumbled like a piece of rock candy. “Yes,” Camilla said, “I will marry you, because that was delicious.”

2. Show time elapsing via actions of people not involved in the dialogue.

“Will you marry me?” Mindy asked.
Camilla let the mariachi band finish the last notes of their ballad. “I can’t marry you,” she said, lifting a finger to the trumpet player, “because I’m marrying her.”

3. Show time elapsing via actions by non-persons

“Will you marry me?” Mindy asked.
A breeze picked up a feather and twirled it once, twice, three times.
“Sorry,” Camilla said, “but how do we know each other again?”

4. Use an interjection (occasionally)

“Will you marry me?” Mindy asked.
“Um,” Camilla started, “Sure. Why not. I could do worse.”

5. Have character ignore or avoid question

“Will you marry me?” Mindy asked.
Camilla turned and walked away.
“Don’t pretend you didn’t hear me.”
Camilla spun back around. “Not if you were the last woman on earth.”

6. Have character delay response

“Will you marry me?” Mindy asked.
“Sorry? What did you say?”
“I said, Camilla, will you marry me?”
“So let me get this straight. You’re asking me to marry you?”

7. Show time elapsing via internal monologue (emotional beat of POV character)

“Will you marry me?” Mindy asked.
Before responding, I first had to determine if the feeling in my chest was love or angina. “Yes” I said, “I will marry you.”

8. Show time elapsing via internal monologue (emotional beat of non-POV character)

“Will you marry me?” I asked.
Camilla turned to face the coatrack. She stood that way for much longer than it took the average person to hang zero coats.
“No,” she replied, “I won’t.”

8 ways to invigorate silent beats in dialogueDo you prefer some of these methods over others? Have I missed any ways to invigorate silent beats in dialogue? Share with me in the comments!

This post is part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop. So many great blogs to keep hopping through.Β Click hereΒ to join the hop and to see what other writing tips you can glean from this month’s edition.

Thank you to Freepik for the photo I used in this post.

59 thoughts on “8 ways to invigorate silent beats in dialogue #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

  1. I’m cracking up — I like to say I’m writer, most days, and then we get to grammar and spelling and I’m like “dubba-dubba-dubba-dubba…” — hahahaha! Can I just give a shout out to my editor? Can I get an Amen? Hahaha! This was great. A learning lesson for me and a wonderful reminder! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Omg, β€œBefore responding, I first had to determine if the feeling in my chest was love or angina.” This made me actually splutter with laughter. Great post, Raimey! I love the advice. It’s a great reminder to switch things up. As you probably know, my MC has many silent beats. She’s a bit neurotic and is always over-thinking. I tend to fall on #7 a lot. The internal monologues work well for her, but I know I need to add more variety. These are wonderful suggestions and I’m for sure going to use them. *fist bump*

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ugh, my heart is being yanked this way and that by Mindy and Camilla. I love the sass. And to the writing advice–great ideas. Thank you for sharing. I think my favorites are the use of some action or description–they can open up chances for symbolism or tone-setting. As ever, thank you for the great ideas!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. This is a great tip and some techniques I don’t think about often. Another one I do… is with memory: β€œWill you marry me?” Mindy asked.
    Camilla held her hand and remembered the first time they touched on the ride home from the party, β€œSure. Why not. I could do worse.”

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Thank you for this concise explanation on silent methods to enhance a dialogue exchange. Truly interesting. Thanks for all you do with our Toolbox gatherings.

    Like

  6. great examples of different ways to present timing or beat. Love this post… Will have to try to remember these for some of my songwriting as well as my regular prose. Thanks for sharing. πŸ™‚

    Like

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