- Don’t spoon-feed the audience.
Don’t give your readers the answers, make them work for it. Rather than your characters stating their reasons and conclusions, let your readers figure out the subtext on their own.
- Don’t pad the work.
Avoid meaningless words. There’s no need for “throat clearers” like: “Well…,” “Um,” “Er;” or questions like “What?” “Why?” “What did you say?” or “What do you mean?” or “What are you going to do now?”
- Don’t give your characters long speeches.
Speeches take a long time to read. Even worse, they are often about ideas, not emotions – and dialogue is about expressing the emotional truth of a moment.
- Don’t mince words.
Don’t shy away from making your characters authentic. Let them speak their truth, even if its vial and reprehensible. If that’s what they think, that’s who they are.
- Don’t get ahead of the audience.
When characters make suppositions and conclusions before readers have has enough information to comprehend a situation, your readers lose their connection to the characters and their interest in the story. Characters should only state facts when the information is essential for the reader to understand.
- Don’t EVER Type and hit send.
Read your dialogue. Out loud. So you can hear it the way it’s intended: to be spoken. Even better, have someone else read it for you.
- Don’t lie to yourself.
Never pretend that your dialogue works if your gut tells you that it doesn’t. If you think there’s a problem with it, you can bet others will too. Be brutally honest with yourself. Does it sound realistic? Does it convey the necessary ideas and emotions? Is it economical and efficient? Does it have a rhythm and pace? Does it hold your attention? If not, rewrite it until it does.
What do you think? Other “don’ts” I should add to this list?