Given the function of dialogue in fiction, ask yourself: what do readers get out of every one of my characters saying “well” all the time? Does having them say “well” all the time do anything to provide character-insight or to distinguish the way one character speaks from the way every other character speaks? Does “well” advance the plot of the story?
Consider this example:
“Tom, you going to lunch now?”
Okay, here it comes. “Well, I was thinking about it.”
“Well, if you do decide to go, can you pick me up something?” Robert patted his pockets. “I’ll have to straighten up with you on Friday.”
“Well, I don’t think I have enough on me?”
“Well, okay, I understand.”
Granted, while I did get some character-insight in there, all the word “well” did in this example was introduce what I call excessive repetition. If all throughout your book, all your characters are “welling,” then eventually your dialogue, no matter the subject matter, begins to sound monotonous. You are literally draining away readers’ interest with this kind of repetition. For my part, I have reached a point where I couldn’t read another line of dialogue that included the word “well.” The end result was another book tossed in the DNF garbage bin.
Now, you might have one particular character that uses this word all the time. In addition, you might have a staller or an evader who uses it.
“Listen, babe, you got those shirts pressed, right? Because I’ll need them first thing when we open.”
“Well . . . I . . . uh.”
Even in this instance, you could leave “well” out, but at least in this example, the use of the word is not entirely excess verbiage.
To quickly summarize: keep this important point in mind:
More than ever readers want to be totally engrossed in a story. They are demanding a constant return on
investment of their time and/or money in your book.
Write your dialogue with the reader’s expectation in mind. The reader expects to come away from each conversation possibly having learned something new or something more about the characters or having learned more about what’s going on in the story or even having become more confused about what’s going on because it’s not yet time to remove those clouds of confusion. Readers also expect dialogue to be engaging and to the point. They don’t care about re-creations of the monotonous “wells” heard in everyday life. They are not reading to be re-immersed in monotony, but to escape it.
Your don’t-hesitate-to-update tip: If you’ve uploaded an e-book full of too much “welling,” don’t hesitate to get those “wells” out of there and upload a revised edition.
Thanks for reading. Hope this info was helpful. Your questions and comments are welcome.
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