In the rough draft, dialogue is not my friend. Generally, my characters overstate the obvious, say things in long, awkward, complete sentences that no one actually says, and generally talk too much–especially in battle or fighting.
Basically, they talk like Legolas from the Lord of the Rings movies.
What is interesting, in going through my edits, is how often shutting my characters up and describing their behavior makes the scene so much better.
For instance, in the opening scene, my hero, Michael Lodestone is fighting an imortal wizard who was once Rasputin. (I explain how he came back to life after he was killed and transformed another body, including the DNA, to look like him later in the story.) Here is an example of my cheesy dialogue:
Gregori drew low to the ground like a lion ready to spring [lose the cliche]. “I always knew it would be you who broke.”
Michael grasped the knife. “You can leap if you like, but you won’t make it.”
Really? Really? Seriously, that’s bad. I’ve got a huge cliche there, which I fortunately marked down to reword in brackets when I first wrote it. Gregori’s comment will be said, but in a different place, possibly. It’s a necessary comment because it lets the reader know that of all the evil witches and wizards who became imortal, Michael was the one they suspected would betray the group. But it’s Lodestone’s comments that really do this scene in. Now it’s only my rough draft, so I’m not going to get too upset at myself about it. But here is the first round of changes:
Gregori crouched low to the ground, ready to spring. “I always knew it would be you who broke.”
Michael tightened his grip on the knife. “You won’t make it.”
It still has a long way to go. But I was able to cut words and say the exact same thing with more power. (I’ve decided to leave the part about Michael breaking in until I found a better spot for it in the story.) I hope that people will hear Michael’s sarcasm without me having to describe it, but as I mentioned before, this is only the first round of edits and still has a long way to go.
How about you? What is the big issue that you have to clean up when you Combe through your rough draft?