Huh? What did you say?

Blah blah blah, blah blah blah...blah blah.  My MC and her love interest sound like Charlie Brown's teacher.  Nobody knows what the heck they are saying because it is soooo boring!

Give me a scene and I can create a written visual that will spin it into existence.  Give me dialogue, and I will bore the crap out of you.  I've written future chapters to my WIP already, where the MC and Love Interest (let's call him MCsH, for Main Character's Hottie) and their dialogue flows quite well.  But for some reason here in chapter 4 where they meet (yes I am very well aware that ch. 4 sounds pretty late to introduce MCsH but it's a 1st draft people) their dialogue is boring me to death or stalling completely.

After obsessing over it for days and coming up with nothing, my brain went into total shut down, writer's block freak-out mode.  (I think that is a technical diagnosis TSDWBFOM, kind of like BLS, aka Bag Lady Syndrome.)  And let me add, after having the children home for break and the hubby on vacation this week, it is not a good time to write thus adding to the frustration.

First I tried to diagnose my problem.  There are many pitfalls of dialogue according to Poe War, a writer's resource center.  Here are the pitfalls Poe listed:
Stilted Language - Dialog that does not sound like natural speech.
Filler -  Dialog that does not further the scene and does not deepen your understanding of the characters.  BINGO, We have a winner!
Exposition - Dialog that has the character explain the plot or repeat information for the benefit of the audience.
Naming - Having one character use another character’s name to establish identity. People almost never say other people’s names back to them, and if they do it is a character trait typical of a used car salesman.
Overuse of Modifiers - Too many dialog modifiers such as shouted, exclaimed, cried, whispered, stammered, opined, insinuated, hedged and a million others. Modifiers such as this can sometimes be useful, but are often annoying and used as a crutch for poorly designed dialogue.

Filler, aka blah blah blah, is the evil culprit.  Now why?  I am introducing my MC to MCsH for the first time and I realize, I have forgotten how to date.  I've been with my husband for 13, almost 14 years, married for 10 of those years and I don't know the first thing about dating.  Plus if I dated now it wouldn't have the juvenile element it did 20 10 years ago when I was a teenager.

I need an exercise, not "to exercise", my trainer kicked my butt yesterday.  I need a dialogue building exercise, so searched the net.  I found over seventeen  decent advice websites and suggestions but none of them really got me past my hump.  Most suggestions had me writing whole new scenes with lots of different types of characters doing random things.  All great but again, nothing that really helped me with my MC and MCsH.

So...I emailed my super delicious critique buddy, Diana over at Writing Roller Coasters with my "filler" dialogue dilemma and she fixed me right up.

Here is what Diana prescribed:
These should be a few sentences long, and not time consuming at all (if you're stuck try the next one. The point is to become completely comfortable "speaking" as your mc). Try writing for the female protag in a completely unrelated setting: what would she say if she went to the mall and someone asked her for a piece of gum? Try another with her waiting for a ride in front of a movie theater and a hot guy walks up and makes small talk, and then try something completely impossible, like if her house caught fire or if zombies came out of the ground. Seriously, you will get to know her better if you know what she'd say, and then do the male protagonist. Finally put them together for a few sentences that don't relate to your story. Maybe they're on a reality show or they bump into each other at the vet, just see what they would say. Remember, two or three sentences, and if you get stuck come up with a different setting. And lastly, by the end of the book you'll have an excellent handle on their dialog and you can always go back and fix it :)

I tried it last night and it worked!  I got past this super built up dialogue anxiety and am able to start creating dialogue between my  MC and MCsH.  There are three parts to Diana's advice that really nailed it for me.
  1. Use your MC's voice. (Every other piece of advice had me creating new random characters.)
  2. Two or three sentences and that is it.  (It's a quick exercise that I don't have to build a scene for and can move through quickly.)
  3. Write dialogue completely unrelated to your story.  (It takes the pressure off tremendously and who cares what they talk about as long as they are talking.)
Thanks Di, you really helped me past that one.  I'm finished with chapter 4 and up to 18K.  The first three chapters I have already axed but I will let my super smooth critique buddy confirm that (she might say consolidate into one chapter *fingers crossed*)  Any way, I'm taking the week off from actually writing in my WIP due to human distractions, aka my family, who is home for 24 hours a day for the rest of the week.  I'll have my fortress of solitude back next week, where I can get back to work.  Any dialogue issues for you?