Watch the exclamation marks!!!
I recently met a debut author who was kind enough to give me a signed copy of her indie novel. I liked her a lot and really wanted to like her book too, as I’m always rooting for indie authors (and of course am always looking for a good read). Unfortunately, however, I didn’t make it through the first chapter before giving up and moving on to the next book in the stack on my nightstand.
One of the main reasons I couldn’t continue reading her novel was the dialogue! In nearly every conversation, more than half the sentences ended with exclamation points! Lots and lots of exclamation points! The effect was that everyone sounded like they were shouting at each other! So much shouting! Why were they shouting?! In real life, people don’t shout at each other that much! Or at least that’s my opinion!
Do you see how annoying all those exclamation points are? Certainly there is a time and place for them, but you don’t want to use too many. Think of it like adding salt to your food; a tiny bit is good, but too much ruins the meal.
Granted, there were other issues with the novel in question that also sapped my interest, but all those exclamation points certainly didn’t help.
One strategy for ensuring that your dialogue sounds realistic is to read it out loud. I’m pretty sure that if the author in this case had done so, she would have quickly noticed the over-salting situation she’d created.
You want readers to focus on your story, not your punctuation. So save the exclamation points for when they’re really necessary.