Today we’re going to focus on dialogue. Gripping, realistic dialogue can bring a story and its characters to life. Writing great dialogue, however, takes practice.
Write A Story Told Almost Completely In Dialogue
- Remember that how we speak (what we say and what we don’t say) is heavily influenced by how we’re feeling — what kind of day we’re having; how we feel about what we’re saying; how we feel about who we’re saying it to.
- Use emotions to dictate word choice, length of sentence (if you’re breathless because the object of your affection is actually talking to you, your sentences are going to be fragmentary. If you’re talking about a your life’s work, you’re going to use big words and jargon and hardly pause for breath).
- Remember that no-one really talks like they do in plays: no-one listens carefully and answers appropriately, and no-one tells the whole truth.
- You can use play format to write this (” STAN: I can’t believe you said that! / MOLLY [walking away]: Believe it, bub.”).
- You can write this is a more traditionally narrative way (“I can’t believe you said that!” / “Believe it, bub” / “Come back, please! Honey?”)
- You can include dialogue tags and ‘stage directions’ if you feel you need them. This can be helpful if more than two people are talking. (“‘I can’t believe you said that!’ / ‘Believe it, bub,’ Molly said. / ‘You are so screwed, bro.’ Dan shook his head as he watched his friend’s wife walk away, her head held high. ‘I think she means it this time.’ “)
- Don’t go crazy with the dialogue tags (…she cheered; she exulted… “She said” is usually fine). And watch your adjectives, unless you’re writing a Tom Swift parody!
- People rarely use each other’s names in everyday speech. Resist the temptation to have your characters do it. Instead, focus on making each character’s way of expressing themselves distinctive. (How often have you heard a story your friend told you, laughed, and said ‘yup, that sounds like something he’d say’? People DO sound different from each other. Use that.)
- It might be easiest to limit this story to two characters so you can really focus on each of their voices — with maybe a walk-on part from a waiter or a cop or the person they’ve been waiting for, just to mix things up.
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