Writing Dialogue
#1
I plan on writing some stories (and eventually perhaps, a novel), and I think that writing dialogue is going to be the most difficult part. I've never really written dialogue, except for some comedic plays I wrote for drama class in high school (which were 100 % dialogue), and that seems way different than writing it for a story.

I'm wondering if anyone here has any advice or useful practice techniques which I could use to get comfortable with it. I'm sure google could point me in a million different directions, but I'd like to ask some "actual people" first. Thanks in advance
"Writing about music is like dancing about architecture."
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#2
(08-14-2014, 02:57 PM)Wjames Wrote:  I plan on writing some stories (and eventually perhaps, a novel), and I think that writing dialogue is going to be the most difficult part. I've never really written dialogue, except for some comedic plays I wrote for drama class in high school (which were 100 % dialogue), and that seems way different than writing it for a story.

I'm wondering if anyone here has any advice or useful practice techniques which I could use to get comfortable with it. I'm sure google could point me in a million different directions, but I'd like to ask some "actual people" first. Thanks in advance

Start a new line each time the voice changes, I always forget to do that, and watch out for self inflicted tense changes. Sorry my knowledge is rather basic. Best Keith

If your undies fer you've been smoking through em, don't peg em out
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#3
(08-14-2014, 02:57 PM)Wjames Wrote:  I plan on writing some stories (and eventually perhaps, a novel), and I think that writing dialogue is going to be the most difficult part. I've never really written dialogue, except for some comedic plays I wrote for drama class in high school (which were 100 % dialogue), and that seems way different than writing it for a story.

I'm wondering if anyone here has any advice or useful practice techniques which I could use to get comfortable with it. I'm sure google could point me in a million different directions, but I'd like to ask some "actual people" first. Thanks in advance

Well, asking actual people is always a good place to start! You might just want to focus more than usual on the subtle nuances of every day conversation when you speak to other actual people in your life. Also, depending on what kind of dialogue you're dealing with, you can do a lot of showing rather than telling. Much like in Henry James' later novels (The Golden Bowl in particular), an author can communicate what he/she wants to even more potently through detailing things ever-so-slight, often things unsaid: the way an eyebrow arches in response to something, the shine present in a stare across a banquet table, etc. Sometimes silence speaks volumes, not that I'm opposed to straight dialogue. Hope this helps, I realize I kind of went off. Also, if you haven't, try reading Henry James; it will be painful at first, but you'll be happy you did.
"Where there are roses we plant doubt.
Most of the meaning we glean is our own,
and forever not knowing, we ponder."

-Fernando Pessoa
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#4
Your dialogue must advance the story, otherwise it's dull and pointless. Try a scene out in comic strip format to make sure there are no wasted "speech bubbles".

Also, to make it real, record some actual conversations (be sneaky so they don't know you're doing it) and transcribe word for word, mutter for mutter, sentence fragment for sentence fragment -- because spoken language is very different to written, and if you always use full sentences it's going to be stilted and unnatural.
It could be worse
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#5
speak each part of dialogue in their respective voices does it sound forced or natural? unless it's a scientific manual or a tragedy, don't make the dialogue to heavy.
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#6
As an exercise, I would transcribe dialog from favorite movie scenes. Once you have done several, you will realize the difference between excellent dialog writing verses great acting portrayals of simply Ok dialog.

However, no matter how good the dialog, the mastering of when to use qualifiers or tags is another consideration. You know, the 'he said', 'she retorted' parts. To learn about those you must delve into you favorite novels or authors and observe their handling of such.

Good luckThumbsup
My new watercolor: 'Nightmare After Christmas'/Chris
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#7
Okay a few ideas (some of which others have touched upon):

Read authors you enjoy who use dialogue well--watch how they make it seamless.

Resist the urge to get creative with your dialogue tags (he said, whispered, screamed, etc). Almost universally use said. Add reactions and body language of the characters to imply nuance. Said is mostly invisible; the reader reads past it. An overuse of tags comes off as self-conscious.

Resist the urge to use dialogue as a means of excessive exposition.

Have characters interrupt each other.

Don't go too linear in your dialogue. People don't do that.

Default toward short bursts of dialogue rather than speeches.

A few thoughts off the cuff.
The secret of poetry is cruelty.--Jon Anderson
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#8
Thanks guys, I'll try and heed your advice. I think I'll try my hand at transcribing actual conversations and making it read as close as possible to what was actually done/said.
"Writing about music is like dancing about architecture."
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